USC returned to practice Sunday with hopes of jump-starting its passing game when it resumes Pac-12 Conference play Thursday at Utah.
But neither players nor coaches anticipate a performance similar to the one they watched or heard about during Saturday’s open date, when West Virginia defeated Baylor, 70-63.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith passed for eight touchdowns and completed all but six of 51 passes. Three West Virginia and three Baylor receivers each amassed more than 100 yards receiving, and one from each team eclipsed 300 yards.
“Just really amazing,” USC Coach Lane Kiffin said.
“I can’t imagine the defenses that were playing that day,” quarterback Matt Barkley said. “Video game numbers.”
“That was crazy,” receiver Marqise Lee said.
USC, which remained No. 13 in the Associated Press media poll and moved up one spot to No. 12 in the coaches’ poll, is still searching for its big-play passing attack.
In last week’s victory over California, USC rushed for nearly 300 yards. Barkley passed for two touchdowns, but he had two passes intercepted and Lee and receiver Robert Woods dropped passes that might have resulted in big plays.
Combining solid rushing and big-play passing in one game has mostly proved elusive for the Trojans this season.
“It needs to trigger in our heads that we’ve got to get going,” Woods said. “It’s time.”
Kiffin has said that opponents are game-planning for Lee and Woods and presenting game-day schemes not previously shown.
Barkley reiterated that all he cares about is winning, and if the Trojans can achieve that by running the ball, he is fine with the approach. Asked whether he would like to see more balance, Barkley answered before the question was completed.
“I’d like to see more points on the board,” said Barkley, who has passed for 12 touchdowns, with five interceptions. “A lot of our explosive plays come from pass plays. We just want to make sure that we’re putting points on the board.”
Center Khaled Holmes entered practice in full pads and wearing a light brace on his right ankle. After about 30 minutes, he left with a trainer. Holmes returned later and was not in pads.
“I feel great,” he said afterward. “It’s a beautiful day.”
Asked whether he would be a game-time decision against Utah, Holmes said, “I don’t know how that works. You’ve got to talk to Coach Kiffin about that.”
Utah features defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who at 6 feet 4 and 320 pounds is regarded as a top NFL prospect.
“He’s an awesome dude,” Holmes said. “We had a fun game with him last year. It should be another fun one.”
Rank and file
Six Pac-12 teams are ranked in the AP poll — No. 2 Oregon, No. 13 USC, No. 14 Oregon State, No. 18 Stanford, No. 23 Washington and No. 25 UCLA.
“You have some pretty dynamic coaches that have joined” the Pac-12, Kiffin said before he took another jab at the previous USC staff’s recruiting effort. “And I think that’s a result of us not just nailing recruiting over the last five years — players getting away in this conference. That’s been our goal, to stop that, and once we get our numbers back to where we’re allowed to sign more I think that will help as well.”
Sophomore Aundrey Walker and freshman Max Tuerk were splitting first-team reps at left tackle, Kiffin said. . . . None of the teams USC has defeated — Hawaii, Syracuse and Cal — has won a game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.