USC football: Defense to be challenged by Utah State, coach says

USC's Hayes Pullard, left, breaks up a pass intended for Boston College receiver Dan Crimmins as Lamar Dawson helps on defense in the second quarter at the Coliseum.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

While USC worked to overcome challenges on offense during its first three games, the defense was consistently dominant.

But as the Trojans enjoyed their 35-7 victory over Boston College, Coach Lane Kiffin acknowledged Sunday the defense has not been severely tested.

“We haven’t really been challenged compared to what’s coming, “ Kiffin said during a teleconference with reporters.

Utah State and quarterback Chuckie Keeton are coming up next at the Coliseum on Saturday.

USC ranks second nationally in rushing defense, giving up 43.7 yards per game. The Trojans are fourth in total defense (212.3 yards per game) and eighth in scoring defense (10.0 points a game).


Utah State defeated Weber State, 70-6, on Saturday to improve to 2-1. The Aggies are averaging 49.3 points and 550.3 yards a game.

Keeton, a junior from Houston, has passed for 12 touchdowns, with one interception, and also has rushed for 187 yards and a touchdown.

Kiffin compared Keeton to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

“You can’t tackle him, he runs around and makes every throw, he doesn’t seem to get rattled and he plays great in big games,” Kiffin said. “This is a really special player.”

Praise for line

USC’s oft-maligned offensive line paved the way for the Trojans’ 257-yard rushing effort against Boston College.

The Trojans are averaging 196 yards rushing a game.

“There’s some good stuff going on up there,” Kiffin said of the line.

Senior right tackle Kevin Graf said the Trojans’ 10-7 loss to Washington State motivated the entire team.

“Everybody was [angry] and didn’t take practice lightly,” Graf said. “And we needed it.”

Kiffin praised left tackle Chad Wheeler, left guard Max Tuerk, center Marcus Martin and Graf.

Right guard, however, apparently remains an issue.

Senior John Martinez started the opener against Hawaii. Junior Aundrey Walker started against Washington State and Boston College.

Flagged for errors


After committing only three penalties the week before, USC was penalized 10 times for 100 yards against Boston College, including an offside infraction that nullified a touchdown scored on a blocked punt.

Kiffin sounded most concerned about three personal-foul penalties.

“We’ve got to fix that,” Kiffin said. “We’ve got to work on it.”

Quick hits

Kiffin declined to provide an update on freshman receiver Darreus Rogers, who suffered an apparent ankle injury in the first quarter Saturday and did not return. If Rogers is unable to play Saturday, it would leave the Trojans with only four scholarship receivers — Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor, De’Von Flournoy and Victor Blackwell…. Kiffin said he hoped senior tailback Silas Redd would play this week. Redd, however, was held out of full-contact drills during training camp and has not practiced in full uniform since undergoing a knee procedure a few weeks ago…. The announced crowd of 62,006 for the game against Boston College was USC’s smallest at the Coliseum since Oct. 1, 2011, when the Trojans defeated Arizona, 48-41, in front of an announced crowd of 63,707…. Kickoff for the Utah State game is 12:30 p.m.

Twitter: @latimesklein