Last year Taylor Mays looked dominant against the Cal Bears, dishing out one bone crushing blow after another as the Trojans stifled the Cal offense en route to a 17-3 victory at the Coliseum.
Cal entered the game with a high-powered offense that was averaging 36.4 points a game and couldn't muster a single touchdown.
In total, Mays finished the game with 5 tackles, 4 pass deflections and earned the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors in the process.
After the impressive performance many USC fans wondered why the USC secondary wasn't that aggressive every week.
But as Mays and fellow safety Will Harris explained, the plays presented themselves because Cal is one of the only teams that is willing to take chances down the field against USC's vaunted secondary.
"They know they can take shots against us," Mays said. "They're not intimidated by us. They like to take shots."
The Golden Bears enter Saturday's showdown averaging 37.2 points per game and have had their share of big plays in the passing game with quarterback Kevin Riley hitting Verran Tucker for a gains of 59 and 50 yards the past two games.
Riley, who was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week after tossing four touchdowns in the season opener against Maryland, hasn't thrown an interception in his last 115 attempts.
As one of the better safety duos in the country, Mays and Harris will be tested in Berkeley this Saturday and look forward to the challenge.
"That's what safeties and corners love to see. They're going to take their shots. We've seen it on film," Harris said. "They're going to take shots on all downs. We just have to make sure we take care of it."
- The Trojans have focused on trying to eliminate penalties and mental mistakes this week and Carroll said he was very pleased with the team's effort in practice.
"We had a very good week of practice, and we needed to," he said. "We had a lot of things that we had to work on and clean up. I am hoping that it's going to carry over."
"He has had a good solid week," Carroll said of Horton. "He is still new at the position and we are going to be coaching him all the way through game time and throughout."
- One of the pleasant surprises of the 2009 seasons has been the play of the young, talented defensive line. Redshirt freshman Nick Perry is currently tops in the Pac-10 with 6 sacks and the Trojans lead the conference with 18 total sacks.
The depth and athleticism along the line, as well as the arrival of defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, has really made a difference this season.
"The rotation and the ability to play a lot of guys has helped us," Carroll said. "They have really responded to Jethro (Franklin). He's had a great camp with these guys and spring football. They are playing very, very well."
- Defensive end Nick Perry will play this Saturday against Cal after being limited earlier in the week with a bruised knee.
"He's going to go," Carroll said. "He's still a little gimpy but he's going to play."
- Carroll said he continues to get positive reports on the progress of senior tailback Stafon Johnson.
"This morning he was doing well and he reported in that he was feeling better as the day was progressing. He is just acting so tough," Carroll said. "He's just so strong about this. It's just amazing how he is dealing with it. He's doing way more than I think they figured he would even be close to doing. He's up and around and getting in and out of bed and stuff like that. He looks well."
"They have had a really good effect," Carroll said. "The interesting thing about those two guys is both of them have played like upperclassmen for the most part."
- The Cal Bears have won nine straight home games, with their last home loss coming at the hands of the Trojans on Nov. 10, 2007.
Stafon Johnson continues to make progress.
*Discuss more on the SCPlaybook.com message boards
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at firstname.lastname@example.org