USC Trojans: Dion Bailey
UCLA's Myles Jack earned freshman of the year for both offense and defense with his 70 tackles as a linebacker and seven touchdowns as a running back. This is the first time since the awards were introduced in 2008 that the same player has won both sides.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham is the league's coach of the year for guiding the Sun Devils to a conference record of 8-1 and winning the South Division. The Sun Devils host Stanford this weekend in the Pac-12 championship game.
The team is selected by the Pac-12 head coaches.
Offensive player of the year: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE Arizona State
Freshman Offense and Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Jack, RB/LB, UCLA
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State
First team offense
QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (2)
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona (2)
RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington
WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State
WR Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado
TE Chris Coyle, Grad., Arizona State
OL Evan Finkenberg, Grad., Arizona State
OL Hroniss Grasu, Jr., Oregon (2)
OL Marcus Martin, Jr., USC
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jr., UCLA (2)
OL David Yankey, Sr, Stanford (2)
First team defense
DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah
DL Will Sutton, Sr., Arizona State
DL Leonard Williams, So., USC
LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (2)
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford (2)
LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford
DB Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon
DB Robert Nelson, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ed Reynolds, Sr., Stanford (2)
First team specialists
PK Zane Gonzalez, Fr., Arizona State
P Tom Hackett, So. Utah
RS Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
ST Soma Vainuku, So. USC
Second team offense
QB Taylor Kelly, Jr., Arizona State
RB Tyler Gaffney, Sr., Stanford
RB Marion Grice, Sr. Arizona State
WR Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
WR Jaelen Strong, So., Arizona State
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., Washington
OL Jamil Douglas, Jr., Arizona State
OL Cameron Fleming, Sr., Stanford
OL Andrus Peat, So., Stanford
OL Isaac Seumalo, So., Oregon State
OL Khalil Wilkes, Sr. Stanford
Second team defense
DL Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State
DL Taylor Hart, Sr., Oregon
DL Devon Kennard, Sr., USC
DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Jr., Washington
DL Tenny Palepoi, Sr., Utah
LB Carl Bradford, Jr., Arizona State
LB Myles Jack, Fr., UCLA
LB Hayes Pullard, Jr., USC
LB Chris Young, Sr., Arizona State
DB Dion Bailey, Jr., USC
DB Osahon Irabor, Grad., Arizona State
DB Marcus Peters, So., Washington
DB Rashaad Reynolds, Sr., Oregon State
Second team specialists
PK Vincenzo D'Amato, Sr., California
P Travis Coons, Sr., Washington
RS Nelson Agholor, So., USC
ST Erick Dargan, Jr., Oregon
ST Joe Hemschoot, Sr., Stanford
ST Ryan Hofmeister, Jr., UCLA
RS: Return Specialist
ST: special teams player (not a kicker or returner)
(2): Two-time first-team selection
Arizona: LB Marquis Flowers, Sr.; DL Tevin Hood, Sr.; WR Nate Phillips, Fr.; DB Jared Tevis, Jr.; LB Scooby Wright, Fr.
Arizona State: DL Davon Coleman, Grad.; Gannon Conway, Sr.; ST D.J. Foster, So.; ST De'Marieya Nelson, Jr.
California: DL Deandre Coleman, Sr.; QB Jared Goff, Fr.; WR Bryce Treggs, So.
Colorado: RB Mike Adkins, Fr.; LB Addison Gillam, Fr.; PK Will Oliver, Jr.
Oregon: WR/RS Bralon Addison, So.; WR Josh Huff, Sr.; OL Tyler Johnstone, So.; DL Wade Keliikipi, Sr.; LB Derrick Malone, Jr.; RB Byron Marshall, So.; DL Tony Washington, Jr.
Oregon State: OL Grant Enger, Sr.; TE Connor Hamlett, JR.; QB Sean Mannion, Jr.; DB Ryan Murphy, Jr.; DB Steven Nelson, Jr.; ST Terron Ward, Jr.
Stanford: DL Henry Anderson, Sr.; DB Alex Carter, So.; OL Kevin Danser, Sr.; DL Josh Mauro, Sr.; P Ben Rhyne, Sr.; DB Jordan Richards, Jr.; LB A.J. Tarpley, Sr.
UCLA: OL Jake Brendel, So.; ST Jayon Brown, Fr.; P Sean Covington, Fr.; TE Thomas Duarte, Fr.; WR Shaq Evans, Sr.; WR Devin Fuller, So.; DB Randall Goforth, So.; QB Brett Hundley, So.; DB Anthony Jefferson, Jr.; LB Eric Kendricks, Jr.; DL Cassius Marsh, Sr.; DL Ellis McCarthy, So.; DB Fabian Moreau, So.; OL Alex Redmond, Fr.; DL Eddie Vanderdoes, Fr.; LB Jordan Zumwalt, Sr.
USC: P Kris Albarado, So.; RB Javorius Allen, So.; WR Nelson Agholor, So.; DB Su'a Cravens, Fr.; OL Kevin Graf, Sr.; TE Xavier Grimble, Jr.; QB Cody Kessler, So.; WR Marqise Lee, Jr.; DB Josh Shaw, Jr.; DL J.R. Tavai, Jr.; OL Max Turek, So.; DL George Uko, Jr.
Utah: WR Dres Anderson, Jr.; OL Vyncent Jones, Sr.; DB Keith McGill, Sr.; PK Andy Phillips, Fr.; LB Jason Whittingham, So.
Washington: OL Dexter Charles, So.; PK Travis Coons, Sr.; OL Mike Criste, Jr.; OL Micah Hatchie, Jr.; DB Sean Parker, Sr.; QB Keith Price, Sr.; DL Danny Shelton, Jr.; LB Shaq Thompson, So.
Washington State: OL Elliott Bosch, Sr.; WR River Cracraft, Fr.; PK Andrew Furney, Sr.; DB Damante Horton, Sr.;
Some notes on the teams:
By School: Arizona State and Stanford placed the most players on the first team with six selections each.
By Class: Of the 27 first-team selections, two are graduate students, 11 are seniors, nine are juniors, four are sophomores and one freshman.
Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches -- RB Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona.
Two-time Selections: Ten players are repeat first-team selections from last year.
All-Academic: Two first team All-Pac-12 performers also were named to the Pac-12 All Academic second team -- RB Bishop Sankey of Washington and DB Ed Reynolds of Stanford, while Washington defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and Pac-12 All-Academic first team. Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly earned second-team honors on both the Pac-12 All-Conference and All-Academic teams.
Coming off a satisfying 49-27 victory over Colorado, USC extended its win streak to five games and an overall 6-1 record under interim coach Ed Orgeron. It might not have been enough to get the Trojans into the Pac-12 title game -- ASU clinched the berth from the south on Saturday night -- but that bit of news will do little to dampen the enthusiasm of the players and coaches.
Not only do the Trojans have a chance to put the finishing touches on an amazing in-season turnaround with a victory over UCLA, they also have a chance to right a painful memory from last year. In their first season under coach Jim Mora, the Bruins got the upper hand in 2012 with a 38-28 victory in the Rose Bowl, a win that was all the more notable considering USC had beaten UCLA 50-0 the previous year.
The Bruins have tried to use the momentum from last year to lay claim to ownership of Los Angeles, on the field and on the recruiting trail. The slow start to the USC season appeared to give credence to those efforts, all while UCLA got a big road win over Nebraska and had high-profile stars such as Brett Hundley and Anthony Barr.
Then came the coaching switch for USC and tides of change have swung local momentum back in favor of the Trojans. While USC has been thriving under Orgeron, the Bruins are 3-3 in their last six games. While the Bruins were once ranked in the top 10 and the Trojans were unranked, the two teams now stand right next to each other in the rankings at No. 22 (UCLA) and 23 (USC).
The USC players are certainly going to want revenge for last year. Trojans safety Dion Bailey said in the locker room following the Colorado game that he and his teammates needed to “remind the Bruins” of who runs the town. That bit of chatter about ownership rights of the city is always part of this rivalry so that’s nothing new, but it doesn't figure to be the overriding storyline of this game.
The ongoing saga of Orgeron and his pursuit of the full-time USC job will dominate the discussions leading up to Saturday night, but what shouldn't get lost in the shuffle is the fact his team is playing well right now, as good as he could have hoped for in such an important matchup.
USC has a quarterback in Cody Kessler who has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games while growing into a clear leader of the offense. The running game has received a huge boost from the play of Buck Allen, with his nine rushing touchdowns in the last four games and the splash of explosiveness he adds on the ground. There is also the thought in opponents' minds now of a 260-pound fullback in Soma Vainuku who can move pretty well, too.
On the outside there is still the reality that Marqise Lee is bothered by injuries but Nelson Agholor has stepped up to help pick up some of the slack. Lee would love to be back on the field against UCLA to help make up for 2012 in what will likely be his final home game at the Coliseum. At tight end, Xavier Grimble showed on Saturday what can happen when the tight ends are healthy and utilized the right way as he led the team with six catches.
The development of the offensive line has to be considered one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. It’s no accident when a team has four different running backs go for over 100 yards in a game, at some point the line is doing something right.
On defense, the USC front seven is starting to get recognition as one of the best units in college football. Leonard Williams is playing like an All-American and Devon Kennard isn’t far behind. It makes it all the more impressive to think the Trojans are doing this lately without leading sacker Morgan Breslin, primarily due to the fine play of J.R. Tavai.
There has been the dependable leadership from Hayes Pullard while Anthony Sarao stepped in for an injured Lamar Dawson without missing a beat. And what was once the biggest weakness on the team, the secondary play and coverage at the corner spot, has been stabilized by the physical presence of Josh Shaw while Bailey has been a playmaker at safety.
On top of all that, kicker Andre Heidari battled through his job being put up for grabs to nail the biggest kick of his career in the win over Stanford.
Those are a lot of positives for the Trojans, players who are rising up and playing well, and by no means are these the only players getting it done. Orgeron has provided substance to the loose atmosphere he has fostered with the Trojans and now he and his team have a chance to finish this magnificent regular season run in style.
1. “Get through it” game: There are the usual questions this week about the possibility of this game being a letdown for the Trojans. The team is coming off an emotional victory over Stanford and there is the looming prospect next week of a matchup with crosstown rival UCLA that could have some very high stakes. Sandwiched between those two games is Colorado, an opponent with a single conference win this season, in a cold, nighttime environment in front of what is expected to be a sparse crowd. Ed Orgeron says his players will not let down because they trust the process of preparing for the game and they know what is still possible for this season.
2. Attack mode: The Buffs are ranked last or next-to-last in the conference in all four major defensive categories (scoring, pass, rush, total). They have the fewest sacks and are giving up the most yards per rush. That means Cody Kessler should have time to run the offense and the Trojans should be able to run when they need to. Kessler has been efficient lately and is putting up good numbers, but with these weather conditions, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Clay Helton pay special attention to the run game. Regardless, the Trojans will look to score early and often to take control of the game quickly and get the starters to the sidelines.
3. Don’t let Rich get richer: Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson is a legitimate big-play guy, a player who is very familiar to members of the USC program. He played Pop Warner football with Dion Bailey, was a high school teammate of Marqise Lee and trained in the offseason with Josh Shaw. It will be Shaw who is charged with the assignment of making sure that Richardson – who ranks No. 4 in the nation in receiving yards per game - doesn’t have the kind of night that would allow Colorado to stay in the game.
4. Say hello to reserves: If the Trojans can get a comfortable lead, look for Orgeron to make sure the reserves get plenty of playing time. It could be another opportunity for Max Wittek to show off his arm, for De’Von Flournoy to get a few catches as his career winds down or for Abe Markowitz to get some well-deserved reps at center. On defense, look for players such as Jabari Ruffin, Scott Starr, Quinton Powell and Michael Hutchings to show what is waiting for them as the future of the USC linebacker group.
5. Keep the Orgeron train moving: There is a lot of momentum for the Trojans right now under Orgeron and USC fans aren’t looking for that to end in Boulder. In fact, they are looking for the train to pick up speed on the way to the showdown next weekend in the Coliseum. The Trojans have shown steady improvement each week under Orgeron to the point that they are playing their best football of the year at the right time. And, as has been thoroughly discussed in the national media this week, Orgeron has put himself squarely in the mix as a candidate for the full-time job.
Here’s some more info on the trio per the Pac-12’s release:
Kessler, a sophomore from Bakersfield, Calif., was 25-of-37 for 288 yards and a touchdown in a 20-17 upset win over No. 5 Stanford on Saturday night in the Coliseum. He produced a season-best for both completions and attempts while connecting on 10 in a row as the Trojans held on to a seven point lead entering the third quarter. With the score tied 17-17 and 1:23 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Kessler completed a 13-yard pass to Marqise Lee on fourth and two to keep a drive alive that ended with a game-winning field goal.
Nelson, a senior from Lakeland, Fla., led an Arizona State defense that forced four interceptions from the nation’s leading passer in a 30-17 win over Oregon State in Tempe on Saturday night. Nelson collected two interceptions, returning the second one 23 yards for a game-sealing touchdown late in the fourth quarter, while adding five tackles and a fumble recovery on the night. Nelson now has six interceptions on the year, which is tied for fourth in the nation and is the most for a Sun Devil cornerback in a single season since 1987.
Heidari, junior from Bakersfield, Calif., hit the game-winning 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds to seal the upset victory over Stanford. The game-winner helped the Trojans snap a four-game losing streak to the Cardinal while it was their first game-winning field goal since 2000. Heidari now has 38 field goals in his career.
Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Connor Halliday of Washington State; running back Marion Grice of Arizona State and running back/linebacker Myles Jack of UCLA; and Colorado wide receiver Nelson Spruce. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were linebackers Addison Gillam of Colorado, Erik Kendricks of UCLA and Justin Sagote of Washington State; and USC safety Dion Bailey. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors was punter Sean Covington of UCLA and Oregon running back/kick returner De’Anthony Thomas.
WR Darreus Rogers: The freshman wide receiver had injury issues of his own early in the season but got healthy just as Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor both were hurting as well. In a two-game stretch against Notre Dame and Utah, Rogers had 11 catches for 122 yards and was a reliable mid-range target.
TE’s Nathan Guertler: Through the first three years of his career, Guertler was a little-used walk-on offensive lineman who was known for his rugged style of play. In recent weeks, however, the Trojans have found themselves with serious depth issues at tight end so Guertler has thrown on a new jersey with a tight end number and played well against Oregon State as an extra blocker.
OLB J.R. Tavai: After beginning this season as a backup to Leonard Williams at defensive end, Tavai was moved to outside linebacker when Morgan Breslin went down with a hip injury. Tavai responded with a pair of double-digit tackle games with his usual relentless motor and strength. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Tavai have such success considering he has played both inside and outside on the line in his USC career, but it is still a bonus for the Trojans to have a player who can move seamlessly between both spots.
DB Demetrius Wright: The Trojans came into the season with great depth at safety but it has been tested with the move of Josh Shaw to corner, the redshirt season for Gerald Bowman and various injury issues for Dion Bailey and Su’a Cravens. Wright has stepped in as an experienced reserve and provided steady play along with some big hits. Interim coach Ed Orgeron has mentioned Wright multiple times as a key contributor in recent weeks.
Then again, if Orgeron's current momentum continues the rest of the season, the question becomes whether USC athletic director Pat Haden is willing to make that trade.
Consider if the Trojans converted two field goals and won the game at Notre Dame, it would have propelled Orgeron’s current candidacy for the permanent USC coaching position into more serious discussion than it is today.
Standing on the victorious Trojans sideline at Oregon State’s Reser Stadium during and after the Trojans upset the Beavers, 31-14, one could only marvel at how unified these Trojans are as opposed to a month ago. Unquestionably, Haden knows that Orgeron is the main man responsible for the turnaround.
Also, make no mistake about it, Haden understands the current Trojans roster not only has proven it will lay it all out on the line for Orgeron but look to him as a father figure.
Some Trojans players, however, are also realistic about their interim coach’s future.
When asked about Orgeron in the middle of a wild celebration on the Reser Stadium artificial turf on Friday night, strong safety Dion Bailey put things into stone-cold analysis.
“If Coach O isn’t the head coach here, he will be a head coach somewhere else,” Bailey said. “But we love Coach O.”
Bailey’s comment makes one take a step back and pause.
Just how uncomfortable might it sound to the Trojans family to hear a press conference in December welcoming Orgeron as the new coach at another institution, especially if he guides the Men of Troy into a respectable bowl game?
Currently the thought of Orgeron at any place other than USC leaves many Trojans fans in a state of distress.
As attractive as Orgeron is becoming as a Trojans coaching candidate, Haden will do the right thing and let the season play out -- and he should. There is no telling what will happen the rest of the way, but if things play out the way fans hope, Haden will have one huge decision to make. Or will he?
Maybe no matter what Orgeron does short of going to the Rose Bowl, Haden wants a complete break from the previous coaching regime and his own man, which includes a coach and personality that knocks the nation on its collective ears. Certainly someone with the prestige of Jon Gruden would fit that design.
Haden, the starting quarterback on the Trojans' 1974 national championship team, is currently surveying the big fish out there in the vast coaching ocean. Then he’ll weigh the pros and cons of each legitimate candidate and take his time. He might look at Orgeron's body of work and see how the other "all-star" candidates compare.
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“It was extremely difficult,” said Bailey, who has started 29 games in his career at USC. “I love being out there. I live for game day. So not being able to be out there for my team was very hard for me.”
During his time on campus, Bailey has garnered a reputation as one of the defense’s most valuable performers, compiling 196 tackles and eight interceptions. Making the seamless transition from linebacker -- where he started in 2011 and 2012 -- back to his old safety spot this season, the 6-foot and 200-pound veteran has provided a much-needed element of stability to the defensive backfield.
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That is exactly what awaits the USC defense on Friday night as Sean Mannion and the Oregon State offense come into the game averaging a nation-leading 420.8 yards per game. If guys such as Taylor Kelly from Arizona State and Tommy Rees from Notre Dame can have success throwing the ball against the Trojans, what will Mannion and company be expected to do?
One is the move of Josh Shaw from safety back to cornerback. Shaw has seen time at both spots in his USC career, but the defense seems to perform better when he lines up at corner. Shaw will be joined in the starting lineup by Kevon Seymour, who has been playing well after battling injuries early in the season.
It will be important to watch how the move of Shaw impacts the rotation at safety, especially since the Trojans will be in nickel package for much of the game. The normal starters would be Dion Bailey and Su'a Cravens. Both are likely to play, but they have missed practice time this week due to injuries. USC fans can expect to see a lot of Demetrius Wright and Leon McQuay III after both played well last week against Utah.
The second key will be to get pressure on Mannion to disrupt his timing. That’s easy to say, but not always easy to do. Mannion averages nearly 50 pass attempts a game and completes close to 70 percent of them, throwing 30 touchdown passes to only three interceptions.
The Beavers’ offensive line had done a solid job protecting Mannion for the most part by allowing only nine sacks through the first seven games before allowing eight sacks to Stanford last week. The Trojans are No. 10 nationally in sacks but will be without their sack leader, as Morgan Breslin will miss the game with a hip injury. The Trojans will look to J.R. Tavai to fill in for Breslin. In the two games that Tavai has started for Breslin he has totaled 21 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Leonard Williams and Devon Kennard will also look to play big roles for the USC front seven.
USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron comments
Painful: "Well, we have a hurt team in there. They gave it everything they had. I was really proud of our football team and our players and our coaching staff. Game two of a new season, the way we competed to the very end."
Yellow and red: "Obviously the penalties hurt us tonight in crucial situations, and we didn't punch it in the red zone when we needed to. It seemed that every time we had a first down or something like that, we had a holding call or jumped offside. We shot ourselves in the foot, and then it was second and 20."
On Notre Dame defensive success: "Pressure. A lot of pressure. That was a good front. We knew it was a good front coming in, a lot of pressure, and we just seemed that we couldn't get things going. Those are big guys to block, 300 (pounds) in the middle."
On the offensive line: "Hey, listen, we made some mistakes. We didn't do the things we would like to do at a high level, but I am proud of all my guys, just like my family. They fought as hard as they can and gave it everything that they can."
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly comments
On beating USC: "They found a way to win the game. Our defense was outstanding in the second half and gave us a chance to win the football game. Great win, one that obviously when it comes to beating USC will go a long way with our guys."
On defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt: "He got the game ball. He was all over the place. They (USC) couldn't handle him today. If you're wanting to talk about a defensive lineman that was dominating, you could throw that word out there. He was a force out there."
On defending Trojans wide receiver Nelson Agholor: "I thought we defended well. If he was going to hit us on some drive routes and some intermediate routes, we were going to rally and tackle him, and that was the extent of it."
More notes and anecdotes
Key(s) to victory: The Notre Dame defense rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter, and the Trojans' offense didn't. Twice the Trojans had excellent opportunities in Irish territory and came away empty, especially the final drive of the game. It also didn't help that the Trojans were just 2 of 13 in third down conversions for the game.
The offensive scoring average: The Trojans scored 10 points against Notre Dame. Prior to the game with the Irish, the Trojans were averaging 28.0 points per game.
Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler comments: "It really sucks that we lost, but we gave it a good effort. As a team, we wanted badly to win it for Coach O and the coaching staff. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. We just have to eliminate the mistakes we're making as a team."
Defending the rush: Before the Notre Dame game, the Trojans defense was allowing 107.2 yards rushing per game. Against the Irish, the Trojans allowed 129 yards rushing.
Evaluating the defense: Safety Dion Bailey said, "I'm not trying to take anything away from Notre Dame, they played a great game, and they just made a couple more plays at the end that affected the outcome."
Offensively better: Before the Notre Dame game, the Trojans were averaging 408.0 yards per game in total offense. Against the Irish, the Trojans had 330 total yards on offense.
Kessler: "Not taking away anything from Notre Dame, we have to execute, and we missed too many assignments and were dropping balls. It's disappointing, but stuff that can be fixed, and we have to eliminate the penalties. We put ourselves in too many third and long situations."
Rush to dominance: Before the Notre Dame game, the Trojans were averaging 200.3 yards per game rushing. Against the Irish, the Trojans rushed for 129 net yards.
Grafting an answer: On his line's offensive penalties, starting senior right tackle Kevin Graf said, "I was definitely surprised (by the penalties). Honestly, I thought a lot of our guys were pretty angry about those calls, but we'll see what the film says. It's very frustrating. Someone like me who it's their senior year and this is the last time I'll get to be in this place. It's very upsetting."
Midwest fall: Temperature at kickoff was 48 degrees.
The defensive scoring average: The Trojans defense allowed 14 points to Notre Dame. Before the Irish game, the Trojans were allowing 22.8 points per game.
Confidence builder: After the game, it was an emotional Trojans locker room and wide receiver Darreus Rogers said, "Coach O told us to stay together and keep having one heartbeat."
Defensively speaking: Before the Notre Dame game, the Trojans were allowing an average of 340.3 total yards on defense. Against the Irish, the Cardinal and Gold allowed 295 total yards.
The infirmary: Freshman tailback Justin Davis left Notre Dame Stadium with a boot on his right ankle. Tight ends Xaiver Grimble and Randall Telfer also left with an ankle and knee problem, respectively. Marqise Lee said he tweaked his shoulder in the first half, and Orgeron wouldn't let him back in the game in the second half.
Air low: Before the Notre Dame game, the Trojans were allowing 233.2 passing yards per game. Against the Irish, the Trojans allowed 166 passing yards.
On beating the Trojans: Irish senior receiver T.J. Jones said, "Yeah, it doesn't feel bad, that's for sure. It's definitely a fulfilling feeling, three out of four years at my time here, and my last year, last time I'll ever play them."
Top tacklers: The Trojans defense was led by defensive lineman Leonard Williams with nine tackles, followed by corner Anthony Brown and safety Josh Shaw with seven tackles each.
Passing fancy: Before the Notre Dame game, the Trojans were averaging 207.7 passing yards per game. Against the Irish, the Trojans passed for 201 yards.
Getting worse: Before the Notre Dame game, the Trojans were averaging 59.3 penalty yards per game. Against the Irish, the Trojans were penalized 11 times for 95 yards.
Scouting the talent: NFL scouts in attendance included those representing the Rams, Eagles, Texans, Colts and Bears.
Next Saturday: The Trojans play host to Utah in the Coliseum in a Pac-12 South Division game. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. PT.
Exactly how many more games can USC win this season?
The team that built up a three-touchdown lead in the cool October night and then had to hang on through a nerve-jangling fourth quarter to beat Arizona 38-31 still seems to be a work in progress.
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USC head coach Lane Kiffin comments
Opening statement: "Unfortunately, a disastrous third quarter for us was a big part of the game. The first half seemed to go back and forth -- two critical turnovers for us in the first half. We had a dropped pass on the post route going out, and it ended up being an interception for them and a big play. In the third quarter we went down the field and scored, and then it went downhill from there."
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When you have a defense playing as well as USC’s is this season, it shouldn’t be losing to Washington State and having to struggle to a hang-onto-your-fingernails victory over Utah State, both at home, no less.
What their most recent 17-14 escape proved is that defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s almost unbelievably-revived defense is good enough to keep USC in every football game the rest of the way.
But will it matter if the offense can’t shake off the cobwebs that seem to have completely engulfed it?
The screams for coach Lane Kiffin’s job calmed down a bit after a semi-soothing win over BC, but they were back at full roar late Saturday. The reaction is understandable, since it is Kiffin who remains in charge of the sluggish offense, not to mention the play-calling that remains as puzzling as ever.
The undercurrent of dissatisfaction has actually reached out even dangerously deeper than to just the fan base. The Trojans’ list of early 2014 commitments is lagging far behind past seasons, with hardly any four- or five-star kids on the list.
Kiffin might still be able to turn that momentum around, of course, if he can find some way to juice up an offense that could never find its rhythm against Utah State. Tre Madden ran decently enough at tailback, but the running game was never complemented by play-action passes.
At least the Trojans throw downfield occasionally now, but almost always to Marqise Lee exclusively, which would be fine if it was the old, Biletnikoff Award-winning Marqise. The problem is, he hasn’t shown up yet this season.
The scary part is Utah State spent most of the game single-covering Lee and Nelson Agholor, and Kiffin still couldn’t figure out a way to let Cody Kessler take advantage of it. Some of it has to do with an offensive line that simply isn’t up to USC standards. But then, what do you expect from a kid like left tackle Chad Wheeler, who hadn’t played a down of college football until four weeks ago?
It’s too bad, because with just some normal offensive help, Pendergast’s defense would be getting the national recognition it so richly deserves.
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That kind of dual-threat ability makes Keeton a tough target and one that will receive the full attention of the Trojans defense. So far this year the Trojans have done a good job of playing assignment defense in a scheme that requires attacking from different angles on most every play. That will need to continue on Saturday to prevent Keeton from breaking a big play.
Look for the Trojans to try to get in the backfield quickly in an effort to prevent Keeton from having a chance to make an option decision. This will be especially important for front-line defenders such as Leonard Williams, Morgan Breslin and Devon Kennard.
It will be interesting to see how the Trojans choose to use their personnel groups in the secondary, since they likely will be in a nickel package most of the game. In the first two games against spread teams, the Trojans played a lot of nickel with Josh Shaw and Su'a Cravens at the safety spots and Dion Bailey playing in the slot. Against Boston College and its traditional pro-style scheme, Shaw was at corner with Bailey and Cravens at safety, plus Antwaun Woods was at nose tackle on the line. Assuming the Trojans are primarily in nickel against the Aggies, do they keep Shaw at corner? Does Bailey stay at safety or go to the slot? Could Demetrius Wright be an option at safety?
Injuries at corner could be a factor in that decision. Kevon Seymour was limited in action against Boston College, and USC coach Lane Kiffin said Seymour is continuing to recover from a recent injury. Anthony Brown left the Hawaii game with an apparent ankle injury and has not been seen on the field since. The Trojans are fortunate that experienced senior Torin Harris -- who has seen his share of injuries in his USC career -- is healthy enough these days to line up as the corner opposite Shaw.
Well, we finally saw Lane Kiffin allow Cody Kessler to run around the track, and he ran well. He was confident and in command. He only threw two incompletions. He spread the ball around to receivers, backs and tight ends. He consistently was changing plays at the line, adjusting to the defense. He was the quarterback that people saw in spring and in fall camp.
Much was made about not naming a starter sooner. I played at USC the last time a split QB was used at quarterback, and it worked. Brad Otton and Kyle Wacholtz quarterbacked our team to a Pac-10 championship and a Rose Bowl win in 1995. But let's be clear: In that 1995 season, we had a very senior offensive line (we started five fifth-year seniors in the Rose Bowl) and Keyshawn Johnson. That team had leadership, and we were very consistent. That offense knew who it was. Both were good QBs. Plug either one in and we clicked.
This 2013 offense doesn't seem to be the same. This offense is searching for its identity, with previous seasons so overwhelmingly defined by Matt Barkley. The offensive line is still young, the backs very new. While Marqise Lee is on the field trying to make plays, what this unit has needed is leadership and consistency. Playing two quarterbacks has seemed to just add to the growing pains, with both guys playing tight and the whole unit making assignment mistakes that have greatly hurt their productivity.
So maybe Saturday, against a clearly overmatched Boston College team, with Kessler playing with more freedom and asserting his personality onto this group, we started to see this offense turn the corner. Because of this, despite a run-first mentality and a great workhorse back in Tre Madden, this will be Kessler's offense. And the team will be better for it.
Week 3 notables:
- Kudos to the offensive line. USC ran the ball well against a defense playing hard to stop it. Madden and Justin Davis have to be fun to block for as well. If the offensive line can continue to improve as a unit and cut down on mistakes (holding calls and missed assignments killed three drives that USC won't be able to afford against better teams), that unit will become a true team strength.
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But with Clancy Pendergast and his attacking 5-2 defense in place at USC, a now-healthy Kennard is finally living up to expectations after finding a home at SAM linebacker -- a hybrid end/outside linebacker position -- where his skill set has proven to be a perfect fit.
“I definitely feel comfortable in this defense,” said Kennard, who has now compiled 144 tackles in his career. “It puts me, as well as all of my teammates in position to make plays, and that’s all you can ask for as a player. We’re working together. The DBs cover well. ... Josh Shaw and Dion Bailey have been making a lot of plays for us, allowing us to get pressure on the quarterback. And we’ve helped them, too.”
Possessing a 6-foot-3 and 255-pound frame to go along with strong pass rushing skills, a nose for the ball and an aggressive brand of play, Kennard is coming off an impressive outing against Washington State in which he recorded five tackles, half a sack and one pass breakup, while also setting up a Cody Kessler touchdown run with a fumble recovery and 14-yard return that he nearly took back for six himself.
“I was hoping to end up in the end zone, but there was a running back in the flat and nobody saw him,” Kennard said. “It’s OK though, we still scored on that drive.”
But that would be the extent of the points put up by the Trojans. So despite a staunch effort by a USC defense that limited the Cougars to just 7 yards on the ground while also forcing a total of three turnovers, they would fall at home in an upset, 10-7. And while it would be easy for him to point to an anemic USC passing attack as the primary cause for the defeat, according to Kennard, there was plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the ball, with the defense playing a part, in particular, with a momentary lapse in production on Washington State’s game-winning field-goal drive.
“You win and lose as a team,” Kennard said. “There’s no finger pointing going on. There are things that we could have done on defense. One thing that sticks out in my head from last week is that 49-yard run (on a pass reception) they had in the fourth quarter. If we could have found a way to stop them, they wouldn’t have been in field goal position.”
Coming off such a disheartening loss, job No. 1 for Kennard and the other veterans has been to make sure that the Trojans get back on track, starting with the approaching matchup with Boston College. And while the rumored players-only meeting that made headlines earlier this week was later revealed to be nothing more than a casual conversation amongst a few teammates during the team’s training table on Sunday, Kennard -- who has taken on more of a vocal role as a leader this season -- did voice his opinion that day to the small group, and he’s encouraged by what he’s seen from the team as a whole.
“When I talked to guys it was just like, ‘We’ve got to have a great week of practice, we can’t let this loss linger on into our Monday and Tuesday practice, and we have to move on. It’s early in the season and we have an opportunity to bounce back,’ " Kennard said. "It starts with practicing hard. You’ve got to come out and have a good day of practice. I’m really proud of my team and everybody involved because we’ve had a great week of practice so far, and we’ve really bounced back from that standpoint.”
But the Trojans will have to prove just how far they’ve come this weekend against a BC squad that has shown vast improvement under first-year head coach Steve Adazzio. Going up against a hard-nosed Eagles offensive attack featuring 227-pound tailback Andre Williams, the USC defense could be in for a real battle. But with their sights zeroed in on the task at hand, and away from last Saturday’s defeat, Kennard and Co. appear ready for whatever might come their way.
“Everybody has moved on,” Kennard said. “I like the mentality of the team coming back from a loss. Everybody came back, and our focus is on beating BC. I’ve watched a lot of film on them and they’re very physical. We know they’re going to come at us, and we’re preparing for it. It’s a great challenge.”