For years, the strength of the USC Trojans has been their passing game and, more specifically, their quarterback. After a string of quarterbacks including Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley, it appears the backfield is now the strength for the Trojans.
While sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler seems to be competent enough through six games to throw for eight touchdowns to just four interceptions, a pair of young tailbacks in sophomore Tre Madden and freshman Justin Davis appear to be ready to carry the load in the post-Lane Kiffin era.
After Madden suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out last night, Bruce Feldman of CBS pointed out that the Trojans lack firepower without Madden and receiver Marqise Lee on the field:
Skill players dwindling. RT @USC_Athletics: USC RB Tre Madden is out for the rest of the game with a hamstring injury.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) October 11, 2013
Before the season started, the receivers—namely Lee—were expected to carry USC. Lee and Nelson Agholor both have over 350 yards receiving, but just behind them is Madden with 13 receptions for nearly 200 yards.
Thursday night marked the second time that he didn't go over 100 yards due to the injury, but where Madden sets himself apart is his knack for finding the end zone. The sophomore has three touchdowns on the ground and four through the air.
In the first game since Kiffin was fired, it was evident in the first half that Madden was the premiere back for interim coach Ed Orgeron. Though he suffered the hamstring injury, it doesn't appear he'll be out long according to Mike Piellucci from 247 Sports:
Tre Madden said after the game that his hamstring isn't a concern and that he could have gone back in if need be. Staff rested him for ND.— Mike Piellucci (@mikelikessports) October 11, 2013
But after Madden went down with a hamstring injury at the end of the first half, Davis and yet another sophomore in Javorius Allen took over. Both backs finished the game with touchdowns—Allen had his first two of the season—and Davis looked like a back ready to carry the load if Madden does go down for longer than expected.
Madden has proven all season that he can carry the load, averaging 114 yards per game prior to his 28 yards Thursday night because of injury, and Davis did the same against Boston College and Utah State, averaging just 10 touches, but 109 yards and two touchdowns in those games.
In addition to the young backs for the Trojans, senior Silas Redd, who led USC in rushing last season, came back from a knee injury earlier in the year to rush 19 times for 80 yards in the 38-31 win over Arizona.
Not since Reggie Bush and LenDale White combined for over 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns has there been a tandem that was able to rush and catch the ball as well as Madden and Davis. While Trojan fans might not see a great amount of success with the duo this season, this could be a dangerous backfield for at least another year.