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USC Defense Impressive in Dominant Win over Arkansas State

The Trojan defense stifled the Red Wolves

Harry How/Getty Images

The USC Trojans kicked off the 2015 season in fashion on Saturday night, dominating the Arkansas State Red Wolves 55-6 in the Coliseum. While there will be plenty of talk about the explosive plays from the offense, the suffocating performance of the defense cannot be overlooked and could be the biggest reason for optimism moving forward this fall.

Outside of one drive to open the second half, Arkansas State could not sustain drives to save their lives. They finished the night converting just 6-of-18 third down opportunities and went 0-for-3 on fourth down tries and committed four turnovers with two interceptions and two fumbles.

The most impressive thing about their performance may have been the job they did bottling up the Red Wolves' starting quarterback Fredi Knighten. As a senior with plenty of accomplishments under his belt, Knighten figured to be a good test to open the season for USC and the Trojans passed with flying colors. Last season, the Arkansas State QB threw for 3,277 yards while completing 62.3 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions, averaging a strong 252.1 yards per game through the air.

On Saturday, he could not have been further from those numbers. He ended his day in the third quarter, benched in favor of freshman James Tabary, after completing just 8-of-23 passes (34.8 percent) for 86 yards and two intercpetions. His 3.7 yards per attempt average was less than half of what he averaged during the 2014 season.

The Trojans were able to get after Knighten early and often, recording both their interceptions off the starter with Su'a Cravens and Chris Hawkins both snagging picks. Their ability to completely and utterly blow up everything that the Red Wolves tried to run was an impressive showcase of the defensive talent the Trojans have this season.

With the team dealing with concerns about the loss of talent to the NFL draft this offseason on the defensive side of the ball, it's a huge relief for the Trojans to come out and play the way they did on Saturday night. If they can continue to play at this level, the USC defense will once again rank among the best in the nation and put the team in position to contend for the Pac-12 title (and more) this postseason.