Trojans emphasize play in red zone

USC made its final preparations Thursday for its week three matchup against Syracuse, and the UCLA colored scout team jerseys came out. Though this practice did not look much different from most mid-morning sessions, there was one key difference: scrimmaging in the red-zone.

Experience · Senior fullback Rhett Ellison understands USC needs to take advantage of every opportunity it has in the opponent’s red zone. - Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

Rather than holding a full-field scrimmage, the Trojans opted to focus on attacking and defending inside the 20-yard line, something that senior fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison knows lacked in last week’s nail-biting win against Utah.

“Last week was just inches, a game of inches,” Ellison said. “A couple inches here and a couple inches there … This week, [we’re] just focusing on the details of stuff so we can make those big plays.”

Ellison is not worried about the state of the offense like many critics are, though.

“We’re working hard every day, so just keep that up, don’t give anything back, put it all on the practice field,” Ellison said.  “As long as guys come out with that mentality, we’ll be good … The offense, we just gotta finish. Finish plays … finish the fourth quarter.”

Ellison remains optimistic partly because of the return of senior tailback Marc Tyler, who ran for 113 yards in last week’s effort.

“We have great backs, but he’s our big back,” Ellison said. “It’s nice having a big back in there.”

Coming into the season, there was much speculation as to how the defense would perform this year. With two game-saving plays in the first two games — both in the fourth quarter — the unit will now face a tough test in Syracuse, but will face a bigger test in Tempe, Ariz. next week against Arizona State.

“The defense needs to keep playing awesome,” Ellison said.

This week during practice, USC coach Lane Kiffin has constantly stressed the team needs to worry about themselves, not about any other distractions.

“This week’s theme has been, ‘It’s all about us, it’s not about who we’re playing,’” Kiffin said. “We just want to improve and make sure that, you know, as we look at it individually, and [as] we look at the three phases of the game and as a team that we’re getting better. If we do that, then [good] things will happen.”

A new quarterback has been added to the roster. Junior Emon Saee is donning No. 17 in practice and is back on the team after not being on the roster during the preseason. He was also on the team last year.