The USC Trojans are looking to snap a two-game losing streak as they face off against Pac-12 foe Arizona Saturday night. The game is USC’s first at home since it’s victory over Utah in week four.
USC has had a rough time since its 30-23 victory against Utah. The Trojans were outmatched by Washington 28-14 in Seattle in late September. Despite valiant efforts, the Trojans lost 30-27 to rival Notre Dame in South Bend last weekend.
The turbulent past two weeks have put USC at a 3-3 overall record with enormous pressure for USC to win this week against a Pac-12 opponent.
“We really got a chip on [our] shoulder,” USC head coach Clay Helton said. “I like the prep they had done. We look forward to getting back to the Coliseum playing a good Arizona team … This is a huge game for us.”
The Trojans will be hampered by the loss of redshirt junior running back Vavei Malepeai who will miss Saturday’s contest with a knee injury. Malepeai will need surgery on the knee, but according to Reign of Troy, Helton has not indicated the timetable for Malepeai’s recovery.
Not all is bad for the Trojans’ running game as redshirt freshman tailback Markese Stepp is hoping to follow up his solid 82-yard rushing performance from last week’s game against the Fighting Irish. Junior running back Stephen Carr will likely take the start for the Trojans; he posted a 94-yard rushing game against Washington.
Despite the loss against Notre Dame, USC looks to continue their offensive prowess against Arizona as freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis posted two passing touchdowns against the Fighting Irish. Sophomore wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown also had a respectable performance with 112 yards.
“I love the offense,” St. Brown said. “It’s quick. It’s not a lot of thinking. I can go out there and play. Obviously we’re seeing a lot of coverages we’re not used to so that takes some adjustment to but...you get to play fast.”
However, the Trojans will need to improve their run defense if they hope to beat the Wildcats. Running backs like Washington’s junior Salvon Ahmed and Notre Dame’s junior Tony Jones have taken advantage of this defensive hole, as Ahmed rushed 153 yards while Jones notched 176.
With USC’s trouble defending the run game in recent matches, Arizona redshirt junior running back J.J. Taylor is not a running back to scoff at; he is averaging 5.6 yards per carry this season. In addition, USC must be aware of Arizona senior quarterback Khalil Tate who is always a threat with his legs.
Despite some of the flaws on defense, especially with the run, USC defensive backs coach Greg Burns remains hopeful on this defensive unit.
“That they get better,” Burns said when asked of what he has learned about the Trojans defense. “Everyone is talking about the youth of it all, but the reality is each game is an experience. After games one and two, you’re not a rookie anymore, you just work and that’s the cool part.”
Arizona comes into this game with a 4-2 record, reeling from a 51-27 loss to No. 25 Washington.
A loss to the Wildcats dramatically dwindles USC’s chances to qualify for the Pac-12 Championship.
Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network.
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