USC collapsed in the final four minutes of a defeat by Arizona State at the Coliseum and then nearly blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter in a victory at Arizona.
So game management is the topic of concern at USC.
As the No. 22 Trojans prepare for Saturday’s game against Colorado at the Coliseum, Coach Steve Sarkisian said his staff was focused on handling the final minutes of the game on both offense and defense.
Not only the last few minutes, but as many as seven or eight.
“We really need to remain a little bit more aggressive,” Sarkisian said Tuesday after practice.
USC went conservative in the fourth quarter against Arizona.
The Trojans had three possessions, but quarterback Cody Kessler passed for only one yard.
“The old, traditional way of milking the clock, just trying to eat up possessions and whatnot, I don’t know if that’s exactly where we need to be,” Sarkisian said.
The Trojans survived when Arizona missed a field-goal attempt.
“It shouldn’t have been that close,” linebacker Su’a Cravens said after the game.
As the Trojans embark on the second half of the season, Sarkisian hopes to avoid similar situations when the Trojans leads.
The goal this week is to develop a strategy so that “if we get put in that scenario again, either this weekend and in weekends to come, we have a plan that we believe in,” Sarkisian said.
While Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Clay Helton continue to emphasize the need for “explosive” plays, receiver George Farmer continues to work for opportunities to stretch the field.
Farmer, one of the fastest players on the team, did not catch a pass against Arizona.
Asked whether he was frustrated, Farmer said no.
“I just have to be prepared when my number’s called,” the junior said.
Farmer said all Trojans receivers were “perfect candidates” for long passes.
“We all have a bunch of speed, we all possess different talents,” Farmer said, adding, “I’m pretty sure they have faith in all of us.”
Nelson Agholor caught seven passes, JuJu Smith four and Darreus Rogers two against Arizona.
Sarkisian said Farmer was “in the mix” for explosive plays.
“We called a couple shots for him the other night — the coverage didn’t give us exactly what we were looking for him to make the play down the field,” Sarkisian said.
Among players that start or rotate in for Colorado on defense, the majority are freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores, Coach Mike MacIntyre said.
“We’ve got to be the youngest defense in America,” MacIntyre said during the Pac-12 coaches teleconference.
Colorado is giving up 35.7 points and 419 yards a game.
“They are growing up,” MacIntyre said of the defense. “You just kind of want to make them grow up a little faster.”
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams did not practice because of shoulder soreness, Sarkisian said. Williams aggravated a lingering shoulder issue against Arizona. His status for the Colorado game will be determined as the week progresses. Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who suffered a hip-flexor injury against Arizona, did not dress in pads and only shadowed other cornerbacks. Jackson’s status for the Colorado game is uncertain. Redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins worked with the first-team defense in Jackson’s place. Cornerback Kevon Seymour, who left the Arizona game because of illness, practiced…. Fullback Soma Vainuku (hamstring) did not practice.