Steve Sarkisian Era Of USC Football Begins Against Fresno State

    Steve Sarkisian
    Aug. 24, 2014

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    Fresno State (Las Vegas Bowl)20
    December 21, 2013
    Las Vegas, Nev.
    USC Routs No. 21 Fresno St. 45-20 in Las Vegas Bowl
    USC rolled over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Cody Kessler passed for 344 yards and a bowl-record four touchdowns in the Trojans' 45-20 victory over the 21st-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday.

    The Steve Sarkisian era at USC begins with a Labor Day weekend home game against Fresno State. It is Sark's fifth stop at Troy (student-athlete, grad assistant, assistant coach, offensive coordinator and now head coach after 5 years running Washington's program), so he knows all things USC and has been part of some impressive Trojan teams (including the 2003 national champs). He is aiming to be the sixth Trojan head coach in a row to have a successful debut. Fresno State is a familiar foe for the No. 15 Trojans, who defeated the Bulldogs in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl. It's the first time in nearly 100 years that USC has played the same opponent in consecutive games. USC has won its past 15 openers. Although the Trojans' NCAA sanctions are now behind them, they still sport a limited roster of recruited scholarship players (64 are currently available). Eighteen USC starters return from last year's 10-4 team, including a trio of 2014 pre-season All-American first teamers (DE Leonard Williams, WR Nelson Agholor and S Su'a Cravens). Last year, Williams won All-American acclaim while getting 13.5 tackles for loss, Agholor was the nation's No. 2 punt returner and caught 56 passes, and Cravens was a Freshman All-American (he had 4 interceptions). Other standout Trojan returnees are ILB Hayes Pullard (USC's tackle leader for 2 seasons), QB Cody Kessler (he threw for 20 TDs and nearly 3,000 yards last year), TB Javorius "Buck" Allen (1,027 all-purpose yards in 2013, including 785 rushing) and CB-S Josh Shaw (4 picks last year). USC also brought in a Top 10-ranked recruiting class, and 2 of them (freshmen OGs Toa Lobendahn and Damien Mama) could start on the offensive line this week (something that has happened just once before at Troy) while several others could see action on both sides of the ball. USC has lost only once to a Mountain West Conference foe, and that was to Fresno State in 1992. Head coach Tim DeRuyter's 2-time defending MWC champ Bulldogs, who won a school record 11 games in 2013, return 15 starters but only 5 on offense (among the offensive losses were record-setting QB Derek Carr and potent WRs Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse). WR Josh Harper, a 1,000-yard receiver last year, is back, as are the team's top 2 rushers (TBs Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller). The quarterback will be either relatively-untested Brian Burrell or Duke transfer Brandon Connette, a dangerous runner. Headlining the veteran Bulldog defense are S Derron Smith (a 2-time All-MWC first teamer with 14 career picks) and 2013 tackle leaders Karl Mickelsen and Kyrie Wilson at linebacker. Fans will notice many enhancements to their game-day experience in the Coliseum, including free public pre-game clubs in the tailgating area as well as on-field suites and premium clubs located on the field and outside the Peristyle. There also is a new on-campus tailgating experience. A number of significant USC seasons mark anniversaries in 2014, including the 1974 and 2004 national championship years and the Heisman-winning campaigns of Charles White and Matt Leinart. Late USC Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini will be honored at the game (the Trojans will wear a special helmet decal in his memory) and Trojan All-American Tony Boselli will be saluted for recent induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. The game will be shown live nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.