The Trojans have relied upon their running game like a crutch for the mix of quarterbacks posing under center this season, and that recipe did not change on Saturday once Cody Kessler played out three-plus quarters as the starter.
It seemingly begins and ends with converted linebacker Tre Madden, who entered the crowded backfield with vast potential but raw skills as a tailback, dating back to his offensive days in HS. Regarded in one of the major positions of strength for USC, Madden was seen as an athlete with great skills for the wildcat and third-and-long situations.
Now three games into the season, Madden has made his presence felt all over the field accounting for 362 yards rushing (66 carries), converting two third-down rushes via the wildcat formation last week, along with an impressive 54 yards through the air all. In the process, sliding under harsh scrutiny surfacing this week about the passing game.
Not even entering as the starting running back heading into the season, Madden has stepped up his game to a whole new level once the lights turned on kicking off the regular season. The sophomore tailback ran for 102 yards and a touchdown (along with a receiving touchdown) in 16 carries for USC's 35-7 victory over Boston College.
It was the third consecutive 100-yard effort for Madden, who ran for a 30-yard touchdown and also caught a five-yard touchdown pass. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Madden is the first USC player to rush for more than 100 yards in the first three games since Marcus Allen achieved the feat in 1981, the year he won the Heisman Trophy.
While literally and figuratively following in Allen's footsteps, after the heralded USC alum lead the Trojans out of the tunnel against Washington State, the new-found talent in the backfield has certainly covered up the injury to Silas Redd. This addition has given the Trojans a solid replacement for the leading rusher of Troy from last season.
Madden's strengths have been prominent in the Trojans resurgent running game, and the only real fault in his performance came with a near-costly fumble near the home goal line, which was promptly recovered by Randall Telfer. Just a quick note on Telfer, he left the game injuring his knee on the play and unfortunately did not return.
"I've definitely got to work on my ball security," Madden said. "That fumble was big. I'm going to have to take whoever recovered that out to dinner, so we'll work on that." With only some minor details to work out heading into a difficult ball-controlling offense of Utah State, the Trojans will need Madden to remain in top form carrying the rock.
Thanks to some solid contributions from guys like Justin Davis and Ty Isaac, expect to also see Madden in the passing game, especially off the play-action looks with Cody Kessler under center. If the Trojans can continue to control time of possession by dominating the line of scrimmage with a power running game, expect USC to regain some much-needed confidence in the sure fire play-action passing game led by the journeyman tailback.