HONOLULU (AP) — Both Southern California quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek had the same approach in preparing to open the season against Hawaii: Be ready to play no matter what happens.
But neither played particularly well in a 30-13 win on Thursday night, and now they'll spend the next week uncertain about their role among the No. 24 Trojans.
"I'm not making an excuse or anything, but it's my first game, you know, and I'm just excited to get that under my belt," said Kessler, who played one drive more than a half and finished with a touchdown and an interception in a mixed performance. "Obviously, there's a lot I want to go back after I watch the film and improve upon, but at the end of the day we're 1-0, we got the win and our defense played the best today."
Wittek said coach Lane Kiffin told him that Kessler starting didn't mean anything.
"We were both ready," Wittek said.
Kiffin is already taking criticism from fans after an unimpressive win in the season opener.
But Kiffin says it's most important that the Trojans started their season with a win, giving him more time to evaluate the quarterbacks as he decides which passer gives his team the best chance to win.
"I was hoping that a long time ago it would be settled, but that's not my job to just do what makes me feel good," Kiffin said. "I've got to make sure that I'm doing what's in the best interest of the team and I think that showed today. There was not an obvious No. 1 out there today."
Justin Davis ran for 74 yards and a touchdown and No. 24 USC's defense picked up for a shaky offense, masking Keller and Wittek's mixed performances in a 30-13 win over Hawaii.
Kessler salvaged a bad start with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor then gave way to Wittek early in the third quarter as the teammates took turns auditioning for the starting job.
Wittek played more of a manager's role, handing off to Davis more often than throwing. He completed 5 of 10 passes for 77 yards.
Neither Kessler nor Wittek did enough to make a starting choice clear.
"Neither of them separated themselves and we didn't help them very much," said Kiffin, citing drops, penalties and a fumble. "We didn't help them and obviously that falls on me."
Kiffin said he doesn't know yet what his future plans are for the position, or whether his team will play both quarterbacks again.
"We'll go back and see — we've got nine days to figure it out," Kiffin said.
USC (1-0) intercepted four of Hawaii quarterback Taylor Graham's passes and sacked him seven times, directly setting up each USC score.