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USC FYI

Losing at 'Where's my line?'

November 19, 2009|Gary Klein

Through the first half of the season, USC's defensive line was regarded as one of college football's best, a young and talented group that stuffed the run and led the nation in sacks.

What a difference a month makes.

USC's defensive linemen are trying to regroup this week after being manhandled by Stanford in a 55-21 loss at the Coliseum.

Two weeks after Oregon rushed for 391 yards against the Trojans, Stanford rolled up 325.

"It starts up front, we know this," defensive line coach Jethro Franklin said Wednesday.

USC gave up only 68 yards rushing a game through the first six games. But that figure has ballooned to 135.6, which ranks 54th among 120 major-college teams.

End Everson Griffen has been slowed by a toe injury, tackle Armond Armstead is playing with a broken wrist and Devon Kennard moved from end to linebacker to help shore up depth because of injuries.

But the linemen neither offered nor accepted that as an excuse for their recent performance.

Instead, they are focused on returning to the form that characterized their play in the first half of the season.

"It's great to have a week," end Wes Horton said. "We've been able to reiterate how to stop the power [play] that killed us.

"We've gone right back to the basics . . . just trying to get our heads right for the next week."

USC plays UCLA on Nov. 28 at the Coliseum.

Coach Pete Carroll said the Trojans' youth and inexperience, particularly at the defensive line and linebacker positions, is forcing the team to "grow" into learning how to finish games.

"Those guys have been in and around it, but they haven't had the pressure on them in the same fashion," Carroll said. "And we have to learn how to perform with issues that arise late in the season and late in games. . . . We're working at it."

Bates on Barkley

Despite freshman quarterback Matt Barkley's struggles for most of the last three games, quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said there was no consideration given to reopening a quarterback competition that would include junior Mitch Mustain and third-year sophomore Aaron Corp.

Barkley has passed for 11 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, including three in the loss to Stanford.

"Matt's our starting quarterback, and I believe in him and he gives us our best chance to win," Bates said, echoing Carroll. "There's no question."

Asked what that determination was based upon, Bates said, "That's based on a year of watching Barkley and watching the other quarterbacks work."

Bates, however, would like to see improvement in Barkley's decision-making.

"We can't try to win . . . on one play," Bates said. "We can't try to make a play when it's not there. We've got to throw it away. You've got to take care of the football and live to see the next down.

"We can't make plays that aren't there, and that's the biggest issue we've got going right now.

Quick hits

Receiver Damian Williams (ankle) is no longer wearing a protective plastic boot on his right leg. Carroll said the junior would try to run Monday. . . . Tailback Joe McKnight sat out because of migraine symptoms, Carroll said. Tailback Allen Bradford (foot) also did not practice.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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