USC is relying more on Justin Davis to carry the load

USC running back Justin Davis leaps over the line for a three-yard gain in the first half.

USC running back Justin Davis leaps over the line for a three-yard gain in the first half.

(Justin Edmonds / Getty Images)

Tre Madden was sidelined because of injury. Ronald Jones II could not break free for a long gain.

So Justin Davis stepped up for USC against Colorado, and the junior could be the workhorse tailback going into Saturday’s game at Oregon.

Davis had a team-best 85 yards in 14 carries and caught three passes for 28 yards in the Trojans’ 27-24 victory at Colorado, which kept USC in the hunt for the Pac-12 Conference South Division title.

Davis has rushed for 505 yards and five touchdowns for a Trojans team that will advance to the conference championship game for the first time if it defeats Oregon and UCLA.


Davis averaged 6.1 yards per carry against Colorado, which USC interim Coach Clay Helton said “loaded the box” to stop the run.

And for the second time in three games, Davis picked up a clinching first down on the Trojans’ final possession.

“That’s the physical nature that he brings to the table week in and week out,” Helton said.

Davis appears to be getting stronger as the season has progressed, an achievement for a back who suffered a broken ankle midway through the 2013 season and came back from surgery to serve as Javorius Allen’s backup last season.

Now 20, Davis’ physical maturation was evident during spring practice and he has shown improved strength in all areas this season.

He also has developed into a go-to back in clutch situations.

On a third-and-six play against California two weeks ago, Davis picked up seven yards, enabling the Trojans to run out the clock in a 27-21 victory.

Against Colorado, Davis gained 29 yards on his first carry. Later in the series, he was fortunate that a fumble near the goal line was recovered by receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

But the Trojans still turned to Davis when it counted most.

With USC clinging to a three-point lead and less than two minutes left, the Trojans faced a third-and-eight situation. Helton called on Davis, who ran for 13 yards to clinch the victory.

Impressed by the Trojans


Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich is impressed by the Trojans.

“You turn on the tape and quickly get slapped in the face with how good USC is,” Helfrich told Oregon’s website. “Our guys will be excited about that challenge.”

Oregon is coming off a 38-36 victory over Stanford.

The Ducks, who have won four games in a row, must defeat the Trojans and Oregon State — and have California defeat Stanford on Saturday — to have a chance win the Pac-12 North.

Depth charge

In recent seasons, the loss of linebackers Cameron Smith and Lamar Dawson because of season-ending injuries might have doomed USC.

But 12 scholarship linebackers have played, so the Trojans should be able to weather the absences.

Junior Su’a Cravens remains the top playmaker with 12 tackles for loss, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Senior Anthony Sarao has a team-best three quarterback hurries and two sacks.

Freshman Osa Masina has 24 tackles, including 1 1/2 for loss.

Helton said sophomore Olajuwon Tucker, junior Michael Hutchings, sophomore Uchenna Nwosu and, possibly, junior Jabari Ruffin would have opportunities to fill the void left by Smith and Dawson.

Quick hit


Kickoff time for USC’s Nov. 28 game against UCLA will be announced by Monday, after the televising networks make their selections. The game could start at 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.