Taking a closer look USC's 38-point performance in victory, the Trojans made the slightest of adjustments all beginning with their speed and tempo running out of the huddle towards the line of scrimmage.
When asked earlier in the week about taking over the play calling duties, Helton assessed the Trojans offense in a confident yet determined manner of fact statement. "I'll have something," Helton said. "I don't think it will be huge."
The changes may not have been monumental from the Kiffin swing of things, but the direct addition of more play-action strikes and deep throws utilized a rotation which featured five running backs, three walk-on WR's (most in part due to injury) along with all three mainstake TE's on the roster.
"A-plus. I didn't have to say a word on the headset except ‘Atta boy,' Coach Orgeron boasted after the game while describing Helton's work from the sideline, in a first of its kind performance for both coaches.
The proof nestled in the pudding on offense especially during USC's six scoring drives, five of which lasted 4:31 or less resulting in touchdown scores. While not playing at an Oregon-like tempo, the pace of play certainly picked up against Arizona despite the fact the Trojans were short staffed at some of the major skill positions.
Take the first scoring drive for example, which culminated in a deep play-action strike over the middle from Cody Kessler to Nelson Agholor who in his own right brought the deep-play threat to the offense on this night, the Trojans went for blood after failing to make any gains on the opening drive of the game and scored in 9 seconds, WOW.
The main benefactor of this concerted effort was Nelson Agholor, who averaged 20 yards per reception on his seven grabs, after entering the Arizona game with merely 11 receptions all season. With Marqise Lee, Darreus Rogers and De'Von Flourney all unable to play from the start, the Trojans needed their lone big-play weapon to spread out teh field to complement an offense that produced 45 rushing attempts.
The very next drive, coach Helton devised back-to-back plays that perfectly spread out the field for the redshirt sophomore signal caller. The best of which came on the Trojans scoring strike, where Kessler recognized deep cover-two with a large seem, allowing Tre Madden to catch a dime pass over the middle and power his way into the endzone for a 63-yard pitch and catch over the middle.
Not only were the Trojans going deep, but they also managed to take what the defense was giving them by pounding the rock against two-high safety looks along with quick and easy passing routes. That invariably gave Kessler plenty of room to operate down the field, propelling the Trojans 6-13 conversion rate on third downs.
USC recognized these advantages throughout the game, attacking the field in short yet effective bursts with an up-tempo pace of play. This slight adjustment on offense stems from Clay Helton's inner competitor on the practice field. "He's flying around and every position group on offense is fired up," starting quarterback Cody Kessler says.
Even when things were not rolling at the best pace, especially during the first two drives of the fourth quarter that heavily favored conservative formations, the Trojans went back to the basics under Helton and pounded the rock for two crucial first downs thanks to the efforts of senior tailback Silas Redd.
Not only did Redd contribute, but the offense constantly rotated backs in the game for the second half after Tre Madden left with an undisclosed hamstring injury at half, giving Justin Davis (9 for 38), Buck Allen (6 for 37, 2 TD) and raw but talented freshman Ty Isaac (3 for 36) a fair deal of reps.
It may be just against an Arizona defense that is vulnerable versus the deep pass and power running game, but if any point could arguable carry credence moving forward it's the fact USC is starting to embrace playing with the "Best 11" for the offense, regardless of who is on the gridiron.