LOS ANGELES -- After showing promise in limited action throughout USC’s first nine games, freshman tailback Ty Isaac received the chance to contribute on a much grander scale this past weekend and responded with a breakout performance.
Thrust into the expanded role when starter Silas Redd went out early against California with a knee injury, Isaac was able to get in the flow of a game for the first time as a Trojan, racking up 87 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
“I just kind of got to relax,” Isaac said following USC’s practice on Tuesday, “and the offensive line was doing a really good job in opening up some holes for me, so everything worked out.”
Standing 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Isaac gives the Trojans a unique option as a physical back with deceptive speed, and his arrat of talents was on full display against the Golden Bears, with the highlight coming on a thrilling 37-yard touchdown dash in the fourth quarter in which he outraced a host of California defenders.
“Really, I was just trying to get a first down,” Isaac said of the long scoring run. “I was able to run in space, and when I saw daylight, I wanted it.”
Teaming with the hottest hand in the USC offensive backfield right now, Javorius Allen, Isaac helped the Trojans amass 256 yards on the ground in a 62-28 victory.
It was a banner day for players up and down the USC roster, but for Isaac, a Joliet (Ill.) Catholic product whose parents made the trek from Illinois to Berkeley to see him play in person, his attention-grabbing outing was particularly gratifying, especially with the game on national television.
“There were a lot of people texting me, congratulating me … a lot of friends and family from back home,” said Isaac, who has accumulated 144 yards on the ground in 2013. “It felt really good.”
And with a strong effort now under his belt, there’s reason to believe that Isaac’s friends and family might have more to cheer about in the future, but he’s not about to let his recent success get to his head.
“Definitely for confidence it helps you out, because now you know you can do it in a game against other people,” Isaac said, “but it just makes me want to continue to work hard in practice with my teammates.”
Isaac’s emergence is a boon for a tailback corps that has been hit hard by injuries, although his progression hasn’t come without challenges.
Arriving on campus this summer after a storied high school career in which he rushed for a total of 5,305 yards out of a prolific double-wing attack, Isaac had some difficulties early on as he made the switch from wingback to tailback in USC’s intricate pro-style scheme.
“It was a shock to the system,” Isaac said. “I ran about five plays in high school, and now I’ve got five different reads on one play, so that was definitely something that I had to adjust to.”
Through determination, hard work, and a fair amount of help along the way, Isaac has now made what appears to be a complete transition, and it’s had a profound influence on his ability to step in and produce.
“I’m in my playbook and I know my stuff a lot better, so that has had an impact,” Isaac said. “I’m a better player all-around, tenfold. Just playing against one of the best defenses in the country every day, it’s definitely made me a better player, and then just being around all of these older guys who have helped me out, as well as the coaches.”
With the status of Redd and Tre Madden still up in the air, all signs point to Isaac being asked to combine with Allen once again to carry a large portion of the load this Saturday, when USC faces No. 4 Stanford at the Coliseum.
An imposing squad featuring an aggressive defense that ranks No. 9 nationally against the run, the Cardinal present a stiff challenge for Isaac and Co. to deal with. But, as he explained, the Trojans have made a concerted effort to avoid getting caught up in the hype this week, instead focusing their efforts on sticking to the game-plan that has helped them compile a record of 4-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron.
“I’ve seen them on film, and I respect them as a team,” Isaac said. “Obviously, they’re a really good, physical team, but at the same time we’re going to treat it as another game in the season, and we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing.”
And with the young freshman having now proven himself in a game setting, the Trojans appear to have a new weapon to count on as they look to continue their winning ways this weekend – which is what it’s all about for Isaac.
“I just want to keep it rolling, and it’s a one-game season, every game," Isaac said. "I could not score another touchdown or gain another yard, as long as we’re still winning, I’m good.”