Following a 48-14 trouncing of the California Golden Bears, USC is looking past its bye week and instead at its Oct. 30 matchup against the No. 1-ranked Oregon Ducks.
The bye week practices are designed to “see where the freshman are at” and to allow starters to “take a little bit of a breather,” said USC coach Lane Kiffin.
Without the stress of game preparation, there is more time to allow redshirt junior tailback Marc Tyler’s slightly bruised tailbone to heal, along with more debilitating injuries to freshman tailback Dillon Baxter and senior tailback C.J. Gable. Senior linebacker Malcolm Smith and junior offensive tackle Tyron Smith did not practice Tuesday, and senior tight end Jordan Cameron was limited.
With these injuries, the Trojan rushing attack — which amassed 211 yards against Cal behind Tyler’s seven carries for 79 yards and a touchdown and Gable’s 13 carries for 72 yards — has taken a serious hit, and Tyler said it will require the entire stable of backs to challenge Oregon.
“Hopefully we’ll get [Gable] and Baxter back,” Tyler said. “We’re going to need all of us.”
The practices for the week occur during the early morning, allowing the coaches to recruit high school players in the afternoon. Tuesday’s 6 a.m. practice — the first of its kind in recent players’ memories — was kicked off by Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” The reggae interlude was the lone down-tempo period during a morning of what freshman wide receiver Robert Woods called a “fast, quick practice.”
The practice was marked by a multitude of quickly executed offensive series’, brisk transitions from drill to drill, and culminated in a series of wind sprints.
“We’re focused on making sure we’re in good shape for this marathon — to run at a sprinter’s pace,” Kiffin said of the upcoming game.
The adjustment of tempo is designed to acclimate the team, particularly the defense, to the speed of Oregon’s “blur” offense. The Ducks have reeled off averages of 567 yards and 54.3 points per game this season, enough to be first in the nation in both categories.
Oregon takes an average of 15 seconds to run a play from the spot of the ball to the next snap. Even the most polished no-huddle teams typically require 20-25 seconds between spot and snap. This breakneck pace has proven fatal for Oregon’s opponents, especially in the second half — the Ducks have outscored their opponents 128-13 in the second half.
But if there has been any time for the Trojan defense to face the Ducks’ blur offense, it seems to be now.
The unit is coming off a performance in which it allowed only 245 yards of total offense to Cal, including a feeble 52 rushing yards, and shut the Bears out for the first half of the game. The unit also picked off two passes from Cal quarterback Kevin Riley.
Redshirt junior linebacker Chris Galippo said there was no significant development in film study before the Cal game, but rather, “we had just executed — as a whole, as a defense, as a unit.”
Furthermore, Galippo said his unit looked good for the test that Oregon will present, and has two weeks to continue to prepare.
“I’m sure we’ll be ready,” he said.