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USC’s running game hits midseason snag

By in Press Enterprise on October 24, 2017

By Joey Kaufman

USC was scoreless when it entered the locker room at halftime of its loss at Notre Dame on Saturday. It was only the second time this decade that the Trojans had been held without a point in the first half.

What led to the scoring drought?

One explanation appeared clear enough. The Trojans were held to minus-4 rushing yards, unable to move the ball on the ground against a physical Fighting Irish front seven. USC’s longest run of the first half covered 5 yards.

Most of USC’s coaches credited Notre Dame.

“They did a good job up front of just being good and carving up some gaps and doing different things that makes it a challenge,” offensive coordinator Tee Martin said outside the locker room Saturday night.

The Trojans were simply outmanned, Coach Clay Helton said.

“There were more physical beats than assignment errors,” Helton said.

It was a contrast to early September, when USC scored 42 points in a rout over Stanford to open its Pac-12 schedule. The Trojans looked like the bruising bunch, rushing for 307 yards, the most ever allowed by a David Shaw-led team. And against the Cardinal, they ran on 67 percent of their offensive plays.

Since he was named interim coach in 2015 and later retained on a permanent basis, Helton has frequently cited a desire for his offense to be evenly balanced. But the Trojans have struggled to follow through in the past two weeks, seeing an almost 180-degree turn six weeks removed from their win over Stanford.

They ran the ball on 41 percent of their plays at Notre Dame. Against Utah the previous week, it was 40 percent.

The balance was skewed, in part, because the Trojans fell behind in both games and needed to throw more passes in efforts to mount a comeback. But USC also shifted away from its […]    

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