Turnover Wednesday finally lived up to its name.
After two weeks of USC’s offense taking care of the ball, the Trojans’ defense teed off by notching four turnovers at Wednesday’s practice.
Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley threw three interceptions and redshirt junior wide receiver Travon Patterson lost a fumble to highlight an opportunistic day for the defense. Freshman cornerback Torin Harris came down with one of the picks and senior Kevin Thomas had a diving sideline catch that resulted in the cornerback being mobbed by his fellow defensive backs.
“It was a good day for the defense,” USC coach Pete Carroll said. “I’m glad they were able to turn the ball around.”
The performance mirrored the Trojan defense’s recent increase in creating turnovers. In the last two games, USC has had five takeaways.
The unit has also registered 21 sacks and is allowing 8.6 points per game, both best in the Pac-10.
Carroll said he did not think Wednesday’s results indicated offensive concerns.
“Some of the quarterbacks misread coverages on new routes, but there were a couple of really good plays on defense as well,” Carroll said.
With the midway point of the season rapidly approaching, quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said he was growing more comfortable with allowing Barkley to work with more of the offensive playbook.
USC’s coaching staff tried to simplify the attack for the signal-caller but is entrusting him a wider assortment of complex plays.
“He’s mastered the book, but we weren’t going to throw the whole book at him in week one,” Bates said. “He’s definitely earned that opportunity now.”
Having a more complete arsenal to work with comes as a welcome change for USC’s quarterback.
“It just gives you more flexibility,” Bates said. “It spreads things out and puts more pressure on the defense.”
Bates said he was pleased with the offense’s development but still hoped to see improvements on third down and in the red zone. The Trojans converted six of 15 third-down opportunities against Cal but had to settle for three field goals when the offense stalled inside the Golden Bears’ 10-yard line.
“We’re adding some new plays and changing some concepts,” Bates said. “At the end of the day, we just have to find a way to get it in [the end zone].”
Wide receiver Ronald Johnson practiced again Wednesday, but Carroll said he did not think the junior would be at full strength for his expected return next Saturday against Notre Dame.
“We have to manage this really well and not overdo it,” Carroll said. “We’re going to limit him until he has a chance to be full speed.”