Some of the most glaring issues for the Trojans last week in the loss to Notre Dame were the troubles along the offensive line with penalties, miscommunication and signs of physical dominance from the Irish defensive line.
Well, it’s time to get back to work on the practice field for the USC O-line because another tough test will be coming to town on Saturday in the form of the Utah Utes. While Utah may not present as much of a challenge as the Notre Dame line, it isn’t far behind.
The Utes lead the Pac-12 in sacks with 22, and 16 of those come from the D-line. It’s an aggressive group that stood toe-to-toe with Stanford two weeks ago and came away with the most shocking upset of the year in the conference. The Cardinal have built their recent reputation on power football, but the Utes were able to hold them 50 yards below their normal rushing output.
For the Trojans, the theme of the practice week is accountability, following a game in which too many of the penalties came at critical times to halt USC momentum.
“As an offensive line, we are here to take responsibility and improve,” USC center Marcus Martin said. “It’s upsetting because penalties that take away explosive plays really hurt your offense. That’s our offensive line and we take full responsibility.”
One thing the USC O-line hasn’t had to deal with as much is injuries. While the rest of the Trojans offense seems to be an exercise in patchwork substitutions these days due to injuries, the offensive line has remained fairly intact. There was an unfortunate knee injury early in the week to reserve guard Jordan Simmons, which will keep him out for the remainder of the season but other than that the lineup for has been fairly consistent and should pay dividends at some point.
Even with the benefit of putting the same lineup on the field this week, the offensive line has struggled in protecting USC quarterback Cody Kessler, and that will be a key element to watch against Utah. The Trojans have given up 15 sacks on the season, a number that could definitely grow on Saturday. The Utes have a pair of 300-pound tackles in the middle of the defensive line, but most of the production comes from defensive ends Trevor Reilly and Nate Orchard, who will look to use their speed to cause havoc in the Trojans' backfield.
For the Trojans to come away with a win against Utah, the offensive line will need to show a one-week improvement.