USC offense struggles in final scrimmage
Marqise Lee apologized. Silas Redd said it was "not a good day." And USC Coach Lane Kiffin called the performance "disappointing."
A day after the Trojans were anointed the preseason No. 1 team in the nation in the Associated Press poll, the source of that optimism — the offense — turned in a dud of a performance in its second and final scrimmage Sunday at the Coliseum.
Quarterback Matt Barkley was intercepted twice in the five-turnover evening, and running back Redd lost a fumble on his first carry, finishing with nine carries for 59 yards.
"The fumble left a bad taste in my mouth," Redd said. "There was not a lot of energy or enthusiasm. It wasn't systematic, but our energy level … there are still some things to work on."
USC ran 83 plays, only three of which went for touchdowns.
"Lack of execution all over," Kiffin said less than two weeks from USC's season-opening game against Hawaii on Sept. 1.
The lingering effect of NCAA sanctions from the Reggie Bush scandal is the restriction of 10 scholarships, which caused Kiffin to slash the number of scrimmages to avoid injury risk.
"I wish we had more numbers," Kiffin said. "We need to do another of these, but we can't afford to, so we'll make the best of it."
Kiffin said he'll maintain the same camp practice schedule through Sunday.
The flip side of the offensive breakdowns was the effort turned in by a defense that has dealt with injuries to the line and linebacker corps during camp.
"We stopped the run," said defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, after the offense ran 37 times for 136 yards.
Orgeron said beyond end Wes Horton and tackle George Uko he wants to continue developing a rotation of six players who can shuffle in and out up front.
Uko collected one of Barkley's interceptions when receiver George Farmer was popped trying to catch a pass over the line, the ball deflecting into Uko's embrace.
Barkley finished nine for 19 for 119 yards. Max Wittek also threw two interceptions, finishing six for 16.
Kiffin said it was "impossible" after the scrimmage for him to firm up his depth chart, notably backup quarterback and No. 3 receiver.
Wide receiver Lee blamed "the accumulation" of the offensive struggles for losing his temper and shoving cornerback Ryan Henderson to the Coliseum turf following a pass-interference penalty against Henderson.
Lee's action negated the defensive penalty, and Lee was benched for the scrimmage's remainder. He apologized in the post-scrimmage huddle, telling the group, "I'll never do that in a game."
Freshman linebacker Scott Starr intercepted two passes, collecting a Wittek pass that was tipped, and then stepping in front of a Barkley ball thrown to the left.
"I feel like a different player from spring, when I was running around like my head was cut off," Starr said.
Safety T.J. McDonald also had an interception.
Redd said his fumble was the result of suffering a stinger last week, and then being hit on the shoulder by cornerback Kevon Seymour to lose his grip on the ball.
USC's scoring plays were a Barkley 25-yard touchdown pass to fullback Soma Vainuku, tailback D.J. Morgan's 20-yard run, and a one-yard pass from Cody Kessler to wide receiver Victor Blackwell.
Linebackers Tony Burnett and Jabari Ruffin each had a team-high four tackles.