After failing to avenge a tough 2009 loss last week, USC gets another crack at it Saturday against No. 16 Stanford.
The Cardinal subjected the Trojans to perhaps their most embarrassing loss of last year, a 55-21 thrashing at the Coliseum. Already 1-1 in Pac-10 play after falling to Washington, the Trojans are looking for a road victory against one of the conference’s top teams to try to get back on track.
“Coming off a loss like that at home, I think the best thing to do is go into a hostile environment where it’s just our team and fight one out,” redshirt junior linebacker Chris Galippo said.
Senior linebacker Michael Morgan agreed.
“I know it’s a big game and we’ve got a lot at stake right now,” Morgan said.
On top of not wanting to fall further behind in the Pac-10 standings, the Trojans might have a little extra motivation built up for the Cardinal. The most notable moment of last year’s beat down came when Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh elected to go for two with his team leading 48-21 midway through the fourth quarter.
Harbaugh’s move led to an exchange of words with former USC coach Pete Carroll after the game. Both coaches played it politically correct in press conferences afterward, but USC players understood the message.
“Yeah, that was tough. That was last year,” Morgan said. “We didn’t forget about it. I will remind you that we didn’t forget about it but we’re gonna come out and try to dominate.
“Hey, it’s part of football,” he said “They did it, they’ll have to pay for it.”
USC will enter the game as an underdog for the first time this season. Any hopes of upending Stanford at home will start with slowing down the Cardinal’s physical offensive attack, led by running back Stepfan Taylor and quarterback Andrew Luck.
It won’t be a question of figuring out what Stanford is going to do. Galippo said the Cardinal make that very clear.
“They overload one side of the line and they just say, ‘Hey, we’re running the ball right here, try and stop us,’” Galippo said. “So, yeah, it’s going to be a heck of a challenge.”
Out of all the statistical categories the USC defense ranks poorly in, run defense is at least the lesser of the evils. The Trojans rank 44th nationally against the run, while their pass defense is 116th.
Morgan said he believes the defense will be up to the challenge.
“They’re gonna line up in ace and jumbo packages and run the ball straight at you,” he said. “We feel like that’s one of our strengths and we’ll have to be ready for it.” u
As USC coach Lane Kiffin looks to solve the Trojans’ kicking dilemma, he was not encouraged by the results from Wednesday’s practice.
Senior kicker Joe Houston and senior punter Jacob Harfman combined to go 0-for-6 on field goals in the 35- to 45-yard range in the kicking portion of practice. Houston is 2-for-6 on field goals tries this season, while Harfman, the punter, has not attempted a kick this season.
Kiffin said the competition was ongoing and that he was “extremely” concerned about the kicking game.
“If you go a whole period of field goal opportunities and you don’t make one, that would concern me a lot,” he said.