LOS ANGELES -- Having endured a week that ran the gamut of soap opera ("As The Ankle Turns") and reality mess, USC did its own impression of a video game on Saturday night, soundly beating Fresno State 52-13 in the season opener for both teams at the L.A. Coliseum.
Using new coach Steve Sarkisian's up-tempo offense, the 15th-ranked Trojans scored touchdowns on their first three drives and seemed to do whatever they wanted offensively throughout the game.
Sarkisian, who had been offensive coordinator for USC before leaving to become Washington's head coach for five years, returned promising to instill the no-huddle, fast-paced offense he'd used up north.
But before he could, stuff happened. Weird stuff. The sideline must have been a welcome respite for Sarkisian, who spent the week answering questions about suspended USC cornerback Josh Shaw's bogus story about injuring his ankles while saving a drowning child and then had to react by being called a "racist" by a former player.
Any concerns that it would have an effect on his team were dispelled almost immediately as the Trojans scored touchdowns early and often. USC quarterback Cody Kessler ran Sarkisian's offense as if he'd been doing it his entire career, throwing for four touchdowns and a career-high 394 yards.
All this came against a quality opponent. Frenso State is a two-time defending Mountain West champion that played USC in the Las Vegas Bowl last year. But the Bulldogs seemed not only to have no answer for USC but to be knocked a bit back on its heels by the Trojans' pace. Midway through the first quarter, Bulldogs defensive linemen already appeared to be gassed with hands on hips.
Sarkisian said he was aiming for 85 offensive plays in the game, but the Trojans were even faster than that. They had run 97 plays -- the most by a Trojans team since 1972 -- midway through the fourth quarter.
The Trojans gained 430 yards on 62 plays in the first half. Not only were they fast, but they were balanced, throwing 31 passes and running the ball 31 times in the first 30 minutes.
Things got off to a fast start on USC's first possession. Starting at their own 10 after the opening kickoff, the Trojans went on a 17-play, 90-yard drive resulting in a touchdown on Kessler's 1-yard run.
USC went on to score touchdowns on its first three drives and Kessler threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns in the half, including an 18-yard strike to prized recruit Adoree Jackson with less than a minute left in the second quarter.
Fresno State's quarterbacks struggled. Starter Brian Burrell couldn't move his team and was replaced in the second quarter by Brandon Connette, who seemed to spark the Bulldogs, taking them on a 75-yard TD drive, with Marteze Waller scoring from the 1 on fourth down.
But Connette struggled himself, completing just 4 of 13 passes and throwing two interceptions.
NOTES: Perhaps a sign that USC is almost recovered from NCAA scholarship sanctions, the Trojans played nine true freshmen in the first quarter. ... Though it came in as a three-touchdown underdog, Fresno State didn't figure to be intimidated by USC, which it beat in a bowl game in 1992. In fact, besides USC, Fresno State has beaten five other Pac-12 programs, including Oregon State and UCLA twice each. ... USC DE Leonard Williams, already projected by some as the top pick in next year's NFL Draft, intercepted a pass in the second quarter and returned it for 10 yards. It was Williams' second career interception.