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USC vs. Stanford Report Card: Grading the Trojan Defense

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USC vs. Stanford put the Trojan defense in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons as the Cardinal pulled off the 41-31 upset.

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Here’s how each defensive unit graded out against the Cardinal.

DEFENSIVE LINE. F. After decent enough showings against Arkansas State and Idaho, the Trojan defensive line faced their first real test in Stanford. They failed that test. Unable to generate even the slightest pressure on Kevin Hogan, USC’s major problems on defense began up front. They were bullied. They were out-muscled and out-worked. Greg Townsend Jr. at least contributed a half sack, but that is hardly consolation for a terrible performance by the entire unit.
. Standout. Greg Townsend Jr.

B-. The performance of Su’a Cravens elevated the linebackers to a reasonable grade. With a team-best 13 tackles, a sack and a pass break up, Cravens was the lone bright spot on that side of the ball on a dark night. Cam Smith logged 12 tackles but was left out to dry covering the middle, so many of his tackles still resulted in positive Stanford plays. Anthony Sarao and Scott Felix both had sacks in the second half to salvage a mostly poor pass rushing effort from the unit.
. Standout. Su'a Cravens. LINEBACKER

C. Iman Marshall was burned on a long completion in his first start as a Trojan, but he and the other cornerbacks are a hard judge. With Hogan given so much time to pick his receiver, they were always going to have a rough time of it. Having said that, the unit as a whole could have done a better job contesting passes against Cardinal receivers who seemed to be able to catch everything regardless of the defender.
. Standout. Adoree' Jackson. CORNERBACK

Standout. Chris Hawkins. SAFETIES. C. Chris Hawkins led the unit in tackles. He also got beat for a touchdown. Faced with the more physical Stanford offense, the safeties, who were largely a positive in the opening two games, were not as effective this time around. Like the corners, the unit should have had more of an impact defending passes while John Plattenburg was not nearly as involved near the line of scrimmage as he has been.

Standout. Justin Wilcox. COACHING. F. To say the Trojan defense was unprepared would be a kindness. Justin Wilcox and the defensive coaches were outwitted by David Shaw and the Cardinal from the beginning. However, the true sin is how little seemed to change once it was clear that Stanford could have its way with this defense. A spark at the beginning of the second half which saw USC force the Cardinal into a three and out turned out to be false hope. In the end, Stanford held the ball on long drives for the majority of the final periods, gained 474 yards on offense with a 6.5-yard per play average, scored five touchdowns in six red zone trips and went 8-of-12 on third downs.

What say you Trojan fans? Vote in the poll and let us know how you feel about the defensive performance during USC vs. Stanford in the comments below.

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