It's not often that the storied USC Trojans' tailback tradition is upstaged or distracted by an opponent's running back, but it could happen in the Coliseum this Saturday afternoon when Boston College comes to the City of Angels with its own hard-running tailback, senior Andre Williams.
In Williams, a native of Schnecksville, Pa., undefeated Boston College (2-0) is bringing USC its first real physical running back challenge of 2013, and the first legitimate rushing-attack challenge for Trojans first-year defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and his revitalized front seven.
Last week against ACC foe Wake Forest, the 6-foot, 227-pound Williams pounded out 204 yards on 35 carries in helping BC to a 24-10 win over the Demon Deacons. The physical Williams seemed to take control as the game wore on, and BC's first-year head coach, Steve Addazio, kept feeding him the ball in the second half.
For the record, Williams now has had two consecutive 100-yard rushing games in 2013, and last weekend he recorded the seventh 100-yard rushing game of his 36-game collegiate career. For his efforts against Wake Forrest, Williams was named ACC Offensive Back of the Week, and he currently ranks fourth among all running backs in the nation in rushing yards per game (159.0 yds.).
Williams and his offensive line will be facing a Trojans front seven that after two games has shown no indication that the new base 5-2 defense of Pendergast is vulnerable to the running game, but then again the Trojans havent faced an Andre Williams.
And Williams isnt shy about his love of carrying the ball and the BC style of rushing the football.
"I'm a running back, I love running the ball," said Williams after BC's win over Wake Forest. “Putting the ball in my hands -- there's nothing I like more than that. Coach Addazio is an offensive guy, he loves to run the ball, and it couldn't work out better for me."
And his head coach agrees.
"You keep pounding the rock and pounding the rock, and the rock cracked," Addazio said of his tailback's effect on the Wake Forest defense.
Hence, the Trojans' challenge.
So far, the USC defensive unit is allowing a paltry 15 yards per game -- a 0.6 average per carry -- on the ground. Of course the reality is that Pendergast's defense has faced two predominantly pass-oriented teams in Hawaii and Washington State.
It figures those impressive rush-defense statistics are about to change with the arrival of the Boston College Eagles, who will try to feature a balanced attack.
Whether Williams makes his mark against a very angry USC team, one that is coming off a Pac-12 upset loss to Washington State, is anybody's guess. But if he does, he would join select company.
The all-time, single-game rushing record against USC belongs to former Oregon standout Kenjon Barner, now with the NFL's Carolina Panthers. All Barner did last season in the Coliseum was gobble up up 321 yards in a spectacular display of rushing over one of the most defenseless defenses in Trojans' history.
Longtime USC fans wont forget the rushing efforts of former UCLA backs Freeman McNeil, Gaston Green and, recently, Johnathan Franklin, who last season churned out 171 yards on 29 carries in the Bruins' victory over the Trojans at the Rose Bowl.
Speaking of the Rose Bowl, longtime Trojans fans remember the ground-game efforts of the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Ohio State tailback Archie Griffin, who gained 145 yards against Troy in the 1974 Pasadena New Year's Day classic won by the Buckeyes 42-21.
Two other classic running back performances agains the Trojans came from Penn State under the direction of the late Joe Paterno. In the 1982 Fiesta Bowl, All-America back Curt Warner overshadowed Marcus Allen, USC's Heisman Trophy tailback, by smashing through the Trojans defense for 145 yards and two scores, in a 26-10 triumph.
The other Nittany Lions back that gave the Trojans all they could handle was a sophomore named Curtis Enis, who actually held the opposing single-game rushing record against USC until Barner came along. In Penn State's 24-7 victory over USC in 1996, Enis racked up 241 yards on 27 bruising carries and scored three touchdowns.
And for good measure, there's former San Diego State and NFL star Marshall Faulk, who rushed for 220 yards on 27 carries against the Trojans in 1992, although it wasnt enough to win -- the Aztecs came away with a 31-31 tie.
Will Boston College's Williams join this exclusive Adversary Club? The Trojans' defense hopes to revoke his application.