USC: Jeff Maehl

Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
10:27
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • The big news out of Howard Jones Field: two positions, strong safety and left guard, have officially been opened up for competition. Coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday that Marshall Jones and incumbent Jawanza Starling will split reps at safety for the rest of the week, adding that Starling's spot is "definitely" up for grabs. And at guard, redshirt junior Michael Reardon will get every chance this week to unseat Butch Lewis. Kiffin called Lewis' performance against Oregon "completely unacceptable."
  • Lewis, a senior, has started at least three games during each of his four seasons at USC. Interestingly, though, he has never kept his starting spot for an entire season and has twice lost it after starting the first several games of a season. Asked if he agreed with Kiffin's decision to re-open the battle at his spot, Lewis made his opinion clear. "Absolutely," he said. "There's been shades of good and bad and this last game was really bad, so it's time to really buckle down and get back to fundamentals." This is Reardon's first season as a guard. He spent portions of his first three years at USC working as an offensive tackle, center and tight end.
  • Jones, a redshirt junior, has never started a game at USC. In fact, the 25 or so snaps he earned Saturday against Oregon are likely the most he has played as a Trojan. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder spent the 2009 season at cornerback and played sparingly before seriously injuring his neck in late September against Washington State. He would go on to sit out the rest of the year and earn medical redshirt status. He missed 2010 spring practice because of complications from the injury. Now, he's healthy but will be playing a bit out of position, as he said he feels more comfortable at the opposite spot -- free safety, where T.J. McDonald appears entrenched. Still, he's glad to have the opportunity. "The best players will play," Jones said. "That's what the coaches always say." Starling had started the first eight games of this season after seeing limited time as a backup last year.

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Postgame extras: Ronald Johnson, Wes Horton talk missed opportunities

October, 31, 2010
10/31/10
7:53
PM PT
Video interviews with USC's Ronald Johnson and Wes Horton, plus several quotes that stood out from after USC's 53-32 loss to Oregon on Saturday at the Coliseum:

USC running back Marc Tyler, on whether the Trojans developed an offensive rhythm: "I felt that last game. I felt it tonight, for a half or a quarter. Then, for some reason, it stopped."

Oregon receiver Jeff Maehl, on the pace and finish of the game: "It was a different game for us, especially in the second half. We kept pushing and knew our offense would start wearing them down...Give credit to them. They didn't let us have the big explosions. We had to chip away. I'm happy we came out with a win."

USC safety Jawanza Starling, on what went wrong for the Trojans after a fairly solid first quarter and a third quarter that saw them take the lead: "We came out in the second half doing pretty good, but we kinda got away from ourselves, missing a lot and not getting ready a lot. The tempo wasn't anything that we haven't practiced all week for or anything, it was just missing keys. That's how they get all their big breaks, you know -- a breakdown, a mental mistake or something, that's how they get big plays. That's how their offense runs."

Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, on why the Ducks were able to keep running -- even in the content's final seconds -- and how they managed to keep up the pace on offense: "One of the things we emphasized this week was tempo. We knew this was a big team and we needed to go faster. But we have to wait on the refs. We just wait for the refs to put the ball down and get out of the way."

USC cornerback Shareece Wright, on that tempo: "Playing a full game in that tempo, they don't slow down at all, and they execute. We have to play a complete game. We were good in the first, didn't execute in the second and came out and stopped them in the third. But we have to play a complete game.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley, on whether or not the Trojans still have a homefield advantage at the Coliseum: "There is an advantage at home, but ultimately fans aren't going to win a game for us. We have to execute, and if we aren't making plays it doesn't matter if we are home or away -- we aren't going to win."

***

Johnson, who had four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown against Oregon, talked afterward about USC's offense -- more specifically, why USC's offense wasn't as effective against the Ducks as it had been against Cal two weeks prior.

See what he had to say Saturday as he walked out of the locker room, one of the last Trojans to leave:



***

Horton returned to the field after missing three games with an injured back, and his presence made an obvious difference on a number of plays. He was the one who tipped the throw from Thomas that ended up being intercepted by Jurrell Casey.

See what Horton had to say on the field directly after the game, with thoughts on the defensive performance, Oregon's offense and more:

Postgame thoughts: Oregon

October, 31, 2010
10/31/10
12:36
AM PT
Notes, quotes and video from USC's 53-32 loss to Oregon Saturday at the Coliseum:
  • That surely wasn't what the Trojans had in mind when they talked up this game for two weeks. There were a boatload of reasons for the loss -- a lack of consistent play-calling, confusion at the line and a variety of others -- but the turnover battle is a good place to start. USC turned the ball over three times, Oregon twice. The Trojans had talked all week about the importance of winning the turnover battle; they didn't. "Coach said if we turn the ball over it's going to be hard to beat this team," running back Marc Tyler said. "And we turned the ball over three or four times."
  • In the end, the bulletin-board material conjured up by some of the Trojans this week -- Jurrell Casey's comment especially -- appeared to be a big motivating factor for the Ducks, who came out fired up and stayed fired up for the duration of the game. "Coaches, they try to say we don't listen to it, but we hear it eventually," Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews said. "Obviously we knew we needed to come out and shut them up and we feel we did a good job doing that. "Apparently we're just a quarterback and a running back and that's it, right?"
  • For a Trojans' offense that looked nearly pitch-perfect two weeks ago on the same field against Cal, a game with no real offensive stars was a departure from the expected. Matt Barkley (26-of-49 for 264 yards, one touchdown and two picks) looked more like a freshman than the sophomore Heisman candidate he'd been developing into in the past few weeks, Tyler and the running backs never got started and even Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods were held under 70 yards each. "Maybe it was the route-running, the play-calling or the blocking assignments," said Johnson, who had the Trojans' only touchdown through the air. "We just gotta go back and fix that.'
  • USC assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said a number of times in preparing for this game that his Tampa 2 defense was not built to stop Oregon's spread-option attack. Whatever modifications he implemented over the past two weeks weren't either, as the Ducks were visibly prepared for most of what the Trojans offered at them. And if they weren't, they appeared to adjust quickly. Oregon coach Chip Kelly said postgame that his staff went back and looked at Kiffin's play-calling tendencies against running quarterbacks as far back as his time in the NFL to get a gauge for what the Trojans could do. "It was what we expected," Kelly said afterward. "We broke down every game Monte coached at USC and at Tennessee and what he did against Michael Vick with the Falcons. We felt we had a pretty good idea of what they would do and we had some pretty good counters ready."
  • Kiffin ran his squad incessantly during the off-week with the hope that it would limit the effect of Oregon's run-run-run offense, especially in the final quarter. He said Saturday he thought it paid off -- so did middle linebacker Devon Kennard -- but some players disagreed. "[Being tired] had to be [a factor]," said senior cornerback Shareece Wright, who wasn't at the top of his game Saturday, getting burned by Oregon receiver Jeff Maehl on a number of occasions."We thought we weren't tired. We tried to be tough. They didn't even run that many plays, but they executed them to perfection. They waited for the defense to break down and make mistakes, and that's what we did.
  • Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas looked sharp, especially when throwing the ball. He and Maehl were almost free to connect as they pleased, with the senior receiver totaling eight catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns. USC safety Jawanza Starling indicated that the primary reason the Ducks' passing game was so effective was that USC consistently bit on play-action fakes time and time again, saying that the Trojans "gave him most of the things he got." Said Thomas of his offense's performance: "Some defenses are going to stop you. You can't score every time. We had to make some adjustments and go of of that. We knew this would be a game and that we would have to compete."
  • On at least two big passes down the middle that went for or led to scores, it's safe to say either Kennard, Starling, or safety T.J. McDonald was the guilty party -- or even two or three of them at a time. McDonald took the blame for one of the instances, but the sophomore also said the Trojans' problems with Oregon came down to simply getting set at the line of scrimmage. "To tell you the truth, the toughest part with this offense is getting lined up," he said. "When you get lined up and you use your keys, that's when we were able to do well. When we get momentum, we were able to slow the game for ourselves and execute. We knew that was going to be the challenge coming into this game and it just didn't work out for us."
  • Final notes: Dillon Baxter, injured since the end of the Stanford game, carried the ball just twice Saturday -- both in garbage time, for 14 yards. Senior running back Allen Bradford, bothered by a sprained toe in recent weeks, ran just three times for nine yards. Fullback Stanley Havili had 38 yards on 10 carries but had to come off in the fourth quarter with what looked like shoulder issues; Tyler carried the load with 17 rushes but also came up lame on one run. In all, the running back corps was very banged up. That may have been a bigger factor than was let on. ...While Chris Galippo was billed as the starter at weakside linebacker in replacing Malcolm Smith, it was Shane Horton who played most of the game at the spot, totaling 11 tackles.

***

Kiffin addressed the media after the game in a packed press conference room and actually cracked a few jokes. He also called his offense "terrible." Twice.

See what else the not-pleased coach had to say Saturday:



***

See what Barkley had to say after what turned out to be his worst performance of the season:

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