On Wednesday, No. 5 USC continued preparation for their first road game of the season against Cal, focusing on containing the Bears’ aggressive defense.
Trojans ready for stout Cal defense
Last year, Cal possessed the worst defense in all of the Pac-12, allowing the most points per game (42.6) and the most rushing yards (3,274). However, new head coach Justin Wilcox has injected new life into the Bears’ defense this year, as the unit looked impressive last week in a win over Ole Miss, sacking the quarterback five times. On Wednesday, USC prepared for Wilcox’s aggressive defensive schemes.
“We worked a lot of Cal’s pressures,” head coach Clay Helton said. “I’ve been really impressed with the blitz packages that they do. Each and every week, it seems to change based on your protection … You look up and they have nine sacks on the year in three games and that’s pretty dang impressive.”
Cal senior linebacker Devante Downs is one opposing player USC’s offense will need to keep tabs on. He currently leads the team in tackles (32), sacks (3) and interceptions (2) through the first three games.
Wilcox served as USC’s defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015. While the Cal defense is currently excelling under his direction, the Trojans struggled with him at the helm, giving up over 400 yards per game.
USC imitates road environment
For their first three contests, the Trojans had the luxury of playing in front of the comfort of the Coliseum. This weekend, they travel to Berkeley for their first road game at the California Memorial Stadium.
“Obviously this is our first road game,” Helton said. “So we filtered in some in-house crowd noise to be able to function there.”
For several young key players, like freshman running back Stephen Carr and freshman kicker Chase McGrath, this will be their first experience playing in a hostile environment.
“All of a sudden you’re in a new stadium, a new locker room, there’s crowd noise which you didn’t have for three games straight offensively,” Helton said. “It changes things and you’ve got to try to make sure that you give as much adverse conditions out here so it becomes a comfort level once they get there.”