After USC’s 27-point loss to the Oregon Ducks, head coach Pete Carroll said that one of the reasons for the defense’s poor performance was the complicated game plan that he devised in an effort to slow the Ducks’ high-powered offense.
Carroll’s scheme didn’t stop Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James that night; instead it bogged down the USC defense, and resulted in 613 yards of total yards for the Ducks.
While the game plan certainly wasn’t the only cause for the loss, it was a factor, and Carroll stood up and took the heat this past week for his miscalculation.
“We tried to scheme too much and so we made mistakes that normally we wouldn’t make,” he said.
Saturday night in Tempe, Carroll proved that he had indeed learned from his mistake as he stripped down the game plan and went back to the basics on the defensive side of the ball.
“We did simplify some during the week, and we hoped that by doing that our guys would be able to get out of this funk that we have been in for a couple of weeks,” Carroll said. “We forced them to have to execute base defenses.
“That’s the adjustment that we made and fortunately tonight I thought we played really well.”
With a simpler approach the USC defense limited Arizona State to just 9 points, while scoring a touchdown of their own.
Senior safety Will Harris stepped in front of a Danny Sullivan pass and returned the interception 55 yards for a score.
“Coach went back to the basic calls,” Harris said. “He just went to the basic schemes and we executed them very well.”
Harris’ touchdown in the closing minutes of the first half, gave USC a 7-3 lead and the momentum heading into the locker room.
The veteran defensive back later picked off a pass from ASU freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler to secure the 14-9 victory, and was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Along with the defensive touchdown the Trojans also won the turnover battle by coming up with four takeaways.
“It’s such a good night to get four turnovers,” Carroll said. “We didn’t make much of them other than the touchdown by Will, but it still felt so much more like you like to feel about how your defense plays.”
It also didn’t hurt that the defense played with a chip on their shoulder, after being continually reminded of their poor performance against Oregon, in the lead up to the Arizona State game.
“All week we were talking about coming back and being the defense that we were at the beginning of the year,” linebacker Chris Galippo said. “It’s a huge step for us just to say that we were going to do something and we did it.”
After giving up a combined 110 points in the previous three weeks, Carroll was pleased to see the defense get back on track in Tempe.
“To get right and back on track defensively is obviously really important to us,” Carroll said. “We played the running game really well after the first drive. They ran a couple of plays and then we just stopped it.”
The Trojans limited the Sun Devils to 81 yards on the ground, and regained some much-needed confidence in the process.
“We came in here and shut them down for the most part, got a bunch of turnovers, scored on defense,” linebacker Chris Galippo said. “It was a big deal for us.”
USC linebacker Shane Horton had 6 tackles against ASU. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)
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