In a hard-fought Week 1 win over Western Michigan, USC’s loaded backfield featured a veteran-like performance from its newest member, freshman Stephen Carr.
The Trojans got a lot out of true freshman running back Stephen Carr against Western Michigan. He steered into the end zone twice in the fourth quarter and finished with 69 rushing yards on seven carries.
All told, Carr registered 92 all-purpose yards on 10 touches, topped off with a 52-yard cruise for six that help put the game away with 3:49 left.
It was an impressive debut. Carr not only produced and showed off his motor, but proved trustworthy enough to see significant action late in a close game.
“He reminded me of [Ronald Jones] when he was younger,” head coach Clay Helton said. “Every time he touches the ball, you hold your breath.”
The comparison is fitting, given that Jones’ debut against Arkansas State two years ago was eerily similar, if not as memorable due to the drastically different score lines.
Jones kicked off his record-setting freshman season in style with six carries for 86 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown run. Carr nearly matching those numbers could be a sign of good things to come, especially for a back with a higher recruiting profile fueling his fanfare.
But where’s the Week 1 performance stand among the all-time greats? Let’s look at notable first outings for tailbacks in USC football history.
- While splitting carries with Willie Brown, Mike Garrett earned 58 yards on 11 carries in 1963 to help the No. 1 Trojans shut out Colorado, 21-0.
- Four years later, O.J. Simpson debuted by gaining 94 yards on 17 carries. He was overshadowed by Earl McCullough’s 145-yard receiving day in a 49-0 win over Washington State.
- Despite a crushing loss to Missouri, the 1976 season opener featured the impressive debut of Charles White. He totaled 93 yards on six carries with a pair of touchdowns, one of which being a 79-yard jaunt.
- Both LenDale White and Reggie saw their first action in USC’s 23-0 shellacking of Auburn in 2003, but neither proved relevant to the win. Each carried the ball five times, combining for just 15 yards. Bush’s only reception of the game went for a loss of six yards.
- The Trojans’ 2006 freshmen backs started with a bang at Arkansas, as Emmanuel Moody, C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford all rushed for touchdowns in their first game. Moody led all rushers with 58 yards, while Gable got the most run with 12 carries.
- Redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan won the starting running back job out of the gate in 2011, and toted the rock 18 times for 70 yards in USC’s narrow win over Minnesota.
- Although not technically a debut, former linebacker Tre Madden’s first game as a running back in 2013 saw him gain 109 yards on 18 carries. He’d go on to become the first Trojan running back since Marcus Allen in 1981 to eclipse the 100-yard mark in the season’s first three games.
For now, Carr will look to stay on track next week against Stanford in the Pac-12 opener. It won’t be easy, as the Trojans have not had a player race to the 100-yard mark during their current three-game skid to the Cardinal.