The Trojans went to unprecedented measures against Hawaii, playing a true freshman running back and Tre Madden the converted linebacker, while their leading rusher Silas Redd did not make the trip with a knee injury.
The combination of Tre Madden and Justin Davis powered the USC running game in the first contest of the season, combining for 193 yards of total offense. Entering Fall Camp as a major position of strength, the Trojans have been forced to play their hand in the backfield to the tune of penultimate success establishing the line of scrimmage.
Looking at recent history under Lane Kiffin and this coaching staff, the USC Trojans have not been afraid to pound the rock with first-time starting quarterbacks under center. Bringing a combination of Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, starting in the second series of the second half, and the Trojans running game was relied upon to alleviate pressure.
While the offense itself struggled for most of the first half, the USC rushing attack was rather effective slicing through the undersized Hawaiian front seven. The first series set the tempo, highlighted by Tre Madden rushes of five, four and two three yard gains resulting in a powerful drive filled with the running game, unfortunately coming up short of points.
What was even seen as an ultra conservative move, Lane Kiffin called a draw play to Tre Madden on a 3rd-seven situation. The biggest question mark that surrounds the first half of play was when the Trojans went away from the running game and looked to open the offense resulting in a safety and the Rainbow Warriors first lead of the game.
Once the Trojans defense took to the field with a comfortable lead, thanks to forcing four interceptions (one of which returned for a touchdown) from their all-imposing defense, the ground and pound attack wore down the clock in large part thanks to the freshman contributor and the most-recently converted linebacker in the backfield.
Throughout most of Fall Camp, Justin Davis has emerged as a power back who plays with high shoulder pads much like Adrian Peterson but delivers quite the blow. That remained the case against Hawaii, where Davis galloped all over the football field averaging nearly seven yards per rush in the second half.
This while Silas Redd's status remains in limbo, even taking a recent trip to visit Dr. James Andrews for an exam. This following an injury-riddled 2012 season in which Redd played through pain and contributed over 900 yards rushing.
For what we have seen early on with multiple quarterbacks under center, the necessity for a power running game is certainly evident. While the Trojans may be lacking the elite combination to have a "Stable of Backs" in Troy, the combination of Madden, Davis and Buck Allen could provide some punch in the USC offense while prohibitive starter and leading rusher Silas Redd recovers from injury.
While the Trojans offensive line showed some signs of youth in pass protection, the camaraderie and communication in the running game was top notch against Hawaii, all starting with captain Marcus Martin leading the charge at center.
"When you are successful running the ball, you want to keep doing it. Put the defense back on their heels," Martin says about his offensive scheme early this season, adding. "When you got two great play callers [Clay Helton and Lane Kiffin] how could you just not come out here and destroy?"
Martin poses an interesting argument, one that should definitely be considered as the quarterback carousel continues to shake up the dynamic on offense especially in the play calling department.
In the most recent tilt, 29 official passes (not counting sacks and QB rushes from pressure) were attempted compared to 37 rushes from the backs. As we witnessed throughout Fall Camp and the season, adding a strong running game to the tune to four-and-five yards per rush can only make matters easier moving forward for the Trojans limited passing attack.
While the Trojans leading rusher continues to remain sidelined even from the light contact portions of practice for the coming days, USC will continue to rely upon a bevy of depth in the running back carouse. The offense will look to kick into gear much faster against Washington State on Saturday, a unit which allowed 165 rushing YPG last season and was torched to the tune of a 295-yard rushing performance by the Auburn Tigers to open up the season last week.