Faster tempo gives USC’s uneven offense a boost
By Joey Kaufman
LOS ANGELES — USC refers to the first part of its football practices as its “fastball period.”
It was an idea contrived by former coach Steve Sarkisian, when he took over the program in 2014. Sarkisian wanted to introduce a hurry-up, spread offense to the program.
“You run the play, heads up, then as fast as humanly possible line up on the ball and run the next play,” tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe said of the drill.
The up-tempo flavor also appeared in the Trojans’ 48-17 rout of Arizona State last week. USC’s offense moved briskly downfield on several early drives and scored 31 points before halftime.
“When they’re getting tired, we try to go faster tempo to get things going,” quarterback Sam Darnold said.
In the first half against the Sun Devils, USC averaged 2.8 plays per minute. It was not the first time it used an up-tempo attack last month.
When it defeated Utah two weeks earlier, it averaged a season-high 3.1 plays per minute.
For a comparison, Oregon averaged 2.8 plays per minute in its final season under Chip Kelly, using his ultra-fast spread scheme known as a blur offense.
The quicker pace has worked for the Trojans, who have been uneven on offense for much of this season. They put together their second-highest scoring performance of this season against the Sun Devils, and overcame a 14-point deficit against the Utes, scoring three touchdowns in the second half on drives covering 88 yards or more.
Coach Clay Helton thought his players got in a “flow” at Arizona State.
“We have a bunch of fast athletes, and when we’re going fast, it’s pretty hard to stop for a defense, I’d imagine,” Imatorbhebhe said.
USC’s 83 plays last Saturday were also the second most it has accumulated in a game this season.
“We know we’re at our best when we’re making big […]