BOULDER, Colo. -- USC started five true freshmen against Colorado, its highest number this season -- and seven freshmen in all counting redshirts Hayes Pullard and Randall Telfer.
They didn't post perfect performances, but, all things considered, it made for a bit of a preview of the future in what ended up being a half-laugher, as the Trojans comfortably ran over the Buffaloes, 42-17, at Folsom Field. And it had Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin raving afterward as he looked forward to the years to come at USC.
"Most of our big plays on offense came from young players," Kiffin said in his postgame press conference. "Marqise Lee, Xavier Grimble, Robert Woods and Amir Carlisle are all freshmen or sophomores and had touchdown receptions.
"The future is bright."
Lee is a true freshman, as is Carlisle. Grimble -- and his tight end counterpart Telfer, who blocked a field goal Friday -- are both redshirt freshmen. Woods is the old man of the group as a 19-year-old sophomore.
The other young players who started were linebackers Tre Madden and Lamar Dawson, left guard Marcus Martin and kicker Andre Heidari, all true freshmen. It was Madden and Dawson's first career start; Martin's seventh after he was a reserve for the first two games.
The obvious reason why Madden started was that Dion Bailey was out with a concussion, but there were other ways to work around that if USC wanted. The Trojans could've easily started Shane Horton there. But they also chose to move Dawson in for Chris Galippo at middle linebacker in a switch that has all the makings of a move for the future.
In short, USC got an opportunity to give its talented young players a chance against Colorado, and Kiffin took it and ran with it.
"We have a great class from top to bottom, and we have a lot of talent out there," said Carlisle, who scored his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter on Matt Barkley's record-breaking sixth touchdown pass. "It's going to be a bright future for USC.
"These young guys have just been working hard."
Of course, it's a two-sided issue. USC gets the chance to play a ton of young players, but the Trojans will also have to rely on those same young players in big games coming up the next two weeks against Washington and Oregon.
"We don't have too much depth," said Telfer, who had a catch to go with his field-goal block. "So we knew we had to step up as freshmen.
"It doesn't surprise me too much because the freshmen are really athletic."