Notebook: Robey denies Criner

With Arizona refusing to blitz and the offensive line offering solid protection, Lane Kiffin lets quarterback Matt Barkley throw 39 times.

LOS ANGELES – USC corner Nickell Robey admitted it. He was excited knowing he would be lining up against Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner, regarded as a likely first-round in the next NFL draft.

"For me, I'm a little extra hyped up because I know there are going a lot of attempts coming his way," Robey said.

Robey was able to keep Criner largely under wraps, limiting the senior to three receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown. After struggling against Arizona State's bigger receiver last week, the sophomore was allowed to play more press coverage.

"At practice, we tightened up our coverage," Robey said. "We really got in the face of our guys like (Kyle Prater) and the taller receivers. We knew that Criner was a great wide receiver. Our coaches really got on us about not letting them just push us around and do what they want with us and turn it around and let us jam them and reroute them."

But Criner was one of nine Wildcats with three or more catches Saturday, part of a strategy to make Arizona sustain drives and deny big plays.

It worked, even as quarterback Nick Foles finished with 425 yards passing and four touchdowns. His longest completion was a 27-yard catch-and-run score by running back Ka'Deem Carey.

The Trojans stayed mostly in their base defense, in part because corner Torin Harris did not play because of a shoulder injury. In his place, redshirt freshman Anthony Brown made his first career start.

Brown was told on Tuesday by assistant head coach Monte Kiffin that he would start, but the defense was still designed to limit any potential mistakes.

"It was frustrating, but they got good players on that side of the ball too," said Brown of Arizona's dinking and dunking. "It was a battle. That's just what we do."

Passing Fancy
After quarterback Matt Barkley threw 45 passes against Minnesota, USC head coach Lane Kiffin said he was hesitant to do so on a regular basis given the inexperience of the offensive line.

On this day, there were no such concerns.

"The pass protection really held up well today. We helped in some areas that we were exposed last weekend," he said.

Part of the reason was Arizona's refusal to blitz, relying on its defensive line in hopes of generating pressure and dropping seven defenders into coverage.

"They pressured maybe once or twice," Barkley said. "If they just rush four, it's an easy day for our line."

Barkley has now been sacked just four times in five games.

It also helped that the Wildcats were focused on stopping the run after allowing 25 carries of 10-plus yards in their last three games. Arizona started Rob Hankins in the middle for the first time this season, moving Paul Vassallo outside.

"Once we saw that change in warm-ups, really was leaning that way to throw the ball anyway but really just kept going that direction," Kiffin said.

Injury Update
Running back Marc Tyler (bruised quad) came out of the game briefly, but later returned.

Wide receiver Marqise Lee had his fingers X-rayed after jamming them on a 45-yard reception to start the fourth quarter, but later returned.

Linebacker Lamar Dawson (ankle), and running back Amir Carlisle (ankle) did not play.

Woods Watch
Sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods now has 55 receptions in five games, the most in any five-game span in USC history.

Keyshawn Johnson had 46 starting with the final game of the 1994 season and continuing through the first four games of 1995.

Woods also joined Johnson and Dwayne Jarrett as the only Trojans with two career 200-yard receiving performances.


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