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Matt Hinton

What's up with Lane Kiffin's 2-point fetish? USC is going to need every point it can get

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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USC 49, Hawaii 36. At the beginning of the night, Hawaii time, it looked like the story from the islands was going to be USC's bizarre and unexplained decision to go for two following each of its first three touchdowns en route to the expected blowout: The Trojans scored the first three times they touched the ball, on extended drives of 79, 73 and 69 yards, and coach Lane Kiffin seemed hell-bent on cementing his USC debut in the sports wing of the Unprintable Name Hall of Fame by eschewing the conventional PAT on all of them, for no apparent reason other than he can.

By the time he finally sent the kicker out to boot one through after touchdown No. 4 in the second quarter, it was actually a little disappointing that he wasn't playing the "unrepentant villain" role to the hilt.

By the end, the story was the return of a terrifying arsenal on the Trojan offense, which carpet-bombed the Warrior defense for 524 yards on 8.5 per play, after the miserable descent into mediocrity over the second half of 2009. That, and the fact that they're obviously going to need every one of those weapons to blast their way out of 56-45 shootouts throught the Pac-10 season:

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Needless to say, it was an uninspiring unveiling for Monte Kiffin's vaunted "Tampa 2." After spotting SC a 20-3 lead, the Warriors repeatedly lit up the middle of the field, most notably on 56, 65 and 30-yard touchdown strikes to Kealona Pilares and a ridiculous 47-yard heave on 3rd-and-29 from the shadow of their own goal line in the third quarter. On one hand, the most effective play of the second half by the USC defense was probably knocking out Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz on a vicious hit in the third, but third-stringer Shane Austin eventually came on to connect on two touchdowns himself. The Trojans were trotting out four new starters in the secondary, one of them a true freshman, and they now have the scorch marks on their backs to prove it.

The most troubling number may be one that isn't in the chart: USC, the defense that consistently made its living by taking the ball away at an unparalleled rate during the peak of the Pete Carroll era, forced zero turnovers. That only happened five times over Carroll's last four years – and the results were a pair of stunning losses at Oregon State (2006 and 2008), a stunning loss at Washington (2009) and narrow wins over outmanned Washington (2006) and Notre Dame (2009) outfits that weren't decided until the final play. Thanks to the early hole and the unstoppable march of the Trojans' own attack, Hawaii never really threatened to get that close Thursday night. But whether you want to mark it up to jet lag, depth, inexperience, opening-night jitters and/or rust or just boredom, it's obviously not going to cut it when its Andrew Luck, Jake Locker and Dayne Crist on the other side of the line rather than Bryant Moniz.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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