As Cody Kessler exited the USC locker room to head to an afternoon practice earlier this spring, quarterbacks coach Clay Helton gave him a quick message meant to hype him up.
Hey, Helton told Kessler, you're still throwing a no-hitter this spring -- no interceptions. From then on, Helton was on Kessler about it every meeting: Nice job, your no-hitter's still going, he'd say.
Well, that's no longer. Kessler finally threw a pick during the Trojans' Thursday practice, looking over linebacker Tony Burnett and then throwing right at him.
Still, the redshirt freshmen has now gone 11 practices with only one glaring mistake -- a nice number, especially considering how many snaps he takes each day. Starter Matt Barkley, for comparison's sake, has thrown eight or nine.
Kessler said he was angry at himself for throwing the interception because he got away with a similar mistake earlier in the day when a defender dropped his throw. But Burnett didn't muff it and made the pick.
"They got me," Kessler said afterward. "They disguised the coverage."
About the no-hitter business, Kessler wasn't too upset about that part of it. That wasn't what was motivating to keep going mistake-free -- it was just an added little perk.
"Helton kept bringing it up in meetings, but I didn't really think about it," he said. "I'm just coming out here and trying to perfect my game.
"If you pay attention to small details and make the right reads, then you won't throw a pick, and that's what I didn't do on the last one."
He can still aim for a one-hitter.