The Trojans knew they would be thin at their playmaking positions and as fans walked into the Coliseum listening to the starting lineups being called Saturday afternoon, names came up on the big screen that barely drew a blip on the radar even when they came to USC back on their respective National Signing Day's.
Thanks in large part to numerous injuries and the necessity to keep players fresh, coach Orgeron played 10 walk ons against Utah, all of which provided plenty of support for the cause in specifically unique ways.
The biggest contributions came from the tight end position, with all three scholarship players out, allowing Chris Willson (1 rec, 5 yards) and Shane Sullivan to split reps. Kevin Greene got some snaps in run situations while offensive tackle Nathan Guertler even filled in for a pass-protection role, giving Kessler time to throw from the blindside.
Defensively, the Trojans suddenly rising unit in terms of national ranks rose the ocsasion, limiting Utah to only three points on 201 total yards thanks in large part to freshman five-star standouts Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay, making his first start of the year lined deep in the secondary along with Demetrius Wright.
"One team, one heartbeat Coach O said. This is one of those kinds of little-brother-takes-over-for-big-brother games," said senior receiver De'Von Flournoy.
This performance actually seemed against the grain for what the Trojans have done all season as USC's rushing attack could never get going, mustering only 30 yards on the ground. That being said some crucial second-half drives based with a heavy dosage of pounding the rock, eventually sealed the victorious effort.
Tre Madden provided a huge jolt for the Trojans rushing game in the second half working in with Silas Redd. While the starter proved to be relatively ineffective for the first half, his replacement Madden finished the game with 60 yards rushing on 12 carries all while battling injury concerns that kept him out of practice this past week.
Not to mention the fact that Marqise Lee and Victor Blackwell were out from the wide receiving corp, fifth-year senior De'Von Flournoy was given the opportunity to slide right in and make some plays. Much to the same accord, Flournoy stepped up his game finishing with two receptions for 45 yards, including a crucial 30-yard reception one of the Trojans four FG-scoring drives.
What did emerge however was a strong combination of a one-two punch on the outside from WR's Darreus Rogers and Nelson Agholor finishing with 11 receptions for 159 yards. Agholor led the team in receptions (6) posting a gutty performance as the deep threat for Kessler to work with entering with his own set of injury concerns.
Rogers meanwhile, contributed quite nicely for the second-straight week as he continues to emerge as one of Cody Kessler's favorite targets. Combine that with five receptions from Silas Redd out the backfield, and it looks as if Kessler has complete control over the quick-hitting passing game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Leon McQuay may have been the biggest suprise from the game. Starting his first game as a Trojan, McQuay did an excellent job in coverage at the safety position and was rewarded for his efforts with his first career interception, picking off during the second quarter.
The same could also be said of J.R. Tavai, who finished with a team-leading 12 tackles as part of a physical effort from the entire defensive line. Along with Tavai, Antwaun Woods recorded his first sack as yet another key contributor over the improving defensive line which continues to improve under 72-year-old coach Pete Jenkins.
"We just have to keep winning," tailback Silas Redd said. "No matter how ugly it is, we just have to keep fighting and keep battling on and we'll be all right."
At the end of the day, the Trojans believe in their 11 best that line up on the field as long as the games keep concluding with victories in dominant fashion.