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USC Sports

Stanford figures to slow down USC ... one way or another

Nelson Agholor, Bryan Harper
USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor, left, scores as Fresno State defensive back Bryan Harper defends during the first half of the Trojans’ 52-13 victory Saturday. USC will face a tougher challenge against Stanford this week.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

In its first game with Steve Sarkisian as coach, USC ran a Pac-12 Conference-record 105 plays against Fresno State.

Do not expect a repeat when the Trojans open conference play Saturday at Stanford.

The Trojans and Fresno State both run no-huddle, fact-paced offenses.

Deliberate Stanford, which huddles after each play, ran 62 plays in its 45-0 victory over UC Davis.

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Last season, after his Washington team lost at Stanford, 31-28, Sarkisian accused Stanford of faking injuries to slow the pace.

“I guess that’s how we play here at Stanford,” Sarkisian said after the game. “So we’ll have to prepare for that next time.”

Stanford Coach David Shaw denied the allegation and said Stanford won games the right way.

Sarkisian later said he stood by what he saw and that two people could disagree on something and move on.

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The coaches are expected to be asked about the situation during media availability Tuesday.

Controlling interest

Defensive lineman Leonard Williams lived up to the hype in USC’s 52-13 win over Fresno State.

The junior, projected as first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, controlled the line of scrimmage and intercepted a pass.

The level of competition will be substantially elevated against Stanford.

The Cardinal once again will deploy a big and talented offensive line. Tackle Andrus Peat, a 6-foot-7, 316-pound junior, is projected as top NFL prospect.

The 6-5, 300-pound Williams made seven tackles against Fresno State.

Sarkisian said Williams had a “fantastic” performance.

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Williams got his second career interception late in the first half.

“It felt pretty wild,” said Williams, who returned the interception 10 yards.

Williams also intercepted a pass against Arizona State during his freshman season in 2012. He returned it 24 yards.

“I never thought I’d get another one,” he said. “It happened so fast, and it was crazy to have the ball in my hands.”

First impression

Quarterback Cody Kessler gave Sarkisian reason for optimism by passing for four touchdowns and a career-best 394 yards against Fresno State.

Sarkisian said he was impressed by Kessler’s toughness, especially on several third-down passes when the quarterback knew he would be hit.

Kessler also rushed for 28 yards and a touchdown.

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Last season, Kessler completed 25 of 37 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown in a 20-17 victory over Stanford at the Coliseum.

Veteran presence

Most to the attention after Saturday’s victory was on contributions provided by first-year players, including freshmen receivers JuJu Smith, Adoree’ Jackson and freshman tight end Bryce Dixon.

But junior Nelson Agholor produced his second multi-touchdown performance. He also scored two touchdowns in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl victory over Fresno State.

Agholor’s most spectacular play in the opener came on a pass down the right sideline. The ball hit his shoulder pad and then bounced high. Agholor never lost concentration, catching the ball as he dived.

“It was a little awkward deal because I was running, really digging, thinking it was going to be further and I ended up meeting it earlier than I wanted to,” Agholor said. “So I lost in my blindside. So I had to relocate it.

“I needed that one.”

Agholor finished with five receptions for 57 yards.


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