USC Football: How the Arizona Offense Matches Up with Troy’s Defense


Fresh off a devastating defeat in the final minutes against Arizona State, USC’s defense faces another difficult test with Anu Solomon and Arizona’s potent offensive attack next on tap.

Through three quarters on Saturday, the Trojan defense held the Sun Devils to 18 points, 36 yards of total rushing and a respectable 253 yards passing on 55% completions. The fourth quarter killed USC football as they conceded 20 points, including 13 on big plays in under three minutes, and 257 yards through the air.

On the one hand, considering the meltdown in the final quarter, perhaps the Trojan effort as a whole was not as terrible as it is being made out to be. On the other hand, Arizona is an offense which has thrived late in games and will see USC’s performance near the end as an opportunity to attack.

Sep 20, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon (12) runs the ball during the fourth quarter at Arizona Stadium. Arizona won 49-45. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Sizzling Solomon

Arizona’s freshman quarterback Anu Solomon started the year off with a four touchdown outing against UNLV, but struggles at UT-San Antonio in a narrow win called his play into question.

Since then, Solomon has come into his own, leading the Wildcats through close games with Nevada and Cal before helping his team topple the Oregon Ducks.

While he is still susceptible to freshman mistakes, efficient play against the Ducks showcased his skill at the position.

In particular, Solomon’s dual-threat ability will concern USC, which has historically struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks.

There is some hope to stopping Solomon from doing too much harm however. With four interceptions in his last three games, the freshman hasn’t done the best job protecting the football.

Young playmakers, veteran o-line

Along with Solomon, the wildcats field an exciting collection of young talent at skill positions including wide reciever Cayleb Jones, a redshirt sophomore, running back Nick Wilson, a true freshman, and slot receiver Nate Phillips, a true sophomore.

Balancing out the youth revolution is a veteran unit on the offensive line. With 129 career starts combined, the trenches are manned by two redshirt seniors, a true senior, a redshirt junior and a true junior. Jacob Alsadek, a redshirt freshman who splits time at right guard with Lene Maiava is the lone underclassman with regular involvement on the line.

With that in mind, it is no wonder that Arizona leads the Pac-12 in rushing this season.

Pick your poison

The balanced attack utilized by Arizona may force the Trojans to pick their poison on defense. This season, USC has excelled at stopping one aspect of an opponent’s game, but they have struggled to put together a complete performance.

The Wildcats offer a little of everything on offense. If USC sells out to stop the run as they did against ASU, Solomon, Jones and Austin Hill could make them pay over the top. If the Trojans focus on preventing another embarrassing outing through the air, Terris Jones-Grigsby and Wilson are fully capable of pounding them as Boston College did on the ground.

Then there’s the space in-between defending the pass and run to worry about. Solomon’s legs are a weapon that have to be addressed. Meanwhile, Jones-Grigsby and Wilson were used effectively in the passing game against Oregon and could do similar damage to the Trojans as D.J. Foster did in the final quarter on Saturday.

What the stats say…

  • USC’s efficiency numbers on defense took a major hit against ASU. Going into last week, the Trojans allowed explosive drives (drives which averaged 10 yards a play or more) at a rate of XX%. That number rose to 10.5% with big play scores from the Sun Devils. But it wasn’t just explosive drives. USC’s methodical drives allowed (drives which include plays of 10 or more) percentage also rose from XX% to 12.3% as the Trojans struggled to get ASU off the field after the first quarter.
  • The Wildcats are comparable to USC in the red zone with an overall percentage of 87%. However, their touchdown conversion rating in the red zone leaves something to be desired. They have scored just 12 touchdowns in 23 tries. That lack of efficiency in securing max points puts them 10th in the Pac-12.

Projected Starting Lineups

Arizona Offense:WR #1 Cayleb JonesWR #10 Samajie GrantTE #87 Blair TushausLT #68 Mickey BaucusLG #61 Cayman BundageC #56 Steven GurrolaRG #77 Lene Maiava OR #78 Jacob AlsadekRT #73 Fabbians EbbeleWR #6 Nate Philips OR #19 DaVonte’ NealWR #29 Austin Hill OR #4 David RichardsRB #24 Terris Jones-Grigsby OR #28 Nick WilsonQB #12 Anu Solomon

USC Defense:DT #90 Claude Pelon OR #52 Delvon SimmonsNT #99 Antwaun WoodsDE #94 Leonard WilliamsRE #58 J.R. TavaiSOLB #47 Scott Felix / #21 Su’a CravensMILB #10 Hayes PullardWILB #56 Anthony SaraoCB #13 Kevon SeymourFS #27 Gerald Bowman OR #22 Leon McQuay IIISS #21 Su’a CravensCB #4 Chris Hawkins OR #2 Adoree’ Jackson