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USC trying to plug its porous defense

The Trojans rank 116th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in pass defense, 44th in rushing defense and 99th in total defense, and the unit is trying to regroup.

October 05, 2010|By Gary Klein

USC's defense, shredded on the field by Washington and by fans and pundits in the aftermath, tried to regroup Tuesday as the Trojans began preparations for Saturday's game against No. 16 Stanford.

USC gave up 536 yards in its 32-31 loss to Washington. The Trojans rank 116th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in pass defense, 44th in rushing defense and 99th in total defense.

Monte Kiffin, the architect of the unit, said the Trojans are giving up too many big plays.

"Call it 'bend don't break' or whatever you want to call it," he said. "They're going to get some first downs but you can't give up the big plays."

USC's problems, however, go beyond surrendering a deep pass or a long run.

The line has not consistently pressured quarterbacks, an inexperienced secondary has been exposed and the linebackers have failed to make many game- or momentum-turning plays.

"It hasn't been where you watch the film and say, you know, 'Wow, they're blowing a bunch of assignments or missing a ton of tackles,' " Coach Lane Kiffin said, addressing the play of the linebackers.

"They're playing OK, but there's been no significant plays — the big sack, the big fumble, the big interception, the big play on a ball that's going to be a first down."

USC has been particularly vulnerable against offenses operating out of no-huddle schemes.

"I've got to imagine we're the worst no-huddle defense in all of football," Lane Kiffin said.

Now comes Stanford, averaging 469 yards and 44.6 points per game.

The Cardinal pushes the pace with a physical style.

Lane Kiffin anticipates "truly a physical test-of-will game" against Jim Harbaugh's Cardinal.

"I can't imagine there would be a team in the country that you'd have to go line up against that would come across on film more physical than what their guys do in all areas," Lane Kiffin said.

Missed it by that much

Quarterback Matt Barkley leads the Pacific 10 Conference in passing efficiency, but he would trade that status for completions on his last two passes against Washington.

Barkley's pass into the end zone was just out of receiver David Ausberry's reach. Later, on USC's last possession, his pass to tight end Jordan Cameron on third and four also sailed high.

"Those were definitely eating me up Saturday night, staring at my ceiling," Barkley said.

Barkley has completed 66% of his attempts and passed for 12 touchdowns, with four interceptions.

"It's not really about completion percentage or whatever," Barkley said. "It's, I want to win. If we don't get that, that's what's going to be bugging me the most."

To be announced

Allen Bradford rushed for 223 yards against Washington and ranks fourth in the Pac-10, averaging 100 yards per game.

But Kiffin declined to designate the senior as the starter against Stanford.

"We'll look at it throughout the week," he said.

Bradford averaged 10.6 yards per carry against Washington. With the Trojans facing third and four on their final drive, Bradford anticipated getting the call.

"Me and the offensive line, we all thought it was going to be a run, but it was a pass," Bradford said.

"Things happen. … We can't live in the past. You've just got to move forward."

Quick hits

Joe Houston and Jake Harfman competed in a re-opened kicking competition. … Defensive end Wes Horton (back) and fullback Stanley Havili (shoulder) did not practice.

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