USC’s offensive line flashes its future against Washington State
At the start of last week, USC barely had enough linemen to form a full offensive front.
But by Sunday night, in the wake of a 38-13 blowout of Washington State, the Trojans were feeling a whole lot better about their depth at the position.
That had a lot to do with the debut of freshman Courtland Ford, who started at guard in place of Andrew Vorhees. Vorhees, along with his immediate backup, Liam Douglass, and backup center Justin Dedich still were all in isolation, forcing USC to elevate all six of its freshman linemen onto its two-deep depth chart.
It would’ve been a far thinner group if the game had been played before Sunday. But a delay allowed several Trojans to return after a 14-day quarantine.
Behind four touchdown catches by wide receiver Amon-ra St. Brown, USC starts fast and never looks back in a 38-13 victory over Washington State.
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Ford wound up being the only freshman thrust into the starting lineup, and coach Clay Helton said after the game that the veterans up front took him under their wing.
Helton said left tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker and center Brett Neilon told him, “Don’t worry, Coach, we got our baby. We’re gonna take care of him.”
“And they did, they really did. I thought they had him prepared and had him ready and he played a really good game.”
Freshmen Jonah Monheim and Casey Collier also were able to play late as USC went to its bench.
“It was nice to get some of the future of this O-line in,” Helton said.
The stat line, sans context, was concerning. With 20 carries, USC managed a mere five yards rushing, four of which came on its final drive in garbage time. It was the lowest total for a Trojans offense since Sept. 2018, when Texas held USC to minus-five yards rushing.
In addition to a 37-yard interception return, USC safety Talanoa Hufanga finished with a team-high nine tackles and a sack in the Trojans’ win.
But after a blowout victory, Helton wasn’t that concerned.
“I wish we could’ve run it a little better in the second half,” Helton said, “but with the seven-, eight-man fronts we were looking at, with cover-1, cover-3, some zone pressure — it really challenged us early. We haven’t seen that much as far as saying ‘OK, let’s see if you can pitch and catch and hold up in protection.’”
Nick Figueroa finished with three sacks, more than any Trojans pass rusher had over the season’s first three games. … Olaijah Griffin didn’t start against the Cougars, instead giving way to Isaac Taylor-Stuart. But the junior cornerback made the best of his limited reps, securing his first career interception late in the first quarter.
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