USC entered this season with a lot of hype, and the Trojans delivered through two games, devouring a pair of cupcakes by a combined score of 114-15.

But then Stanford happened.

USC, which was ranked sixth in the county, lost at home to the Cardinal, 41-31, on Sept. 19.

What happened?

“They’re just a very physical team,” USC quarterback Cody Kessler said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We had a very strong game plan going into the game, but the biggest part of that is execution. We didn’t execute our plays when we needed to on both sides of the football. Speaking offensively, we left some stuff out there. I think we ended up with 31 points, but we felt we could have put up more points and could have made more plays and done some more stuff to help our defense out. At the end of the day, it didn’t happen, but we kind of went back and learned from it and improved during the Arizona State week.”

Indeed, Kessler followed up a solid game against Stanford with a great game against Arizona State, throwing for 375 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-14 road win over the Sun Devils this past weekend.

What exactly did Kessler learn following the Stanford game?

“Something I’ve known for a long time is the Pac-12 is a very strong conference,” Kessler said. “Any team can get beat any week. We didn’t come out to play, and it ended up hurting us. Stanford had a better game, though. That doesn’t take anything from them. They played really well. Their defense did well against us. We just missed some opportunities there and that really affected us, but I’m kind of glad that we learned from it. Guys saw what happens, saw what can happen any week, and we’re kind of moving forward. We kind of got the bad taste out of our mouth last week, but it’s something we don’t want to happen again. So these guys have been working very hard to allow us to be successful in the future.”

While Kessler feasted on Arkansas State and Idaho as expected, he was even better against Stanford and Arizona State. In his last two games, the 6-1 senior has completed 44-of-65 (67.7 percent) of his passes for 647 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception.

He’ll lead the No. 17 Trojans (3-1) against Washington (2-2) on Oct. 8 at 9 p.m. ET.

This marks the first time that head coach Steve Sarkisian will face his former team. Not just his former team, but players that he recruited.

“(This game) will definitely (have) a little bit more meaning (for) him,” Kessler said, “and we know that. We’re not dumb. We’re not blind to it. But we have to treat it as another game. We have to go out there and treat it as another opponent and someone coming in trying to beat us. We have to be effective and execute the game plan.”


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