USC Trojans: USC Trojans

USC Trojans recruiting notebook 

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
There was an impressive group of recruits in attendance at the Trojans victory over Oregon State on Saturday, including official visitors Chuma Edoga, Aca'Cedric Ware and DaMarkus Lodge.

For Edoga, an ESPN 300 offensive lineman who is committed to the Trojans, the visit offered a chance to catch up with Caleb Wilson, the son of USC defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Edoga and the younger Wilson were friends in Georgia before the father took the coaching position with the Trojans and moved west.
Ware is a running back commit to USC from Texas state champion Cedar Hill and he was accompanied on the trip by his teammate Lodge, an ESPN 300 wide receiver who recently de-committed from Texas A&M. The pair had an opportunity to spend time with Ricky Town, one of two USC commit quarterbacks from the ESPN 300 -- the other being Sam Darnold == who were in attendance at the game.

For Town, it was a day that began with USC athletic director Pat Haden greeting him with a hug and a walk down the Coliseum tunnel. Town also got pulled into the postgame victory chant by Leonard Williams.

The class of 2016 quarterback class was well represented with Malik Henry, Shea Patterson and K.J. Costello. All three are ranked among the top 10 quarterbacks in the ESPN Junior 300. Henry was considered somewhat of a surprise name on the list as he did not include the Trojans in his top 5 list earlier this summer. Patterson made the trip from Louisiana and it's the second time he has visited USC in the past couple months. Costello got stuck in traffic on the ride home but still had a positive feeling about the game.

“USC always has an electric atmosphere and I feel like I get along with the coaches really well,” Costello said.

Thoughts on 1 versus 2

Bishop Gorman defeated St. John Bosco fairly handily Friday night in a game that was delayed for an hour due to lightning in the area. Once things got started, it was clear that Gorman was just going to be too much on this night with quarterback Tate Martell and the weapons around him. First of all, it's easy to see why USC offered Martell recently as part of the class of 2017 as he is one of the more dynamic high school quarterbacks we've seen. It helps that he is surrounded by skill players such as Cordell Broadus, Tyjon Lindsey and Russell Booze. Bosco came back at the end to make the score respectable but it would have been interesting to see how last year's Bosco team -- which had more high end talent than this year -- would have fared against this year's Bishop Gorman squad.

News and notes

  • More notable Class of 2015 out-of-state targets could be on campus for official visits this coming weekend, including cornerback Kendall Sheffield (Missouri City, Texas/Thurgood Marshall) and athlete Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Ga./Callaway). Both have stated in the past that they would be at USC on the weekend of Oct. 4. Godwin is currently committed to Georgia.
  • USC recently offered Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington's Antonio Callaway. The talented ESPN 300 wide receiver now holds close to 20 total offers from big time programs across the country like Florida State, Alabama and Miami.
The USC Trojans came away from the Coliseum on Saturday with a 35-10 victory over the Oregon State Beavers that was highlighted by a trio of critical plays.

-- The first was the pick-six interception by Su'a Cravens in the first quarter. The game was scoreless at that point and the Trojans had been a little sluggish on offense on the first couple drives with a pair of punts. Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion tried to throw in the flat, only he didn't anticipate Cravens reading the play from his strong side linebacker spot and stepping in the passing lane to make the pick and go untouched 30 yards for the score. The play was a good example of why USC coaches want Cravens closer to the line of scrimmage in the linebacker role to take advantage of his high football IQ. Cravens led the Trojans in tackles with six, and also added a sack and two tackles for loss. It was the fifth career interception for Cravens.

-- The next big play came late in the second quarter with the Trojans holding a 14-10 lead. Oregon State had driven the ball to the USC 22 and Mannion tried to take a shot at the end zone to grab the lead, but freshman cornerback Adoree' Jackson was in terrific coverage and was able to bat the ball up and it landed in the hands of Leon McQuay for the USC interception. The Trojans then drove the length of the field and completed a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the half for a huge momentum swing.

-- Speaking of the Hail Mary, that is the third critical play. So many things need to go right on a play like that and they all did for the Trojans. USC coach Steve Sarkisian let the play clock run down to :01 to insure that the pass would be the final play of the half. Cody Kessler had to drop back and make an accurate 50-yard throw, with the line giving him enough time for the receivers to get downfield, and then a USC player needs to come down with the ball, which is exactly what Darreus Rogers did. Rogers has huge hands, and they came in handy to pluck the ball from midair and run the one-yard into the end zone. It allowed the Trojans to go into the locker room with a 21-10 lead and a major bounce in their step.

Notes from the sidelines

Kessler continued his efficient play with a 24-of-32 passing night for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns. One of his more impressive plays came early in the fourth quarter when he escaped a sack on a third-down play and hit Nelson Agholor inside the Beavers' red zone. Buck Allen scored on the next play to give the Trojans a 28-10 cushion. Kessler moved to 10th place on the all-time USC completions list in this game. ... There were 27 penalty flags for 232 yards between the two teams. ... The 57-yard punt by Kris Albarado was his longest of the season. ... It was a return to form for Justin Davis, who looked closest to the freshman skills he showed before injuring his ankle last year. Davis had 15 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown, he also added 3 catches for 30 yards and another score, which was the first TD catch of his career. ... The Trojans dressed 57 recruited scholarship players. ... USC remains the only defense in the country that hasn't given up a touchdown pass this year.

Extra points

1. Oregon State entered the game leading the nation in third-down defense at 23.1 percent, but the Trojans converted 8 of 19 third-down opportunities, a 42.1 percentage.
2. The Trojans' defensive line needed to play well in this game and they did as three players on the line had four tackles apiece; Leonard Williams, Antwaun Woods and J.R. Tavai. Williams had a TFL and a sack, Tavai also had a TFL.
3. It was a pretty convincing numbers game in favor of the Trojans. USC had 461 total yards, Oregon State had 181 (the lowest total by a USC opponent since 2009). The Trojans ran 81 plays and averaged 5.7 yards per play, the Beavers ran 56 plays and averaged 3.2. USC forced two turnovers and turned them into 14 points, Oregon State did not get any turnovers. The Beavers went 1-10 on third-down conversions.

Final thoughts

While the numbers look good, including the scoreboard, this was a game that was still very much in doubt up until the final play of the first half.

The Trojans had only rushed the ball for 13 yards to that point, they already had four drives end in punts and with only one second remaining on the clock they were faced with the probability of going into halftime with a slight 14-10 lead. Then the Hail Mary changed everything. Not only did it give USC a bigger cushion going into the locker room, but it helped to galvanize the team for the second half.

Suddenly the Trojans were running the ball with confidence, 18 times in the third quarter alone for 81 yards. There was a good balance in the third quarter between Davis (nine carries) and Allen (seven carries). It says something about Buck's consistency lately that he can have 115 rushing yards for the day and most of the attention goes to Davis. The TB duo also added eight catches between them for 53 yards and a touchdown.

But make no mistake, it was USC's defense that drove this game home. Mannion is one of the better quarterbacks in the country, there's a reason he will likely end this season as the all-time conference leader in passing yards, but the Trojans limited him in the second half by forcing him to go for 4-of-13 passing and 16 yards over the final 30 minutes. Those are surprising numbers for a guy like that, and he ended the day with only 123 passing yards and four passing first downs.

Give the Trojans credit for changing the tone of this game at halftime, it was a trademark of the successful Pete Carroll teams and it happened again on Saturday.
The Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half turned the game around. Maybe it also turned around USC's season.

The wildly unexpected, looping, 48-yard prayer of a spiral from Cody Kessler to Darreus Rogers in the end zone Saturday night changed the entire complexion of an otherwise sluggish evening. Instead of clinging to a 14-10 lead over Oregon State, the score suddenly expanded to 21-10, sucking all the energy out of Mike Riley's Beavers.

[+] EnlargeJavorius Allen
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsUSC's Javorius Allen rushes for 115 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown against Oregon State.
Buoyed by their surprising good fortune, Steve Sarkisian's Trojans seemed to relax in the second half, returning to the way they are supposed to play on offense, emphasizing a strong running game that opened up a passing attack highlighted by USC's entire stable of young, athletic receivers.

Perhaps most important, this was the Trojans' best defensive performance of the still early season. Certainly, it helped that they were playing a straight dropback passer in Sean Mannion. USC's defense always seems to play better when the opposing quarterback isn't a running threat.

Still, Mannion's credentials were imposing, and Su'a Cravens and friends made it a long, uncomfortable evening for him. For the first time this season, the pass rush was fierce. And Cravens was merely the best player on the field, coming up with an interception touchdown return and a sack while appearing to surround every Oregon State ball carrier on the way to that 35-10 blitz.

Makes you wonder how we'd all be viewing things Sunday if there hadn't been that unsightly blip in Boston two weeks ago. How bad a loss was that? Well, Boston College was last seen losing to Colorado State on Saturday. Yes, Colorado State.

So instead of 4-0 and climbing in the polls, the Trojans are 3-1 and hoping to sneak up a notch or two in the coming weeks. It could happen, because the Pac-12 has begun to look more than a little vulnerable.

Unbeaten Oregon has some gaping holes in its injury-marred offensive line. Stanford struggled mightily to beat Washington by a touchdown on Saturday. Arizona State coughed up 62 points to UCLA at home. Utah was beaten by Washington State. And Cal and Colorado played a ping-pong game of football, trading 14 touchdown passes in a 59-56 can-anyone-here-play-defense Bears' victory.

This is shaping up as one wide-open conference race, and USC's schedule gives it a decent shot to stay in the thick of it, particularly if it can find a way to improve against dual-threat quarterbacks.

Clearly, there were more than a few encouraging signs on Saturday.

Kessler, who still hasn't thrown an interception this season, continues to play effectively, if unspectacularly, at quarterback. He takes what the defense gives him, and it usually gives him plenty once the Trojans' running game establishes itself. It took a while on Saturday, but Javorius Allen eventually slipped it into gear, perhaps motivated by fellow tailback Justin Davis' finest game of the season.

Craven has developed into a monster hybrid safety/linebacker. The young offensive line bounced back nicely. Leonard Williams, seemingly 100 percent healthy, looked as imposing as ever in the defensive line, and if freshman Adoree' Jackson isn't already one of the best cornerbacks in the Pac-12, he soon will be.

Next up is Arizona State, and much will depend on the condition of quarterback Taylor Kelly, last seen on crutches watching his Sun Devils get chewed up by Brett Hundley, Ishmael Adams and the Bruins on Thursday night. If his injured foot can heal enough to allow him to play in the Coliseum, Arizona State's chances obviously are enhanced.

Even then, though, it would seem Kelly would be limited to throwing. He's not likely to do much running on a foot that is still healing.

USC and its new-found momentum will be favored either way, just as the Trojans are once again likely to be favored in every remaining game on their schedule leading up to those two potential November blockbusters against UCLA and Notre Dame.

Funny how, in the wake of one unexpected play, outlooks can change so swiftly.

Hail Mary, indeed.
LOS ANGELES -- Notes, quotes and anecdotes from the Coliseum after the No. 18 USC Trojans (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) defeated the Oregon State Beavers (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) 35-10.

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian comments:

On the game: "We knew it would be hard. Oregon State is a good football team; they’re physical and their quarterback is a heck of a player and Mike (Riley) would have them ready to go. I’m proud of these guys after what they had to hear about for the last week. Our D held those guys to 180 yards and held (Sean Mannion) to 123 yards passing. To do what they (the USC offensive line) did in the run game, I’m proud of what they did.”

On the Trojans' offense: “We kept hunting and pecking. Cody (Kessler) had some tremendous plays tonight, the Hail Mary, to hit that one, and a big third-down conversion in the fourth. And to keep running the ball, we’re not abandoning that. We’re going to keep running. It’s who we are and it helps, and it helps the defense. We’re still learning and gaining an attitude about it.”

On controlling the OSU offense: “It’s about doing your job on every snap, being disciplined with your eyes. Oregon (State) is great with a fly sweep. All in all, our discipline was really good and we executed the right plays at the right times. All in all, we had bodies on their receivers. We were tight and we did enough to make them uncomfortable in the pocket.”

On the Hail Mary at the end of the first half: “Initially, I didn’t want Oregon State to call timeout and for them to have all that clock. We put the offense on the field to make it look like we were going to go, and the plan was to run it down to two seconds, take the timeout and run the Hail Mary. We’ve been practicing it all week, and you never know when you’re going to use it. But when you do use it, you want to make sure you’re going to execute it, and it was well done.”

Oregon State head coach Mike Riley comments:

On the game: “I thought the story of the game, we never really responded by scoring points or controlling the ball and our defense wore out. But I thought we played a lot of good defense and special-team play. But we couldn’t put points on the board, and had we done that our defense could’ve maintained a better game.”

On the Beavers' offense: “We never really established anything. Early on, we ran the ball a little, but we never really complemented it with anything down the field of any substance. The coverage was tight and good and the pressure at other times was good. I would say we were probably disrupted. That’s probably the best way to put it.”

On the Hail Mary: “It looked like we got too many guys deep down the field. It didn’t look like we had guys on the goal line but drifted down past it and nobody in front to make a play.”

On the effects of the Hail Mary: “I thought our team was pretty good at the half, knowing they (USC) had completed (the Hail Mary) and some did some things really well. Even though we weren’t doing much on offense, our defense had played good for a long time, and at one point the only thing they (the Trojans) had really done is intercept a pass and run it back. Our team had some confidence we could do some stuff.”

More notes and anecdotes:

Key(s) to victory: Aided by a 48-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass at the end of the first half from junior quarterback Cody Kessler to sophomore wide receiver Darreus Rogers and a first-quarter 31-yard touchdown interception return by sophomore linebacker Su'a Cravens, the USC defense managed to contain the passing of Oregon State senior quarterback Sean Mannion (123 yards) to preserve the Pac-12 victory.

The streak: With Saturday’s defeat, Oregon State has now lost 23 straight games in the Coliseum, dating back to 1960.

Above the average: The Trojans scored 35 points against Oregon State on Saturday. The Men of Troy came into the OSU game averaging 32.0 points per game.

Hail Mary from Kessler: On the Hail Mary TD pass to finish the first half, Kessler said, “We wanted to run the clock down and it was either going to be a touchdown or an interception. Like Sark said, we do practice it two or three times a week in case we get those scenarios. Darreus made a great play. I think that sparked us for the second half and got the crowd pumped up.”

Rogers and out: On being the recipient of the Hail Mary touchdown reception, Rogers said, “I was hungry for the ball, and it’s my job to catch it. I was going to attach my hands to it. The size of my hands is my biggest strengths. When I caught the ball, I just wanted to know where the end zone was. It was a great feeling.”

Below the mean: The Trojans defense allowed 10 points to Oregon State on Saturday. The Men of Troy were allowing 20.0 points per game prior to the OSU game.

Secondary’s success: The key to the secondary, according to Cravens, was “the coaches calling the right plays at the right time and everybody executing. I’m really proud of the DBs.”

Offensive surplus: The Trojans had 461 yards in total offense against Oregon State on Saturday. The Men of Troy were averaging 443.0 yards per game prior to the OSU game.

On spreading the offense: According to Sarkisian, “I loved that. I think nine different guys caught passes today. We wanted to get Justin (Davis) more involved and split carries with Buck (Allen). Both ran well. Ajene Harris showed up on a huge third-down catch. All in all, there’s a little better flow to what we’re doing that way.”

Defensive dominance: Against Oregon State on Saturday, the Trojans defense allowed 181 total yards. Prior to playing OSU, the Trojans were allowing 412.0 yards per game.

The All-American: On containing OSU standout quarterback Sean Mannion, Trojans junior All-America defensive tackle Leonard Williams said, “If we can disrupt him and make him feel uneasy in the pocket, that was a key along with stopping their run game.”

Cardinal and Gold rush: Against Oregon State on Saturday, the Trojans rushed for 200 yards. Prior to the BC game, the Men of Troy were averaging 151.0 yards rushing per game.

Walker returns: Senior offensive tackle Andre Walker, who had not played for various issues, performed for the first time this season and said, “Things happen for a reason. You just have to overcome it. You have to turn negatives into positives. I want to help the team win games."

Immoveable object: Against Oregon State on Saturday, the Trojans defense allowed 58 net yards rushing. Prior to the OSU game, the Men of Troy were allowing 245.7 rushing yards per game.

Third downs: After the game, OSU safety Ryan Murphy said the Beavers couldn’t stop the Trojans on third down. Murphy said, “It’s on us. They converted a couple later on in the game that helped shift the momentum.”

Passing game: On Saturday against Oregon State, the Trojans passed for 261 yards. Prior to the OSU game, the Trojans were averaging 292.0 passing yards per game.

Air defense: On Saturday against Oregon State, the Trojans defense allowed 123 passing yards. Prior to the OSU game, the Trojans pass defense was allowing 166.3 yards passing per game.

Mannion speaks: Regarding the Trojans defense, Mannion said, “They’re a good team with great athletes. They’re well coached and will play good football. I think for portions of the game we played good football. I thought our offensive line did a good job and were really tough at the line of scrimmage. I think (USC) adjusted just as we do.”

Flagorama: On Saturday against Oregon State, the Trojans were penalized 14 times for 124 yards. Prior to the OSU game, the Trojans were averaging 61.0 yards in flags per game.

Strong Pac-12 start: The Trojans are 2-0 to start Pac-12 play for the first time since 2007.

Top tacklers: Cravens led the Trojans defense with six tackles, followed by senior middle linebacker Hayes Pullard with five tackles.

Rocky Balboa: Apparently the glitz and Hollywood are back, with actor Sylvester Stallone on the Trojans sideline.

The meat wagon: No major injuries were reported.

Counting the house: Coliseum attendance was announced as 74,521.

Scouting the talent: NFL representatives assessing the potential draft picks on Saturday night included the Steelers, Seahawks, Giants and Jets.

Next game: The Trojans will host Arizona State (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) next Saturday, Oct. 4, in the Coliseum with kickoff time to be announced.

Beavers can emerge from Coliseum hole 

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
LOS ANGELES – In a rarity, the Pac-12 visiting team coming to the Coliseum this weekend, the Oregon State Beavers, are undefeated yet still the underdog, and isn’t that saying something about the perceptions of the unranked Beavers (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) and their hosts, the No. 18 USC Trojans (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12)?

The Beavers haven’t beaten anybody of note in their initial trio of games (Portland State, Hawaii, San Diego State) that would send shivers down a future opponent’s gridiron spine. In fact, there are still enough unknowns in Beaversland to gnaw nervously on a tree stump.

But then again, the Trojans' upset loss at Boston College (3-1) raises eyebrows to just who and what these Trojans are after opening the season 2-0 with victories over subpar Fresno State (1-3) and nationally respected Stanford (2-1).

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Notebook: Trojans have focused practice 

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
With USC’s matchup with Oregon State three days away, the Trojans' practice was marked with intensity on Wednesday, with USC coach Steve Sarkisian praising his staff for making a concerted effort to ensure that everyone was focused and on the same page coming off a tough loss to Boston College.

“All in all, Wednesday practice was good -- it was competitive; it was spirited,” Sarkisian said. “I was really encouraged by our coaching staff’s ability to keep an edge. I thought it was evident today – the attention to details, the focus on the little things. I think the players felt that today, because that’s what we’ve been preaching since the locker room at Boston College. And so, I think there was a real emphasis on that. I think, really, for the most part, we really responded to that.”

Redshirting a possibility for Dawson?

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WeAreSC chat, 2 p.m. PT

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
On Wednesday, WeAreSC reporter Garry Paskwietz will be chatting about USC Trojans football. Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC and has been covering the Trojans since 1997. Send your questions now and join Paskwietz every Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.
There will be a lot of anticipation at the Coliseum on Saturday to see how the USC Trojans respond to the Boston College loss two weeks ago.

The matchup against Oregon State will be the first opportunity for the Trojans, who were on bye last week, to get back on the field after suffering the surprising loss, something that USC coach Steve Sarkisian said has its plusses and minuses.

"It was good for our players to get a chance to sit around and watch some college football on Saturday, kind of get refreshed," Sarkisian said. "But you also hear about the loss more with the bye week, I think we all welcomed the chance to come back to work and have our sole focus be on Oregon State."

One of those focuses will be on the offensive side of the ball after Sarkisian said last week that the bye week might be a time to take a look at the identity of the USC offense, to be a run-to-pass team or a pass-to-run team. The Trojans coach provided few details as to the results of his offensive self-evaluation, only to say the team is fortunate to be able to run multiple styles of offense.

"We've got a great game plan and I can't wait to execute it on Saturday," Sarkisian said.

Undoubtedly one element of the plan will be figuring out the best way to attack the veteran Beavers' defense, one that features eight seniors and three juniors in the starting line-up. Oregon State currently ranks in the top 10 nationally for five different defensive categories, including first in both pass efficiency defense (67.0) and third-down conversion defense (.231) and sixth in total defense (255.0).

Granted, the USC offense should be a step up from previous Beavers' opponents -- Portland State, Hawaii and San Diego State -- but a defense that is familiar with each other can play fast and communicate well, which always presents a challenge.

"They play solid, real physical," USC tight end Randall Telfer said. "They're a bunch of vets. You don't see too many defenses with that many veteran guys so you know they will play the run well, that's what we expect. I have a lot of confidence in our guys to be ready, but it's a truth of the matter when you have young guys going against veteran guys, it's going to be a matter of focus on doing your job with great effort."

USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno -- who plays three true freshmen in his interior two-deep rotation -- says the effort is there in practice as the players and coaches work to avoid a repeat of the problems that plagued the Trojans' offense two weeks ago.

"The plan against BC didn't work," Drevno said. "It's a growing experience and everybody's fingerprints are all over it. But it's good sometimes to get a piece of humble pie, it makes you better. The attitude and the work ethic to get things fixed has been good. Everybody has a chip on their shoulder to improve this thing, coaches included, any time you lose there is a competitiveness within you to fix the problem."

USC aims to learn during bye week

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
LOS ANGELES -- Still trying to figure it all out after a 37-31 upset loss at Boston College on Saturday night, the USC Trojans are now faced with picking up the pieces, and a bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.

When a team like USC gets off to such a promising start to the season (2-0) and a No. 9 national ranking, there is always the question of whether a bye week comes at a good time. With the unexpected turn of events like what happened in Chestnut Hill, the loss at Boston College basically welcomes a bye week throughout the program.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaCody Kessler said his confidence is high when it comes to USC's resiliency.
So, just how important is this week’s bye in the eyes of some of those that participated in Saturday’s Boston bummer?

“It’s very important, said sophomore wide receiver George Farmer, who score his first touchdown of the season on a 8-yard reception from quarterback Cody Kessler.

“We’re kind of glad this happened to us now that we can use this bye week to prepare for Oregon State,” Farmer added.

“We can clean up on all the areas that we didn’t do so well on this week. This bye week is really critical. We’re going to do everything we can to clean up everything we can.”

For senior co-captain and inside linebacker Hayes Pullard, emotions turn to philosophical analysis. Pullard echoes Farmer’s statement on the urgency of the bye week.

“It’s very important,” Pullard said. “We can’t look at this as a loss but as a game. When we see a quarterback run on us like that, this is what the Pac-12 is bringing to the table – this option stuff. We got a little taste of it.”

Of course, there is also ability now to sit down this week and break down where the deficiencies are and how to correct them.

Sophomore starting right tackle Zach Banner tried to put the bye week and the loss to Boston College in perspective.

“We have to get it back,” Banner said of the momentum that had been built after the opening victories over Fresno State and Stanford. “After a hard loss like this, Coach told us there are things that we could have controlled during that game. We have to look at the film and we have to never do this stuff again.”

Speaking of the head coach, Steve Sarkisian had his thoughts regarding the bye week after the loss.

“I really believe we'll bounce back and we'll do it in great fashion,” Sarkisian said. “It's back to the drawing board for the bye week, which is probably coming at a good time for us.”

Kessler couldn’t agree more.

“It's going to be a big week for us to bounce back coming into the bye week,” Kessler said. “I'm not worried. This team knows how to fight back.”

The Trojans now have two weeks to get the bitter taste of the Boston College defeat out of their system before Oregon State comes to the Coliseum on Sept. 27.

And you can be sure of one thing: Beavers coach Mike Riley will test the Trojans and see how much they have learned and corrected themselves. Indeed, this is a critical bye week for the Men of Troy.
If USC's sudden defensive breakdown after three games seems shocking, it shouldn't be.

Not if you carefully studied Steve Sarkisian's coaching resume. Not if you observe him on the practice field, where he spends almost 95 percent of his time with the offense. Not if you watched as he made little, if any, halftime adjustments as Boston College trampled through the Trojans for so many rushing yards, you'd have thought it was Oregon on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

That wasn't just another defeat in Chesnut Hill on Saturday night. It was among the more embarrassing losses in recent school history.

USC teams do not get outrushed 452 yards to 20. It just isn't supposed to happen.

But it did. It was as real as all that BC emotion flooding out from the stands. A small, unranked bunch beat all those four and five-star Trojans recruits into the ground. The same team that had been pounded for 302 yards rushing by Pittsburgh a week earlier made USC's offensive and defensive lines look thinner than your average lobster roll on the way to a 37-31 upset that was far worse then the final score indicated.

Maybe this is what happens when you hire a head coach with little or no defensive background. In 2011, in Sarkisian's third year at Washington, his team finished 105th or lower nationally in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense.

Eventually, Sark, whose entire coaching career has been on the offensive side, hired Justin Wilcox as his defensive coordinator, and things improved dramatically. But Wilcox came with him to USC, and after three games, this Trojans' defense is seriously staggering.

First, Stanford gashed it for 413 yards, failing to win the game only because it couldn't convert inside the red zone. Then this, a Trojans' performance so ragged, it couldn't be blamed solely on a post-Cardinal letdown, or a long cross-country plane ride.

You don't stink up the place like that, coughing up 506 total yards, unless you have some serious problems. And a defense that was supposed to be the best in the Pac-12 and one of the better units in the country suddenly has more holes in it than a bad summer movie script.

How could Boston College make Leonard Williams & Co. look so confused with their read-options? Where were the USC defenders on the edge? And how in the world did they turn tiny quarterback Tyler Murphy into looking like the second coming of Marcus Mariota?

Offensively, most of the problems centered on the Trojans' young blockers, who were clearly overmatched. They couldn't run block, and they couldn't pass block. Other than that, they were fine.

Not that Sarkisian helped much with his play calling. Even after it became clear Javorius Allen and Justin Davis couldn't even get to the line of scrimmage most of the time, Sark kept calling run plays, especially on first down.

Whatever happened to taking what the defense gives you? Clearly, BC was concentrating on stopping the run and giving USC the intermediate passing game, but Cody Kessler, who suffered five sacks, wasn't able to take much advantage of it when it mattered.

The Trojans finally ditched their short, horizontal passing game to rally some with 14 points in the fourth quarter, but every time you thought they had a chance to come back, the Eagles would get the ball back and the rest was history.

So just as quickly as the 2014 optimism skyrocketed a week ago, it has plummeted back to Earth. Instead of being 3-0 and looking ahead to bigger and better things, USC is a sagging 2-1 after losing to a 17-point underdog.

And if Murphy and the less-than-imposing Eagles can do this to the Trojans, what are Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame apt to do, let alone a more sophisticated read-option team such as Arizona, or a hungry Utah squad in Salt Lake City?

The road that looked so smooth and inviting after the great escape at Stanford now is filled with potential potholes again.

Longtime Trojans fans have every right to be disappointed.

But if they go back and review the new head coach's resume, they really shouldn't be surprised.

USC storylines at Boston College 

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
Here are five storylines for the USC Trojans against Boston College on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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LOS ANGELES -- For USC freshman cornerback Adoree' Jackson, the introduction to big-time college football didn’t take long.

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WeAreSC chat, 2 p.m. PT

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
On Wednesday, WeAreSC reporter Garry Paskwietz will be chatting about USC Trojans football. Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC and has been covering the Trojans since 1997. Send your questions now and join Paskwietz every Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.

WeAreSC chat, 2 p.m. PT

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
On Wednesday, WeAreSC reporter Garry Paskwietz will be chatting about USC Trojans football. Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC and has been covering the Trojans since 1997. Send your questions now and join Paskwietz every Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.

WeAreSC Roundtable: Stanford preview 

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
WeAreSC staffers discuss topics relating to USC's game at Stanford on Saturday.

Key to the game

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Thursday, 10/2
Saturday, 10/4