Did Cody Kessler re-injuring his throwing hand affect USC's ability to exploit Utah State's secondary?
By RAHSHAUN HAYLOCKFS West
LOS ANGELES -- The sky isn't falling.
But it is certainly raining on the USC passing game.
A year ago around this time, USC would have salivated at the thought of opposing defenses trying to cover its receivers one-on-one. Even heading into this season, it would have likely been the same deal.
Currently, that salivating has turned into unsuccessful attempts at cracking the riddle.
USC's 17-14 win over Utah State last Saturday, the Aggies dedicated a huge portion of the afternoon to devoting eight to the run and leaving their cornerbacks on an island to fend for themselves versus the USC pass catchers.
You'd think that would be akin to signing a defense's death certificate with reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, Marqise Lee, on one side and Nelson Agholor, who many expected to have a breakout season, on the other.
However, that wasn't the case.
What the Aggies were able to do defensively is become the first unit to hold Tre Madden under 100 rushing yards this season. In addition to that, they kept Lee and Agholor relatively quiet.
Trojans' top two receivers combined for just eight catches and 110 yards on a day that had big play potential written all over it which points to one thing.
For USC head coach Lane Kiffin, the passing game continues to be a major issue. Save for the superb play of their own talented defense on Saturday, the Trojans were putting together another offensive performance that had loss written all over it.
In the passing game, they failed to take advantage of the one-on-one matchups.
"Unfortunately, we weren't able to connect on those," Kiffin said. "We did get a pass interference there but a number of big, explosive plays in the passing game, on the perimeter versus their corners we weren't able to hit which would have dramatically changed the outcome of the game."
It should be noted, quarterback Cody Kessler re-injured his throwing hand in the second quarter which he said affected his ability to grip the ball for the remainder of the game. He left the Coliseum on Saturday with ice on that hand after undergoing x-rays which he says were negative.
The Trojans quarterback was 8-of-13 for 103 yards and a touchdown in the first half but finished the game 13-of-27 for 164 yards and that lone score. He was sacked three times and hit a lot more. If this form of defense becomes a trend, Kessler and company are going to have to find a way to take advantage.
Lee hopes so, too, he is looking forward to more of these challenges.
"Utah State played it great so hopefully another team will play it great so we can see that one-on-one," Lee said. "I wouldn't mind it.
"We just got to work on just staying focused and working through that situation when we got blitzed and just being calm throughout the play. We'll be alright."