USC preps for Syracuse at home
After two straight weeks of nail-biting finishes, USC remains hopeful it can cure some of its early season offensive woes.
âA lot of drives have come down to freshmen mistakes,â USC coach Lane Kiffin said of an offense that ranks 91st nationally in points per game. âHopefully we are getting more experience and we wonât make those mistakes down the road.â
Scoring just 19 and 23 points against Minnesota and Utah respectively, the Trojans (2-0) host Syracuse on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first time since 1990 â marking their second nonconference game of the season.
Similarly, the Orange is off to a 2-0 start following wins over Wake Forest and Football Championship Subdivision foe Rhode Island. As with USC, it has needed plays in the final moments to avoid defeat, winning by just a touchdown in both contests.
Last season the Syracuse defense ranked 17th nationally, and with experience at quarterback in senior Ryan Nassib, Saturday could in fact be another nail-biter.
âOn offense, they have a really good passing quarterback,â Kiffin said. âHeâs [completing] over 80 percent in the second half of games. Anytime you have a quarterback that is playing extremely well that is experienced as your opponent, you better be ready to go.â
Nassib, who currently ranks within Syracuseâs top-10 in passing yards, touchdown passes andÂ completions, has put his skill set on display thus far this season.
Through two games, Nassib has completed 49-of-65 passes for 496 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. The fourth-year signal caller, though, has had plenty of help, as senior wide receiver Van Chew has already hauled in 12 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow receiver junior Alec Lemon has added 17 receptions of his own for 146 yards and one touchdown. Senior running back Antwon Bailey has also stabilized the Orange ground game with 38 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Facing an experienced offensive attack, USCâs defense, will feature several new faces this week in as it was announced redshirt freshman cornerback Anthony Brown and junior safety Drew McAllister will receive playing time Saturday.
âIt has been the same the past two weeks, Brown said. âThis week Iâm really excited because I get a chance to play. Iâm really fired up.â
McAllister will play in the third or fourth series against Syracuse, Kiffin said.
After two close games at home, the Trojans are looking to finish games strong and maintain the energy from the first half.
âWe need to be ready for whatever they throw at us,â sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods said. âThey play a lot of press. We just got to be ready for quick releases and explosive plays.â
In addition, USC is committed to ball control, especially in the fourth quarter.
âWe have gotten conservative in the fourth quarter. Conservative doesnât mean we canât make first downs,â Kiffin said. âConservative means that youâre trying not to turn the ball over and not give the game away.â
Following standout performances recently by junior offensive tackle Matt Kalil, USC has a powerful weapon on offense. Kalil, who is a 6-foot-7, blocked a field goal last week against Utah in the conference opener. Kiffin credits Kalilâs success to his dedication to the game.
âOnce in a while youâll have tall guys but it still takes great effort and what heâs put into it,â Kiffin said. âHe was putting the same effort into practice as he was in the game. Thatâs why he is doing so well at it.â
The Trojans will strive to utilize both their running and passing game. With an arsenal of talent at running back including senior tailback Marc Tyler and strong wide receivers like Robert Woods, the Trojan offense is primed to take on a more balanced offensive game.
âAs an offense, you got to get that steady run pass rhythm. Turnovers have killed it,â Kalil said. âAs an offense, once you get that rhythm going with the run, pass, play action and all that; itâs a lot easier to score and close out games.â
USC hopes to capitalize on improvements made in practice and earn their third consecutive win.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. and will be televised on FX.