USC Finds Running Game, Pass Rush In 27-9 Victory Over California
LOS ANGELES -- A big question after USC’s loss against Stanford was, “Where’s the running game?”
Well, it was found in USC’s 27-9 win over California as tailbacks Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd ran over the Golden Bears.
Both tailbacks racked up more than 100 yards, as the team accumulated 296 yards on 40 attempts. It was the first Trojan tailback duo to achieve the feat since 2008. After a tough loss, coach Lane Kiffin said the running attack was exactly what he had imagined for this game.
“I felt that we had some matchups that we liked up front [to utilize the running attack],” Kiffin said. “Obviously, [center Khaled Holmes] being back makes a big difference. That was a big part of it. I thought the two backs ran hard from the beginning.”
But it wasn’t just an effort from the offensive line -- which Kiffin, Redd, McNeal and quarterback Matt Barkley enthusiastically praised -- and tailbacks that resulted in USC’s third win of the year.
USC’s defensive line dominated Cal’s offensive line the entire game, recording seven sacks on Zach Maynard and multiple hits on the senior quarterback.
Three came from budding star Morgan Breslin and another two were a result of freshman Leonard Williams with George Uko and Wes Horton filling out the stat sheet. The supposed weakest part of USC’s formidable squad turned out to be its strongest tonight.
Barkley was distinctly average once again, going 22-for-34, 192 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His accuracy was suspect on some throws, as were Marqise Lee and Robert Woods’ hands, each with two typically easy drops early in the game.
But that didn’t matter to Barkley.
“I’m not looking at every week to get stats or to get a flashy game,” he said after the game. “I’m happy with how the offense performed to a certain extent. We left a lot of points on the board in the first half. If defenses stay back and force us to run, then we gotta do it, and that’s what we did today.”
Despite great running, ball security was an issue; Redd fumbled in the first half but didn’t lose it, and McNeal picked up the slack, dropping it around midfield in the second, leaving the Bears with great field position.
But the Bears’ offense struggled too much to do anything productive with strong field position, gaining just 77 yards on the ground.
The Cal quarterback was off all day, constantly overthrowing his receivers -- including one of the Pac-12’s best in Keenan Allen -- and getting beat up by Trojan defenders.
The Golden Bears were 3-for-5 in the red zone, all three successful trips resulting in field goals.
“It was unfortunate how a couple of our plays panned out,” Maynard said. “They were crashing our run game and we just didn’t have some plays pan out.”
After a slew of tough games -- Syracuse and Stanford on the road and Cal -- USC enters its only bye week of the season, a much-needed break for the Trojans.
“I think we need it. We’re pretty beat up,” Kiffin said. “Our people are tired in general. We had some long weeks, and this is really good for it.”
Barkley mostly agreed but contested about the team’s energy.
“I don’t think we’re tired, but it’s coming at a good time,” Barkley suggested. “I think it’s a good time for injuries and in coming together.”
For their next game, a road trip against Utah Oct. 4, the Trojans will need to keep the ground game rolling through the break and into Salt Lake City.
News and Notes
*** In the first half, tackles Aundrey Walker and Max Tuerk split time at left tackle before Kiffin settled on Walker the rest of the game. Kiffin was proud of his young lineman who played poorly last week.
“I like to see guys respond the right away and not pout,” Kiffin said. “Aundrey had a great week of practice and went out and played better.”
*** As mentioned earlier, Holmes left with an injury. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy spoke with Holmes’ brother, Alex, who said the younger Holmes “tweaked his ankle” and will be fine.
*** After enduring a week of harsh criticism for the team’s performance and questionable coaching decisions, the Trojans stuck with one principle to beat it: sticking together.
“We didn’t let up. We stayed together even though people were trying to pull us apart,” senior safety T.J. McDonald said, who intercepted Maynard tonight. “We don’t want that feeling again.”