Defense is a positive for USC in wake of loss

Defense is a positive for USC in wake of loss
USC defensive end Leonard Williams, right, and linebacker Devon Kennard force Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday to fumble the ball during the first half of Saturday's loss to the Cougars. (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

While USC fans booed Lane Kiffin's play-calling during the Trojans' 10-7 loss to Washington State last week, the defense has mostly earned raves.

Going into Saturday's nonconference game against Boston College, the defense has given up only one touchdown in two games. The Trojans rank first nationally in rushing defense (15 yards a game) and sacks (11).


USC is 11th in total defense (226.5 yards a game) and 19th in scoring defense (11.9 points a game).

In January, after Kiffin's father Monte resigned, Kiffin hired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who installed a "52" scheme.

Kiffin attributed the Trojans' early success to a physical approach and the change in schemes.

"Just really excited about how multiple we are," Kiffin said. "The decision we made in January to make a change, and to make a change and go out and find a system that we want in here, and it's been a great two games so far."

Boston College running back Andre Williams has rushed for 318 yards in victories over Villanova and Wake Forest. Quarterback Chase Rettig, who played at Pasadena La Salle and San Clemente high schools, has passed for four touchdowns, with an interception.

"This is different than what we've just faced in the last two weeks, the style of play," Kiffin said. "This is much more like a Stanford type of offense. Heavy run game, a lot of extra big bodies and deep play-action pass.

"This will be a very good test for us."

Meeting of minds

Receiver Marqise Lee confirmed that players met without coaches on Sunday to discuss several issues after the loss to Washington State.

Lee, linebacker Hayes Pullard and linebacker Devon Kennard were among speakers, Lee said.

"We talked amongst ourselves," Lee said. "Just something we had to do within, not necessarily with the coaches. . . . Just keep that positive mind-set as a team. Make sure we're all moving forward from this point.

"Coaches put that on you too, but it's better coming [from teammates] because you know it's going to come from the coaches."

Quick hits

Cornerback Anthony Brown, who suffered an undisclosed injury against Hawaii, was not in uniform for practice. Tailback Silas Redd (knee) dressed but left early with other injured players.


Twitter: @latimesklein