Defense comes up big for USC, shuts down Utah State
LOS ANGELES -- If USC would've paid a great deal of attention to all the noise going on around them during the week, it would have played out like a scary movie titled "Here Comes Chuckie."
Most USC players hadn't known much about Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton this time last week. By Wednesday, they were tired of hearing about him.
"Everybody was just talking about 'Chuckie Keeton, Chuckie Keeton, Chuckie Keeton,'" linebacker Devon Kennard said. "Come Saturday, we was like we tired of hearing about Chuckie Keeton."
The USC defense, going up against its toughest opposition of the season, rose to the occasion at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon defeating Keeton and Utah State, 17-14.
Utah State (2-2) faced a fourth and nine with just under four minutes to play at their own 41-yard line. Keeton went back to pass and with nowhere to go decided to scramble. He was taken down by George Uko after a pickup of six yards. It would be the last play of the game for the defense as they watched from the sideline to see the offense run off the final 3:33 of the game.
The Keeton scramble was symbolic of his day against USC (3-1). Even when he thought there was daylight the USC defense was there to come crashing down quickly and it was the defensive line doing most of the damage.
The six-yard scramble by Keeton was his longest run of the day in a game in which he netted -15 rushing yards.
Adding to that negative total in rush yards was being sacked four times – once by Uko, once by Kennard, and twice by Morgan Breslin.
"Our boys up front are tough to handle," safety Dion Bailey said. "Our guys up front can keep a quarterback on his heels and that helps our defense greatly."
USC head coach Lane Kiffin said Utah State was the best team they've faced this season. Their offense was, by far, the best they've seen through four games. The Aggies came in averaging 550 yards per contest with Keeton leading a very potent attack.
However, on Saturday facing the Trojans, Keeton had a very un-Keeton like day.
In addition to his negative total in the rushing game, he barely broke even in completion percentage, connecting on 21-of-39 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. The USC defense kept another opponent under 300 yards, allowing 285 to the Aggies on Saturday.
After Andre Heidari connected on a 25-yard field goal to put USC up 17-14 with 13:35 left, the USC defense didn't allow the Aggies to get past their own 47-yard line.
They closed the game out by getting stops, something that hasn't been done often in Kiffin's tenure.
"When you go back to last year we weren't able to do that in these close games," safety Josh Shaw said. "I think we were on the other end of all of our close games. Seeing us doing this is just a great feeling in the locker room."