The Trojans held their second and final scrimmage of fall camp Sunday afternoon inside the Coliseum.
While most of the hype this season revolves around USC's star-studded offense, it was their defense who showed up to play in the game-like setting.
"[The defense] really responded," said USC head coach Lane Kiffin following the scrimmage. "Especially after a couple days where the offense outperformed the defense. To come out, in the closest thing we could simulate to a game, was very good to see, with the turnovers, the discipline, and lack of explosive plays. It was really good."
After collecting only nine interceptions during the entire 2011 season, takeaways are now a point of emphasis for the Trojans' defense.
"It's something that we talked about," Kiffin said. "I think that our defensive staff has done a great job with that, you know with [Secondary Coach] Marvin [Sanders] being new and [Linebackers Coach] Scottie [Hazelton] being new, they've really come in and emphasized that, so I think it's paying off.
The defense picked up five turnovers on the day, including a fumble recovery by defensive tackle Antwaun Woods.
The day was over for receiver Marqise Lee before it really ever began.
Due to the scrimmage format, live drills being played during the first half, Lee spent the first half participating in cardio exercises and not on the field.
"The rhythm was a little off here and there but its no excuse," Lee said after the scrimmage. "You understand, no matter if coach wants to see you at half, you should be able to come in and do what you're supposed to do which is make plays, make your blocks, and get everything done."
"I think [the first team offense] weren't real excited about the format of the cardio stuff in the first half and playing in the second half," explained Kiffin when asked if he was surprised the offense didn't run smoother. "But that's no excuse. We've got to perform better and it was disappointing."
Perhaps the most disappointing was the personal foul Lee picked up shortly into the second half.
On a deep route to the end zone, quarterback Matt Barkley intended for Lee who was grabbed by cornerback Ryan Dillard, not once - but twice. Dillard picked up a pass interference penalty, but not before Lee shoved him after the play was whistled dead.
Lee was called for a personal foul and did not return to the scrimmage.
"I talked to the team about it [after the scrimmage]," said Kiffin of using Lee's penalty as a teaching moment, "about not getting frustrated and learning from that. Regardless of who you are, one of our stars, we pulled him and sat him the rest of the game, which I know he didn't like."
"Ryan [Dillard] did a good thing," Lee said. "Because he does it in practice and he talks about it all the time. Ryan always comes up to me like, ‘you know Marquis, this is what I'm going to do to you because I know it's going to happen in a game.' Smart kid. You know what, I appreciate it because I'm pretty sure it is going to happen in a game."
Lee took it upon himself to apologize to his teammates following the scrimmage.
"I said I'd like to apologize to the coaches and the players, especially the defense, especially Ryan," Lee said of his post-scrimmage apology. "I didn't really mean to – I didn't really want to push you like that. I actually told him I forgot that you said you were going to do it to me. I said I apologize, it will never happen in a game."
Lee promised a repeat incident is not on the horizon, whether it be in a game, at practice, or "in general".
"They accepted my apology," he said.
Backup Quarterback Still TBD…
Although Kiffin said he'd like to name a quarterback prior to the season opener because of the limited number of backup reps, no clear timeline is set.
"There's never been a date on that and there won't be," he said following Sunday's scrimmage. "It will be more after some separation and if there's not, we'll just keep going."
Wittek went 6-of-16 for 104 yards, throwing two interceptions. Kessler went 3-of-8 for 29 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown pass to receiver Victor Blackwell.
Defensive end Wes Horton did not participate.
Right tackle Kevin Graf did not participate.
Cornerback Torin Harris did not participate.
Linebacker Lamar Dawson did not participate.
Tight end Junior Pomee did not participate.
Linebacker Dion Bailey did not participate.
Left tackle Aundrey Walker had a false start.
Tailback Silas Redd fumbled on his first carry of the game.
The number three receiving position is still up for grabs, looks like a three horse race between De'Von Flournoy, George Farmer, and Nelson Agholor. Kiffin said they made a point of playing the backup receivers during the scrimmage to see what each one could do.
Sunday was considered a major test for the defensive line, Kiffin said "They looked good. Especially to not have so many guys, so maybe a bunch of names in there that you don't know, especially with the twos, so I think they played well."
Morgan 7/31, TD
Barkley 8/19, 119, TD, 2 INTs
Kessler 3/8, 29, TD
Witek 6/16, 104, 2 INTs
Burnett 4 tackles
Ruffin 4 tackles
Starr 2 INTs
Woods, fumble recovery, forced by Seymour
83 plays, 5 turnovers, 11 penalties – 6 by the defense.
1 yd TD pass Kessler to Blackwell
Heidari – kick
Morgan 20 yard rush
Barkley 25 yd pass to Vainuku