Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Cody Kessler threw a school-record seven touchdown passes, three of which went to Nelson Agholor, as No. 22 USC rolled to a 56-28 victory over Colorado in a Pac-12 clash.
Kessler broke the mark of six scoring strikes held by Matt Barkley in a near- flawless performance that carried the Trojans (5-2, 4-1 Pac-12) to an easy win after being involved in nail-biters with Arizona State and Arizona the previous two weeks. The junior completed 19-of-26 passes for 319 yards before being replaced by Max Browne with the outcome in hand in the fourth quarter.
Bryce Dixon caught a pair of Kessler's touchdown throws and JuJu Smith had another while compiling 104 yards on four receptions. Agholor finished with six catches totaling 128 yards.
"Overall, those guys really helped me out. It wasn't just me," said Kessler of his offensive teammates. "The offensive line did a great job tonight, the receivers made some big plays. It was a total team effort that really helped me get this record."
Javorius Allen added 128 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries in a game USC scored 28 first-quarter points and was never threatened by the conference doormat Buffaloes (2-5, 0-4), who have now lost 20 of their last 21 in Pac-12 play.
Nelson Spruce had nine catches for 69 yards and a touchdown for Colorado. Sefo Liufau threw for two scores and 143 yards on 23-of-35 passing but was intercepted twice.
"The effort was there; I do not think they tanked it," Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said of his team's performance. "But that definitely was ugly."
Kessler got his banner day started on the game's initial drive, in which he hit on 4-of-6 passes in marching the Trojans 84 yards in 10 plays. The final throw of the sequence, an over-the-middle strike to Agholor for 16 yards, gave USC a 7-0 lead just over four minutes in.
Liufau's first attempt of the afternoon, however, was intercepted by Su'a Cravens and returned 12 yards into Colorado territory. Three straight Allen runs shortly afterward put the Trojans at the Buffaloes' 25, and Kessler found Agholor again down the seam two plays later for an 18-yard score near the midway mark of the opening period.
Colorado appeared to have the Trojans stopped on their next offensive touch, but Marques Mosley was flagged for running into the punter to extend the series.
USC took advantage, as Smith hauled in a 45-yard heave from Kessler on the ensuing snap before hauling in a 7-yard toss that put the Trojans up by a 21-0 count.
It was a four-touchdown game less than a minute later. USC safety Gerald Bowman broke up a deep pass intended for Bryce Bobo with a crushing hit and the ball caromed into the hands of Kevon Seymour, who took the pick 23 yards to the Buffaloes' 27. The turnover led to Kessler's fourth TD pass of the quarter, a 15-yard dart to Dixon with still 1:16 remaining in the frame.
"The point we're at as a team, we can't spot a team like them that many points," said Spence. "They just did a good job of capitalizing on our mistakes."
Colorado finally generated a bit of momentum by putting together a methodical 18-play, 75-yard drive that ended in Michael Adkins II's 1-yard plunge into the end zone. Liufau completed 7-of-8 throws on the lengthy trek while converting a pair of 4th-and-1 situations with successful sneaks.
Kessler wasn't anywhere near finished, however. He connected with Smith for a 40-yard gain midway through the second quarter and Allen ripped off a 24-run prior to Dixon's 9-yard touchdown grab that sent USC into halftime owning a commanding 35-7 lead.
The Trojans wasted no time extending the margin following the break. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Kessler deftly executed a play fake and Agholor got behind the defense before his quarterback hit him in stride for a 75-yard score with less than 2 1/2 minutes elapsed in the second half.
After the teams then traded punts, they combined for five consecutive touchdown drives during a wide-open third quarter.
A 15-yard punt by Kris Albarado that set the Buffaloes up at the USC 40 began the barrage, with Liufau capping an 8-play jaunt with a 2-yard delivery to Shay Fields.
Kessler's record-breaking touchdown came with 6:30 to go in the third. Two plays after Justin Davis rumbled 47 yards inside the Colorado 30, Steven Mitchell came down with a diving 24-yard catch in the end zone that staked USC to a 49-14 lead.
The Buffaloes responded with a 10-play, 75-yard series in which Spruce came down with three key catches, the last a 5-yard touchdown. However, Allen broke through for a 39-yard score on USC's next trip to make it a 56-21 game.
Liufau was replaced in the fourth quarter by Jordan Gehrke, who engineered a 13-play, 91-yard sequence with a 9-yard run with 8:19 left that accounted for the final points.
Barkley threw for six touchdowns on four different occasions during his career, including twice against the Buffaloes in both 2011 and 2012 ... Kessler's five TD passes over the first two quarters matched a USC record in a half held by Barkley and current Philadelphia Eagles teammate Mark Sanchez ... Allen's 100-yard effort was his sixth this season ... USC improved to 9-0 all- time against Colorado and has outscored the Buffs by a 333-104 margin in those games ... Colorado has dropped 10 straight Pac-12 road tilts since a 35-34 decision at Washington State in September of 2012.