USC’s defense looks to improve after ASU collapse

LOS ANGELES – 62 points. 7.5 yards per rush. 261 rushing yards. 5-of-11 third downs converted.

Snap back to reality. The aforementioned numbers are real and didn’t disappear after Lane Kiffin got fired. Those are Arizona State’s totals from their 62-41 defeat of the Trojans in their last game.

More energy and enthusiasm at practice can’t make it go away. Nor can dinner from Roscoe’s, dessert in the facility, or the ‘Trojan Bowl‘.

Those numbers, for the moment, are the lasting impression of USC’s defense.

Save for the seven points that were scored as a result of an Alden Darby interception return for a touchdown, all of those points were scored against the USC defense.

The Sun Devils scored at will with very little resistance from a USC defense that did a complete 180-degree turn from the unit that took the field in the first four games of the season.

So what happened on that September night in Tempe?

“That was a fluke,” safety Dion Bailey said of the defense’s performance at Arizona State.
Or at least that’s what he and his teammates would like to believe.

Thursday will be a history-making evening– it’s the first Thursday night game at the Coliseum in school history, and it will air at 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.

Ed Orgeron will be stepping on the field in his debut as USC’s head coach, marking just the first time the school has had two head coaches in one season since 1888 – the first year of the program.

The opposition is an Arizona team that in their last game was within five points of Washington late in the third quarter before the Huskies scored 13 straight to end the game in Seattle.

B.J. Denker is a local product who arrived in Tucson out of North Torrance High School by way of Cerritos College.

The Wildcats’ quarterback beat out other, more touted Southern California products – former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins, and former Westlake signal caller Nick Isham who’s a transfer from Louisiana Tech – to be entrusted to run Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense in the head coach’s second year on the job.

USC has handled the spread well this season, but, of course, in Tempe, took a major step in the wrong direction.

“(We were) stunned that we performed like that,” Bailey said. “They didn’t do anything special. They didn’t outscheme us or anything. Guys, literally, weren’t doing their assignments for the first time.”

Missing assignments and self-inflicted wounds would have to be corrected if the Trojans hope to not ruin Orgeron’s USC head coaching debut and lose two in a row.

Much like they felt at the beginning of the season, the USC defense feels like it has something to prove. For starters, it’s showing that what happened in Tempe was, indeed, “a fluke.”

“We got a lot to prove and we got a lot of opportunities to do it so we’re going to take full advantage of it,” Bailey said.