USC Football: As Offense Improves, Defense Continues to Struggle

Rick McMahanSenior Writer IOctober 11, 2013

Ed Orgeron
Ed OrgeronStephen Dunn/Getty Images

USC ushered in the Ed Orgeron era with a nice win against Arizona on a cool Thursday evening at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Orgeron—named interim coach replacing the fired Lane Kiffin—promised a more fun environment for the players than found under the stoic Kiffin, and in that department, he delivered.

Both Orgeron and his players appeared to enjoy themselves in USC's 38-31 victory over the Wildcats, something not often seen under the old regime.

And why not? The Trojans came out inspired to show that they were a good team with a lot to still offer in 2013 and to that end, they have given their rabid fanbase something to look forward to.

But that optimism is also tempered with the reality that this is not a complete team and the one area they felt good about—the defense—may be more of a concern then they ever imagined.

Offering another poor effort on that side of the ball, the Trojan defense surrendered 500+ yards of total offense en route to giving up those 31 points Thursday night.

This follows the Arizona State game where that vaunted USC defense gave up more than 600 yards while being toasted for 62 points in Tempe two weeks ago.

Oh, there were moments when the defense was reminiscent of the mighty version that opened the season ranked amongst the best nationally in a myriad of statistical departments.

However, those days of defensive domination now seem like a distant memory after watching USC revert back to the porous 2012 edition where the opponents' offensive numbers piled up like a chain-reaction accident on the 405 freeway.

Against Arizona, USC's defense once again found itself struggling against the pass as they made a serviceable quarterback, B.J. Denker, into the second coming of Joe Montana.

Denker went 28 for 44 and those connections resulted in 363 yards passing and four—yes four—touchdowns.

Not exactly what defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast had in mind when he drew up the game plan I'm sure.

Compounding problems, USC's rush defense has also become quite ordinary as well.

After making like a brick wall along the line of scrimmage early on, the imposing front seven for the Trojans is now leaking like a sieve after Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey torched them for 138 yards last night.

All of which should make both Orgeron and their fans nervous going forward.

On the plus side, it seems USC's offense has found itself after putting up 546 yards of total offense to go along with an impressive 38 points against the Wildcats.

Offering a balanced attack which saw the Trojans rush for a whopping 249 yards, the only concern now is exactly how injured running back Tre Madden is after he left the game with a possible leg injury.

However, a cadre of Trojan running backs picked up the slack led by Silas Redd who was returning from a knee injury himself.

And to be certain, quarterback Cody Kessler appears to be finding his groove as the Trojans signal-caller.

After struggling to open the season, Kessler is looking more comfortable now, and although his 50 percent (15 of 30) completion ratio may not wow you, the 297 yards it produced along with two touchdowns was impressive.

So where does this leave the Trojans six games into the season?

Besides the disappointing 4-2 record, USC is also a team looking to put together a complete game for the first time in 2013.

Now with concern regarding the defense to go along with an improving offense, the Trojans will continue to search for that effort on both sides of the ball needed to produce the type of team they expected when the season opened in August.

And until that happens, a nervous fanbase will continue wringing their hands in 2013.