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USC Ends Camp on a Defensive Note

Paul PeszkoSenior Writer IAugust 23, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 25: Quarterback Aaron Corp #15 of the USC Trojans speaks to the press at the spring game on April 25, 2009 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  The cardinal team won 16-10.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

The final day of fall camp could have been called Flag Day. The eight penalties, three on the offense and five on the defense, broke up the rhythm of the last practice session as the Trojans get ready for the start of classes on Monday.

But despite their five penalties, it was a day for the defense. Not only did they hold the offense to just 180 total yards in 12 drives, but they beat them on the scoreboard as well, pitching a 2-0 shutout win.

Taking over 60 snaps, the Trojan offense could not manage to get past the 36-yard line. After T.J. Bryant downed a Jacob Harfman punt on the one-yard line, linebacker Shane Horton then tackled tailback Curtis McNeal in the end zone for a safety and the only score of the scrimmage.

Switching to free safety for the first unit’s final series, Josh Pinkard made a leaping interception of a Matt Barkley pass in the end zone to preserve the shutout and the defensive victory. It was the only turnover of the day.

The scrimmage ended with the highlight of the day, at least for the offense, a Travon Patterson 45-yard punt return.

Here are the stat leaders.

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Passing:

Matt Barkley 7-13 for 56 yards 0 TD 1 INT

Mitch Mustain 6-12 for 57 yards 0 TD 0 INT

Garrett Green 3-6 for 12 yards 0 TD 0 INT

Rushing:

Stafon Johnson 6-29

Joe McKnight 4-31 (longest 22 yards)

Receiving:

Brice Butler 5-39

David Ausberry 3-36

Joe McKnight 2-12

Ronald Johnson 2-8

Travon Patterson 1-18

Tackles:

Malik Jackson 4 tackles (2 sacks)

Jordan Campbell 4 tackles.

Derek Simmons 3 (1 for a loss, 1 sack)

Devon Kennard 3 (1 for a loss, 1 sack)

So, today’s final Fall Camp workout leaves me wondering? Is the defense really that good? Or is the defense simply ahead of the offense because it’s Fall Camp? Or, is the offense out of sync?

Out of all the statistics above I think the last one is very telling. When your four leading tacklers are three defensive linemen and a linebacker, that is a sign the offense is struggling.

Usually when an offense is able to move the ball, at least one if not two of the leading tacklers will be cornerbacks or safeties. But that apparently isn’t the case. Altogether, the defense recorded ten tackles-for-loss, including six sacks.

No doubt, the defense is playing well, but the offense also appears out of sync and has looked that way over the past three sessions.

For example, today the offense contributed to its lackluster performance with seven dropped passes. That along with tackles-for-loss, sacks and penalties will end drives.

Should the coaching staff be concerned?

Well, they certainly should not run and hide because the sky is falling, but I am sure that Coach Carroll and his staff are more concerned about the sluggish offense than they let on to the media.

After all, this is a defense that lost eight of its starters from last year, and, at least three new starters were out today: Averell Spicer (foot injury), Armond Armstead (broken foot) and Shareece Wright. Yet, the offense was unable to mount a consistent drive.

Of course, the offense was also missing a few starters. Damian Williams sat out today’s tearm period with a thigh contusion. D. J. Shoemate also had a bruised thigh and did not play, and offensive tackle Charles Brown was suffering from a sore back. First team center Kris O’Dowd is out for at least two more weeks with a dislocated knee.

Some good news for the Trojan offense and its lack of consistency, Aaron Corp is scheduled to return this coming Tuesday if he gets medical clearance. Corp has been throwing well in seven-on-seven drives. His return could spark the offense.

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