LOS ANGELES — Silas Redd had a lot on his mind when he entered the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. Football wasn’t exactly in the forefront.
His heart was heavy.
There were thoughts of his dad, Silas Redd Sr., battling health issues.
And a fallen friend.
Silas Redd applied the eye black to his face, one strip at a time, and when he took the field, the strip under his right eye read “R.I.P.” and under his left eye, “MARC D.”
Marcus Dixon, Redd’s childhood friend was killed earlier in the week in a shooting.
“He didn’t play football with me but I always watched him play,” Redd said.
After the eye black and a prayer, Redd carried the ball in honor of his fallen friend, and ran for season highs of 21 carries and 158 yards to go along with a touchdown as No. 13 USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12 South) defeated Cal (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12 North) 27-9.
Redd’s spirit-filled tribute along with the play of Curtis McNeal guided USC to 296 rushing yards against the Golden Bears.
“Coach (Lane) Kiff said we’re going to run the ball down their throat and that’s what we did,” said McNeal, who rushed for 115 yards and 10 carries.
The Trojans had multiple backs rush for over 100 yards in a game for the first time since 2008 when C.J. Gable, Broderick Green, and Stafon Johnson did it against Washington State.
The USC running game, which averaged just 1.0 yards per rush in the loss last week to Stanford behind a less than acceptable effort from the offensive line, churned out a whopping 7.4 yards per carry against the Golden Bears on Saturday.
Center Khaled Holmes was back in the middle of the Trojans’ offensive line after sitting out last week with an apparent ankle injury and made a “big difference,” according to Kiffin. Holmes left the game in the fourth quarter after apparently re-tweaking his injured ankle but the damage was already done.
“It made a pretty big difference just ID’ing the fronts, ID’ing the formations,” said guard John Martinez. “We miscommunicated last game and, obviously, we didn’t this game. It came down to a chess match.
“We just executed really good.”
The offensive line made it a point to bounce back after being the subject of criticism following the loss last week. Taking the brunt of the criticism from Kiffin was left tackle Aundrey Walker who was forced to fight for his job with freshman Max Tuerk. The two split time during the first half against Cal before Walker was told at halftime he’d be the guy in the second half. The Trojans were able to run behind Walker, something that couldn’t be done last week.
“(They ran to my side) a lot,” said Walker with a huge smile. “I was just going out there playing hard. It feels good. When they call a certain play to my side it’s just ‘Let’s go.’ I don’t really think about too much it’s just I got to open up a hole for my running back.”
The offensive line was stout, leading USC to nearly 300 yards on the ground and not allowing any sacks of quarterback Matt Barkley.
Reversely, the USC defensive line was just as dominant, if not more.
Cal failed to reach the endzone, settling for three field goals, and quarterback Zach Maynard was sacked seven times. The USC coaching staff believed they would be able to get pressure with just their front four and they were right. All seven of the Trojans’ sacks came from defensive linemen, led by Morgan Breslin’s three. Breslin also led the team with 4.5 tackles for loss, which is the most by a Trojan since Lawrence Jackson set a school record with 5.5 tackles for loss in 2007 against Arizona State.
“I think that this game was won at the line of scrimmage,” Kiffin said.
USC held Cal to 250 yards of total offense and just 77 on the ground, while the offense fell just shy of 500 yards with 488.
As Barkley noted during his postgame press conference, the win wasn’t a “flashy game.” He finished with 192 yards passing with two touchdowns, both to Marqise Lee, and two interceptions. USC had more rushing attempts, 40, than pass attempts, 34.
In the end, it was closer to the balance Kiffin has been looking for, all the while, letting Redd loose to honor a fallen friend.
“It’s tough,” Redd said. “It’s unfortunate what happened but he’s in a better place now.”