USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton spoke with the media on Wednesday and said that his team spent practice focusing on third down situations because the UCLA Bruins have a defense that is efficient on third down. With the UCLA offense struggling mightily because of injuries at quarterback and an anemic rushing attack, the Bruins need the defense and special teams to step for them in order to be competitive in games. A huge factor in UCLA finally winning a game and ending their losing streak was the non offensive touchdowns against Oregon State. Helton also pointed out that non offensive touchdowns helped the Trojans defeat UCLA last year.
The Bruins defense will in all likelihood need turnovers to win this game or at the very least they will need consistent 3 and outs from their defense. Reducing turnovers has been a constant point of emphasis for the Trojans’ offense and this week is no different. If the Trojans can reduce the turnovers then the USC offense will just need to keep the chains moving, stay on the field and wear down the Bruins defense Accomplishing this will make it a long game for UCLA.
Conversely because the UCLA offense is struggling with only 2.9 yards per carry, and a quarterback with 9 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, the Trojans do not want to allow the Bruins to get any kind of momentum or confidence by stringing together a handful of first downs and turning it into a nice scoring drive for UCLA.
Clay Helton has preached the importance of winning third downs all season long and the team has taken it to heart particularly during this winning streak the Trojans have been on for 6 games now. Third down efficiency for the Bruins defense is one of the few big strengths UCLA has left, taking it away from them will be greatly beneficial.
With the Trojans in a tight 3-team race for the Pac-12 Championship Helton said he was going to keep one on Utah and Colorado’s games that take place earlier in the day. Several of the USC players said they were not going to pay any attention to the Buffs or the Utes opting instead to focus entirely on doing their job. Helton joked if they can pull that off then “they are stronger men than me”
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