Trojans’ defense prepare for Eagle attack
For all the talk and predictions about the lackluster Trojan offense, the outcome of this week’s contest against Boston College might just be decided on the other side of the ball. The Eagles are bringing a potent offensive attack into the Coliseum on Saturday headlined by three seniors in running back Andre Williams (318 rushing yards, 5.5 yards per carry), quarterback Chase Rettig (68.5 completion percentage, 171.5 QB rating) and receiver Alex Amidon (239 receiving yards, two touchdowns).
The Eagles are under new leadership this year, with head coach Steve Addazio taking over for Frank Spaziani. Addazio has installed a scheme that focuses on establishing the run before opening up the field with a play-action pass attack.
“[The Eagles’ offense] is totally different, obviously,” Kiffin said. “What we can tell is that they’re very physical, they play with great effort, their running back is a load, their receiver makes a bunch of big plays, and their quarterback is very accurate.”
Rettig, entering his fourth year as the Eagles’ starting quarterback, has thrown four touchdowns and just one interception.
Amidon, an All-ACC pick last year, is currently second in the ACC with 239 receiving yards and two touchdowns off of 18 receptions.
But it is Williams who has keyed the Eagles to their first 2-0 start in three years, after they only won two games all last season.
Last year, Boston College was one of just eight teams in the FBS to average less than 100 rushing yards per game while Williams battled injuries in the second half of the season. But Williams is healthy now, and he’s third in the FBS with 318 yards on the ground.
Quest for Consistency
One of the defensive backs who will be tasked with shutting down Rettig, Amidon and the rest of the Eagles passing attack will be senior cornerback Torin Harris. Harris is coming off of what many consider to be the best game of his career, as he picked off a pass and deflected two more in the loss to Washington State as he filled in for junior Anthony Brown, who started against Hawai’i before suffering an injury that kept him out against the Cougars.
“Torin has had a lot of inconsistency since I’ve been here,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. “For a long period of time that’s been the most consistent stretch that he’s played. His skill set does allow him [to be a defensive headliner]… He’s got a chance to be a really good corner and improve each week.”
Harris and the rest of the defense will have to continue their dominant play if the Trojans are going to have a chance to come out on top this weekend. The Eagles have been compared to Stanford or even an SEC team with the power offense they utilize, and will certainly be the best rushing attack the defense has seen up to this point.
“I feel like we’re always ready,” Pendergrast added. “We’ll have our hands full but we’ve come out and executed the game plan two weeks in a row now. We’ll have to execute at a high level again.”
“Play for your buddy”
That’s the mindset that redshirt junior linebacker Hayes Pullard says has inspired the defense this season, and it seems to be working. The Trojans are ranked first in the country in sacks (11) and rushing defense (15 yards per game, 0.6 yards per carry).
Still, Pullard and the rest of the team know they can not rest on their laurels.
“We have to improve on the little assignments,” Pullard said. “We have to work on staying assignment ready.”
The Trojans’ defense was near perfect last Saturday against the Cougars, but its one major mistake was costly, as missed tackles on a screen pass led to the eventual game-winning field goal. This week, the Eagles will try to bait them into making similar mistakes, so the Trojans will have to stay disciplined every play.
Social media platforms were inundated with tweets and posts about a perceived conflict regarding coach Kiffin being left out of the loop on a players-only meeting that star receiver Marqise Lee claimed happened on Sunday night.
But according to Kiffin and a number of other players, no such meeting ever occurred.
For Kiffin, it was somewhat of a joking matter.
“I haven’t been on social media this morning.” He added with a laugh: “for good reason.”
“I don’t know why Marqise said that,” Kiffin said. “I asked him why he said that and he said he was kind of just in front of you guys (the media) and got flustered.”