Notebook: Run sets up pass for Trojans

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
10:00
AM PT
One of the most compelling stats from the Boston College game for the USC offense is the fact that the Trojans were able to achieve such good balance on a day when they put up over 500 yards of total offense.

USC ended the day with 521 yards of offense -- 257 on the ground and 264 through the air. But what makes it even more interesting is the fact that those 264 passing yards came on only 19 attempts. The Trojans don’t need to throw the ball 40 times a game to put up big numbers; the stats will come if the run game is setting the tone and if they are spreading the ball around with the right play calls.

[+] EnlargeJustin Davis
Chris Williams/Icon SMIUSC's Justin Davis ran for 96 yards and a touchdown vs. Boston College.
USC coach Lane Kiffin has done a commendable job so far this year of sticking with the commitment to the run as the Trojans have averaged more than 43 rushing attempts per game. It helps when the attempts are producing good yardage and that has been the case with the Trojans averaging 4.5 yards per rush, a number that figures to grow as the backs get more experience and the offensive line continues to gel. Think about it: the Trojans are running the ball well with two backs who had never carried the ball in a college game prior to this season.

On Saturday, the Trojans also came out and did a good job of spreading the ball around. The first six passes that Cody Kessler completed went to six different receivers. By the time the second quarter rolled around, the Trojans had shown the run and the ability to use other players so the Eagles decided to use single coverage on Marqise Lee. That was just a simple Kessler toss to the flat, Lee made one guy miss and that was all she wrote for an 80-yard touchdown.

What’s ironic is that while Lee might be the most explosive player in college football, the Trojans are actually very effective when his catches are limited. USC is 5-0 in games when Lee has two catches and 14-9 in all other Lee games. I doubt Kiffin is going to use that stat as an excuse to start reducing Lee’s touches but it shows how successful the team can be when Lee isn’t forced to carry too much of the load.

Dynamic duo: The Trojans couldn’t have asked for a much better start from the tailback duo of Tre Madden and Justin Davis. Both players have been impressive in, as mentioned above, their first college action at tailback. Madden has been the lead performer with his powerful yet smooth style that has allowed him to go for over 100 yards in each of the first three games to open the season. The last USC tailback to do that was Marcus Allen in his 1981 Heisman-winning season. The true freshman Davis is averaging more than 6.5 yards per carry with 172 yards on 26 carries. It will be interesting to see what will happen when projected starter Silas Redd returns from injury. The latest depth chart released on Sunday night for the Trojans shows Madden as the starter with no “or” designation next to his name, a clear sign that Kiffin is content with what he’s seen so far.

Hit of the day: It was the opening play after Max Wittek entered the game early in the fourth quarter and Wittek threw a screen to Soma Vainuku who turned upfield and met Boston College defender Spenser Rositano. The collision was brutal and instigated by Vainuku. The result of the play was a 14-yard gain but the hit sent Rositano staggering to the sideline. It was somewhat reminiscent of the hit Rey Maualuga (who is Vainuku’s cousin) put on UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan.

Confidence builder: There was some scuttlebutt on the message boards following the game about the fact Boston College might not have been the most high quality opponent and that emotions should be tempered about how well USC played because of that. OK, there is merit, the Eagles aren’t going to be a BCS team this year but that’s not the point with this win. What was more important was that the Trojans came out and played well after a week that was as filled with as much turmoil as any in recent memory. There were no guarantees the players and coaches would respond the way they did on Saturday but to do so is something to be appreciated. Now it’s time to take that win for what it was -- one game -- and move on to the next opponent on Saturday.

Corner update: There was a new starting unit at corner for the Trojans as Josh Shaw has moved from safety with Torin Harris at the spot opposite him. It remains to be seen how the team will line up against teams that run the spread -- will Shaw return to safety with Bailey moving to the slot and Kevon Seymour coming in at corner or will Shaw stay at corner with someone like Demetrius Wright coming in at safety? The guess here is that Shaw stays at corner to continue giving the Trojans a real physical presence at the spot.

Biggie comes up big: There was a terrific high school game played last Friday with several USC targets as Long Beach Poly defeated Corona Centennial 35-28. Centennial came into the game with huge offensive numbers but the Jackrabbits were able to use a strong run game behind a huge offensive line along with a stingy defense to come away with the upset.

John “JuJu” Smith from Poly showed why he is one of the elite players in the area with a multi-purpose showing at running back, receiver and defensive back. Class of 2015 defensive back Iman “Biggie” Marshall simply manhandled Centennial star receiver Barry Ware, who is headed to UCLA, and held him without a catch in the game. It was all the proof you need as to why Marshall could be the top player in the state next season.

USC verbal defensive lineman Austin Maloata is a physical presence but he didn’t have a big statistical impact on the game. Maloata admitted in an interview after the game that he has been in awe at times with the big-time atmosphere for games against powerhouse schools such as Poly and Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure. Maloata -- who transferred in spring from Samoa -- should get a lot more adjusted as the season goes along with the results showing on the field.

Also remember the name Javon McKinley, he’s a 6-foot-2, 185-pound sophomore receiver from Centennial who looked advanced beyond his years.

Garry Paskwietz | email

Publisher, WeAreSC.com

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