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USC rethinking offense strategy after upset loss

USC rethinking offense strategy after upset loss
USC quarterback Cody Kessler calls an audible during Saturday's loss to Boston College. USC Coach Steve Sarkisian is re-evaluating the Trojans' run-first strategy in the wake of their meager rushing performance against the Eagles. (Stephan Savoia / Associated Press)

USC quarterback Cody Kessler could be in for a role change by the time USC plays its next game.

From the day he was hired as USC's coach, Steve Sarkisian spoke about implementing a run-first offense to set up the pass.

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Sarkisian is not expected to completely abandon the philosophy as the Trojans regroup after their upset loss at Boston College. But he acknowledged over the weekend that it would go through exhaustive vetting in the wake of the Trojans' 20-yard rushing effort last Saturday.

The self-examination began Sunday and Monday and will continue Tuesday, when the Trojans practice for the first time since the 37-31 defeat.

USC has an open date this week and resumes its schedule Sept. 27 against Oregon State.

"We have to make sure we're not stubborn," Sarkisian said of an insistence to run the ball.

In the first three quarters against Boston College, USC ran on the first play of a possession nine times and passed four times. The Trojans passed on the first play of each of their three fourth-quarter possessions.

The Trojans ran 31 first-down plays in the game. Twelve were running plays, 19 passes. But 11 of the pass plays came in the fourth quarter.

Kessler ranks 18th nationally in passing efficiency.

The junior has completed 71 of 100 passes for 846 yards and eight touchdowns, without an interception.

Only three other major college quarterbacks have thrown 100 or more passes without an interception: Texas A&M's Kenny Hill, who has 117 attempts, Duke's Anthony Boone (107) and Arkansas State's Fredi Knighten (103).

Kessler completed 31 of 41 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns against Boston College.

He was 11 of 18 for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, 20 of 23 for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the second.

Statistically speaking

The Trojans' poor defensive effort against Boston College sent them plummeting in national statistical rankings.

USC, which has surrendered 412 yards a game, fell from 64th to 84th among 125 major college teams in total defense.

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The Trojans dropped from 68th to 116th in rushing defense (245.7 yards per game) and from 14th to 38th in scoring defense (20 points per game). USC improved from 68th to 21st in pass defense (166.3 ypg.).

USC is 55th in total offense (443 yards per game), 78th in rushing (151 ypg.) and 35th in passing (292 ypg.).

Quick hit

USC's game against Oregon State on Sept. 27 at the Coliseum will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN…. Oregon State is 2-0 after victories over Portland State and Hawaii. The Beavers had an open date last week and play San Diego State on Saturday.

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