Postgame notes: USC-Hawaii
September, 1, 2012
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Here are notes and quotes from USC's 49-10 win over Hawaii on Saturday that won't make it into our other coverage of the game.
Defensive line takes criticism to heart
Ed Orgeron is loud. He can also be quite convincing.
And the USC defensive line coach convinced his defensive linemen Saturday they were being disrespected in college football circles. They responded with an inspired performance in USC's season opener.
Considering that they were without two of their four projected starters six weeks ago in Devon Kennard and Wes Horton, the linemen actually played quite well. Antwaun Woods played solid two-down football throughout the game, and Leonard Williams, Morgan Breslin and George Uko all proved adept at reaching the quarterback. J.R. Tavai did his job.
According to Woods and several other USC defenders, their play can be traced to Orgeron's pregame speech that got them so fired up.
"They really bonded today, pregame," starting linebacker Anthony Sarao said. "I didn't really see that during camp, but tonight, they definitely bonded."
Defensive captain T.J. McDonald said the linemen were "mad" after talking to Orgeron, and he said they "stayed mad" all game.
"There was some criticism," McDonald said. "And they knew that. They had a big chip on their shoulder knowing that they were supposedly a big weakness on this team."
Supposedly might be right. USC's linemen had four sacks on their own -- a figure the Trojans reached as a team only three times last season.
And it wasn't as if Hawaii was effective running the ball, either. USC allowed just 56 yards in 32 carries, an average of just 1.7 yards.
"People talked about the D-line being our weakness," Sarao said. "They were out there doing their thing tonight."
Redd's USC debut
Silas Redd's first game in a USC uniform was interesting.
He showed some skills with 56 yards rushing in nine carries and a 41-yard catch-and-run, but he also showed something the Trojans hadn't seen much from him in fall camp: ball-security issues.
The 41-yard catch ended in a fumble when he had the ball punched out from behind him. Redd, a junior, said he was disappointed in that, but pleased that he rebounded with an OK night.
"I think that's just me being in my third year, being able to adapt to some adversity that went on and learn from it and grow," Redd said.
He also said he watched his former school, Penn State, play against Ohio on Saturday morning. The Nittany Lions lost 24-14 to Ohio at Beaver Stadium in their first game after offseason sanctions from the NCAA.
"I was rooting for them," Redd said. "I have a lot of great friends on that team. I know they're gonna bounce back next week."
It has been easy to see in practice for a while now, but it became really obvious to fans Saturday just how much the Trojans have at safety.
Six scholarship safeties played: starters McDonald and Jawanza Starling, second-stringers Drew McAllister and Demetrius Wright and third-stringers Josh Shaw and Gerald Bowman.
Bowman had a special-teams penalty, but the other five were pretty impressive across the board. Shaw even had his first college interception in the second half.
"We have a lot of depth at safety," Nickell Robey said of his defensive back mates. "And the scary thing about is everybody knows what they're supposed to do."
Shaw, who spent some time at corner in fall camp, said he expected to continue playing safety even with the depth difference at corner.
Wittek completes his three attempts
It wasn't much, but it was a debut for USC's new backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Max Wittek.
He did three or four things right and two things wrong against the Warriors -- not a bad ratio for a new college quarterback. He completed the three passes he threw, and he tucked the ball away and ran for a yard when no one was open once, too. The two things wrong were an 11-yard sack and the timeout USC had to call before a third down.
"I thought he did well," Matt Barkley said of his understudy. "He came out and fired the ball out there. I think it'll just take time for all those guys -- even me at first -- to get used to the tempo of the game and notice the play clock and get everyone in and out of the huddle.
"But for his first couple of snaps, I thought he did well."
Final notes: Twenty-one players made their debuts for the Trojans, including eight true freshmen. USC will only redshirt six or seven freshmen this season, it now appears. ... Robey said USC had no idea leading up to the game that Hawaii's Scott Harding would be punting rugby-style. And the Warriors brought out another punter in pregame warmups to not let the secret out. ... Linebacker Dion Bailey, who led USC in tackles with seven, exited the game on crutches. He appeared to suffer a right ankle injury in the second half. ... Walk-on kicker Craig McMahon subbed in for an injured Andre Heidari on seven kickoffs and had three touchbacks, averaging a respectable 63.1 yards per kick. The injury to Heidari also somewhat explains why the Trojans tried three two-point conversions after touchdowns. ...Hayes Pullard said he was in the wrong position on his interception return for a touchdown but lucked out after the tipped pass.