What might be the top receiving tandem in the Pacific-10 Conference plays on what considers itself a running team.
That’s Southern California, and the Trojans’ ground-air balance is one of the problems the Washington Huskies will face Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“They’re pretty balanced right now, if you look at their statistics,” UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt said Tuesday. “But they do a nice job running the football. They get you committed to stopping the run and then they hit you with some big play-action passes, and that’s kind of what they like to do. They’ve got a quarterback who can throw the ball, and they’ve got some running backs who can run the ball, they’ve got a couple of nice wideouts who can catch the ball. They’ve got a lot of weapons.’’
USC ranks in the top 25 nationally in total offense, scoring offense, rushing offense and pass efficiency.
Quarterback Matt Barkley is 14th nationally in pass efficiency. There is the usual cadre of productive runners: Marc Tyler, Allen Bradford, Dillon Baxter and Stanley Havili. And all of that just adds to the threats posed by receiver/returners Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods.
Johnson, a senior, has 20 catches for 249 yards and five touchdowns. Woods, a freshman, has 13 catches for 175 yards and one touchdown.
Woods also averages 23.9 yards on 11 kickoff returns, while Johnson averages 19.2 yards on six punt returns.
“They look real good,” said sophomore cornerback Desmond Trufant. “They’re fast, they’re explosive, they’re all-around threats. They’re threats on special teams as returners, too.
“We’ve just got to know where these guys are – especially Ronald Johnson. He’s a big threat, a big-play guy, so we just have to know where he’s at and just key in on him.”
The problem, Trufant said, is that while you’re accounting for Johnson and Woods, one of those runners can zip by you or plow over you.
“You can’t be focused on just one key element of the game,” he said. “They’re a well-rounded team, in my eyes. We’ve just got to be ready to do what we’re taught to do, and we’ll be all right.”
Last week, in USC’s 50-16 win at Washington State, the Trojans piled up 613 yards of total offense: 285 rushing, 328 passing. It was the third time in four games – all wins – that USC rushed for at least 230 yards.
“They looked really good knocking guys off the ball, and they were just kind of superior in talent last weekend,” Holt said. “So hopefully we go down there and play our type of game and do really good at the line of scrimmage and compete. That’s the bottom line. We know them real well. They’re physical up front, but no more physical than some of the other teams we play.”
Holt said the Huskies stuck to the basics during the bye week that followed a 56-21 loss to Nebraska. “Get back to good fundamentals, good hard work, good practices during the bye week,” he said. “Get in the weight room, get fresh, and get our bodies feeling good again and come back with a nice fresh frame of mind. And I think we accomplished that last week, and this week so far has been a good week.” …
Defensive linemen Everrette Thompson and Cameron Elisara swapped positions for much of practice Tuesday, with Thompson moving inside to tackle and Elisara outside to end. “Everrette’s really lanky and long, which is good for some things,” Holt said. “Cameron’s got a quicker step, and that might help him being on the outside. Who knows?” … Holt also said that safety Sean Parker will start getting more reps because his play as solidified recently. …
The Huskies practiced Tuesday while USC’s “Tribute to Troy” blared repeatedly over speakers on the track. The clip used lasts 58 seconds, meaning roughly 120 repetitions over the almost-two-hour practice. “It’s going to be going all week,” Trufant said. “We’re kind of tired of it, but it’s all good. It’s all good fun.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 email@example.com