USC Football: Now with Defensive Issues, Trojans Are in Big Trouble

Rick McMahanSenior Writer ISeptember 29, 2013

Sep 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans linebacker Morgan Breslin (91) pressures Boston College Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig (11) at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Boston College 35-7. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

62 points and 611 yards of offense given up. What a difference a week makes.

In a season where USC would have to hang its hat on a defense that they were confident was one of the best in college football. That notion was shredded on a warm Saturday night in Tempe when Arizona State demolished the Trojans 62-41.

Now the men of Troy are faced with the prospect that the 2013 season could go south in a hurry. Or perhaps it already has.

Owners of a 3-2 record, USC knew that their offense was suspect but that portion of the team wasn't the culprit against ASU, not with 527 total yards produced along with those 41 points.

Of course, they had their part in this debacle too as the four turnovers given to the Sun Devils—especially the two in the first half—changed the momentum of the game to be certain.

But this defeat was squarely on the defense. Or lack thereof.

Returning to the ineptitude that defined their futility in 2012, USC's secondary offered little resistance to ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly as he carved them up to the tune of 351 yards and three touchdowns.

Let those numbers sink in for a minute.

While those stats are enough to make any fan of the program shudder, problems in the secondary were anticipated in 2013 and thus do not come as a major shock.

What did surprise was the poor performance of the front seven for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's unit. The defensive line, anchored by studs such as Leonard Williams and Morgan Breslin, were celebrated as one of the nation's finest prior to this game.

Those accolades will now have to be reconsidered after USC gave up 260 yards on the ground and did nothing to help their beleaguered secondary by offering little pressure to Kelly.

With nary a sack to their credit, USC's pass rushers were nowhere to be found. Kelly alternately picked them apart with precision passes, and when that was unavailable, his four rushes for 79 yards nullified any decent coverage the secondary offered.

All of which leaves the Trojans with some serious issues going forward.

In a game where the offense looked like they had found their bearings—minus those four turnovers of course—now it looks as though USC has a whole new set of problems to deal with.

Is this really how bad the Trojan defense is or was it an aberration?

Which is really representative of Pendergast's group, the debacle in the desert or the dominating unit of the first four games?

It is a question that Lane Kiffin wasn't hoping to address as his hands are full with an inconsistent offense that may be without their best player—injured wide receiver Marqise Lee—for the foreseeable future.

The Trojans will have the bye week to figure it out so perhaps all is not lost.

Maybe they will remember the inspired play that helped them reside in the top ten of many defensive categories prior to the ASU game.

But if they don't, this could be a historically bad season and one that might even make last year's 7-6 record something to be desired.

And that should make Trojan fans shudder to be sure.