A week ago, the story haunting the Trojans was the failures of the offensive line against Stanford. Tonight, USC came out and played angry football up front, dominating the Golden Bears in the trenches on the way to a 27-9 victory, pushing the Trojans’ record to 3-1.
After rushing for just 26 yards against Stanford, Lane Kiffin opted to give it all he could at establishing the run against Cal, and the Trojans were able to do that, as aided with the return of Khaled Holmes at center(he left in the fourth quarter, however), and new blood on the line in the form of Abe Markowitz at left guard, allowing the Trojans to gain 296 yards on the ground.
While Cal’s secondary was focusing on locking down Robert Woods and trying to contain Marqise Lee, opportunities to run the ball were abundant. Silas Redd had his best game in his rather brief USC career, totaling 158 yards on 21 carries, while Curtis McNeal added 115 yards of his own, on just 10 carries.
Redd’s running style has really started to compliment the game of McNeal, and if the Trojans can run the ball with success going forward, they’ll have a backfield with character and chemistry, as opposed to two duplicate backs as originally mentioned by Lane Kiffin in fall camp.
Against Cal, McNeal’s ability to run in the open field and through holes for big gains was a perfect balance to Redd’s quick, yet physical style that saw him find holes immediately and turn three and four yard gains into pickups of eight to ten yards.
Yet, despite the success that the Trojans had on the ground, the passing game still struggled to gel. Matt Barkley had two interceptions he’d like to have back, and Marqise Lee and Robert Woods each dropped a deep ball over the middle in the first quarter.
Cal was able to press the Trojan receivers all afternoon, forcing Barkley to settle on flood routes to Lee, rather than finding Woods or Agholor on deep posts.
Defensively, the Trojans dominated in the trenches again, as seen with seven sacks of Zach Maynard. Maynard was under duress all game long, almost in the same way the Trojans assaulted Oregon State’s Derek Anderson nearly 10 years ago to the day.
USC’s defensive line ended the day with 12 tackles for loss, and defensive end Morgan Breslin had 4.5 tackles and three sacks as the junior college transfer continues to impress in his first season with the Trojans.
The Bears never got in the endzone, and even though the Trojans left points on the field multiple times, a 17-9 score in the fourth quarter never seemed that close due to how stout USC’s defense was, even with Barkley and the passing game sputtering.
The Men of Troy now have 12 days to prepare for Utah, the Thursday night game that everyone circled before the season as the ultimate trap game.