As the clock hit all zeros in Los Angeles, with Washington State celebrating its first win over USC in over a decade, it marked the end of an agonizing offensive display from Lane Kiffin's squad.
It also marked a very clear end of a fantastic run of quarterbacks for the University of Southern California.
Whether it is Cody Kessler or Max Wittek, the signal-caller going forward will force Trojan fans to drastically alter their expectations.
After a spring and fall where Wittek and Kessler battled to grab the starting gig, USC's first two games have exposed the truth regarding the quarterback situation in L.A.: The Trojans don't have a QB. This competition was not a battle between two capable players trying to outdo one another. Rather, it was Lane Kiffin attempting to figure out which player would be the lesser of two evils.
Following a run of high-quality quarterbacks that lasted for a decade, the Trojans have regressed to the college football mean. Whether or not the Trojan players under center are highly touted, USC is now saddled with quarterback play that is at best very average, much like the rest of the college football world. Quarterbacks throughout college have holes in their games, deficiencies in their skill sets and limitations on what they can do physically.
Kessler and Wittek are not Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart or Mark Sanchez or Matt Barkley. With that in mind, USC has to not only adjust its offense, but also its expectations. These two are game managers, not golden boys.
They are players that will have to lean on everyone else, not prop up an offense.
After two games, Lane Kiffin and his staff will have to go back to the offensive laboratory and cook up something that will suit these quarterbacks. That means less risk taking, more schedule-based offensive tactics and most importantly, a lot more focus on running the football.
With Tre Madden performing well, Silas Redd returning and Justin Davis providing depth, USC has a stable of running backs to feed the rock. Kiffin will have to get more creative with his run call and slow the pace of the game in a Pac-12 where everyone else wants to speed up.
The Trojans will have to grind out wins.
After USC's tremendous run of success, having to deal with very mediocre quarterback play may come as a bit of a shock. Texas, following the glory days of Vince Young and Colt McCoy, experienced a similar snap back to the reality when Garrett Gilbert and David Ash took controls of the offense. Oklahoma currently is in the same boat as the Trojans: The prestigious eras of Sam Bradford and Landry Jones have given way to less effective tenures of Trevor Knight and Blake Bell.
Wittek and Kessler are not the world-beaters USC fans are used to, but they are the quarterbacks that the Trojans have. To avoid a debacle of a season, the Trojans must commit to running first, running second and hopefully using play-action to find receivers Nelson Agholor and Marqise Lee on the edge for big plays.
On the positive side, the Trojans defense appears to have improved mightily from a year ago, essentially trading one problem for another. Kessler and Wittek—and more importantly Lane Kiffin—will have to lean on the defense as they look for a recipe to put together wins.
The Trojans are going to have to win ugly. In a city where glitz and glamour and style points matter, USC's going to have to get gritty and tough to come out on top. Kiffin's going to have to depend on Kessler and Wittek.
After all, it is his job that is in their hands.