Despite facing a unique Oregon offense on Saturday, USC’s defense expects a return to the familiar when it faces the Ducks at Autzen Stadium this weekend.
Oregon’s spread offense resembles the attacks that some of USC’s early season opponents employed. After facing Notre Dame and Oregon State, two pro-style offenses, and yielding 63 points, USC’s defense is getting back to its roots.
“This is like our bread and butter — we’ve been preparing for this since camp knowing that San Jose State was going to come out with [the spread] and Ohio State was going to use it,” linebacker Chris Galippo said. “It’s good to be back to some stuff we’re super confident with.”
The Ducks’ offense enters the game ranked second in the Pac-10 in scoring offense. After a season-opening loss to Boise State, Oregon has scored 31 points or more in five of their last six games.
USC coach Pete Carroll said that the Ducks’ offense was distinct from past opponents because of how much it relies on quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
“They feature the quarterback running, even more so than Ohio State,” Carroll said. “This is a team that’s dedicated to having the quarterback run the option, so he’s much more part of the normal running game than just a guy who scrambles around.”
Masoli is the conference’s leading rusher among quarterbacks with 272 yards on 59 carries. The junior signal-caller suffered a right knee injury against Washington State but said this week he feels no ill effects after returning on Saturday.
“He knows how to run their system,” Galippo said. ”He’s the best guy for their system probably since [Dennis] Dixon.”
Beyond Masoli, USC’s defense is paying attention to tight end Ed Dickson. After giving up more than 100 yards to Oregon State tight end Joe Halahuni last week, the Trojans are figuring out ways to stop the Ducks’ leading pass catcher.
“He’s their go-to guy,” Galippo said. “We exposed ourselves a little bit last week, but we’re scheming up for that and we have stuff that’s going to take care of it.”
Oregon’s 43-19 win against Washington last week provided plenty of concern for Carroll. The Ducks had little trouble with the defensive schemes utilized by former USC assistant coaches Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt.
“They moved the ball pretty well on them,” Carroll said of the Ducks’ offense last week. “They had a lot of run yards and were able to make some big plays on them. We’re not playing them the same way, but it’s still good to see it because there is some familiarity.”
Despite giving high marks to offensive linemen Jeff Byers and Butch Lewis for their performances last week, Carroll said he hoped to see Kristofer O’Dowd back to full health soon.
O’Dowd has been plagued throughout the season by injuries to the shoulder and knee. Despite being healthy enough to play, the junior center did not feel he was living up to his standard and moved to the bench against Oregon State.
“Kris did fine — he wasn’t playing poorly, he just wasn’t playing at his best,” Carroll said. “He was clomping around a little bit after the wear and tear of playing week after week. But I think he’ll come back strong and by this week or next week come back at a full clip, we hope.”