FIRST LOOK: Southern Cal

IT'S ABOUT the offense of late for USC. Their offensive line and ability to run the ball surprised 18th ranked Arizona this past Saturday. But the No. 20 ranked Trojans still have three Pac-10 losses, and have looked underwhelming in some wins this season. Can the Beavers right the ship at home in a nationally televised nighttime tilt against Troy? TSX takes a closer look at USC..

It was Turn Back the Clock Night at Arizona Stadium for USC, which rediscovered its Tailback U. mentality.

The 24-21 victory over 18th-ranked Arizona was a grind -- but in a good way. The Trojans played the ultimate game of stop-us-if-you-can, repeatedly sending running back Marc Tyler into the teeth of the Wildcats' defense.

More often than not, he kept churning away -- 4, 5, 6, yards at a time. When it was over, he had rushed 31 times for 160 yards.

Forget the tailback time-share that the Trojans have used for several years. This was basically all Tyler, all the time.

"I thought the chances of that happening for me were slim to none," Tyler said of getting 31 carries. "I haven't seen anyone run the ball more than 30 times ever."

USC (7-3, 4-3 Pac-10) controlled the ball for 37:27. The Trojans didn't have a play of longer than 23 yards, but just kept moving the chains. They had a 17-play drive that covered only 66 yards.

For the night, they had five drives of at least 10 plays, which is a credit to Tyler and the way their offense line controlled the game.

"We came together as a unit," offensive tackle Tyron Smith said. "We worked on coming together all week and our effort paid off. We love any opportunity we can get to run the ball. Every week we expect to come out and run the ball."

USC will try again Saturday at Oregon State, which just lost to Washington State. With the momentum boost from the Arizona game, the Trojans seem poised to reach a 10-win season, finishing with Oregon State, Notre Dame and at UCLA.

NOTES, QUOTES
--For the second consecutive week, USC returned a blocked PAT for a two-point defensive conversion. Well, kind of. The Trojans pulled off the trick against Arizona State, one of the key plays in a 34-33 victory on Nov. 6. With 1:01 left against Arizona, Matt Kalil blocked an extra-point attempt, which was scooped up by Shareece Wright, who sprinted into the end zone ... but the play was called back because of an offsides penalty. Arizona then converted the kick to pull within 24-21.

--USC's 46 rushing attempts against Arizona were a season-high.

--RB Marc Tyler's 31 carries were the most for a USC running back since a 2002 game against Cal, when Sultan McCullough had 39. "I felt like I was in the zone -- I wanted the ball and that's what we needed," Tyler told the Los Angeles Times. "I felt like I was running north-south. To run the ball 31 times, that's crazy."

GAME BALL GOES TO:
RB Marc Tyler -- Shades of the Student Body Left and Student Body Right, Tyler carried the ball 31 times for 160 yards against Arizona in a display of tough, physical running. He had been limited all week in practice because of an ankle injury, but he showed up ready on game day. "I was able to come into the game with fresh legs and I felt great," he said. "Now I feel terrible and my ankle hurts. But during the game I felt good."

KEEP AN EYE ON:
WR Robert Woods -- The true freshman had been slowed a week earlier because of a back injury and illness, but he was QB Matt Barkley's main target Saturday as the passing game took a backseat to the ground attack. Woods finished with eight catches for only 41 yards as USC relied on short passes, but the good news was Woods looked healthy enough for a splashier role for when the Trojans need to take shots downfield.

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Our heart is still here, our passion is still here, we're playing this out not only for the future, but for right now." -- QB Matt Barkley, in the L.A. Times.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed said the USC offensive line was quicker and more athletic that the Wildcats thought they would be. For sure, the Trojans' blockers were getting to the second level and sealing off linebackers, setting the table for RB Marc Tyler's big day. The good news for USC: None of its final three opponents -- Oregon State, Notre Dame and UCLA -- have a particularly good run defense, so that persistent and physical style the Trojans found against Arizona should carry over to success down the stretch.

STILL NEEDS WORK: QB Matt Barkley said he wanted to avoid throwing an interception in the final four games, which is a tall order. And that goal didn't last beyond the Arizona game, although it wasn't his fault. Barkley had a pass deflect off the hands of tight end Jordan Cameron and into the arms of safety Adam Hall. TE Rhett Ellison, who caught a 7-yard touchdown pass, otherwise had a tough game, committing three penalties -- holding, blocking in the back and a false start.

ROSTER REPORT:
--DE James Boyd, who is suspended indefinitely from the football team because of academic issues, recently told the L.A. Times that he will walk on to the basketball team after the season. Boyd is a 6-foot-4, 245-pound redshirt freshman who could add bulk to coach Kevin O'Neill's front line.

--LB Malcolm Smith, who returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown against Arizona State on Nov. 6, had another key play against Arizona. He forced a fumble from WR David Douglas at the USC 15, with CB Shareece Wright recovering, thereby preventing what likely would have been a short field goal attempt.

--S Jawanza Starling (ankle, hamstring) did not suit up for the game.


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