USC is 1-0 after defeating an inferior Hawaii team 30-13 last Thursday night. Yet, it appears that the Trojans have seemed to turn off a switch and flip on another, in respect to the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
While the team's passing attack, which flourished last year with Matt Barkley at the helm, struggled against Hawaii ; it's defense, who previously struggled under the direction of former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, came to the forefront and shined.
When initially hired, new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast made it clear that he was going to take advantage of the talent on his side of the ball and was going to be very aggressive using his "52" defensive scheme. His defense lived up to those expectations against the Warriors after registering four interceptions for the first time since 2005 (against Fresno State) and giving up only 231 yards to the Hawaii offense.
With the Trojan defense making big plays that were nonexistent last season, they were at least somewhat responsible for putting up 20 of the 30 points that USC scored. With all of the turnovers they were causing, the defense was also giving the Trojan offense excellent field position throughout the game. If the defense continues to attribute to this many points, Pendergast should just be named the offensive coordinator.
A case in which they physically put points on the board was when junior safety Josh Shaw intercepted Hawaii's Taylor Graham for a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown. Juniors Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey and freshman Su'A Cravens also had an interception a piece. Cravens also became the first USC freshman to start an opener at safety since Darnell Bing did it at Auburn in 2003.
Bailey led the Trojans in tackles with seven, while sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams finished second with five to go along with two sacks, which both came in the first quarter. Junior defensive end George Uko also recorded a multi-sack game with two.
Pendergast also showed that he wasn't afraid to dial up the pressure, as his frequent "A-gap" blitzes led to seven USC sacks. Six of these sacks came from the Trojan's defensive line, who gave the Warriors trouble all game long.
The Trojans had three or more sacks seven times last season and five or more six times. It opened the game with three alone in the first quarter and finished the first half with five.
USC's front seven, under the direction of coach Ed Orgeron, did not let the Hawaii running backs get out of the backfield either, as they allowed only 31 yards rushing on forty plus carries, good enough for 0.7 yards per carry.
The USC defense that came out against in the season opener against Hawaii seemed to resemble dominant USC defenses of the past with a strong front seven, smart and physical linebackers, and extremely athletic safeties. As all fans saw Thursday night, the talent on the defensive side of the ball is there and Pendergast is not taking it for granted, taking full advantage of his personnel.
While, the Trojan's quarterback situation remains in limbo, their newly installed "52" defense is going to be important in helping USC make big plays and turning defense into offense as they go on to play Washington State in their home opener at the Coliseum next Saturday.