It was USC's defense that got the Trojans to the 3-1 mark this season, but it was also their defense that came under attack two weeks ago against Arizona State in the 62-41 loss. So we're going back to the defensive side of the ball for this week's Unit Breakdown.
The Trojans had a top-five defense, but they were exposed for the first time this season, giving up 612 yards to the Sun Devils.
So I caught up with the linebackers to see how they will get their rhythm back hosting Arizona Thursday night.
Former head coach Lane Kiffin called their performance in the desert "disastrous." The Trojan defense went in third in the nation and left at No. 14. USC linebackers Lamar Dawson and Athony Sarao blame a lack of focus for the massacre.
"We wasn't focused. We had a lot of little mistakes. We just wasn't focused pretty much," said Dawson.
"It was just a bunch of little stuff, I mean, when we came out, we weren't as focused as we should have been," said Sarao. "It was just a lot of little mistakes. You can say it's the effort, but at the end of the day we just didn't execute like we should have."
The linebackers will try to mkae up ground under new interim head coach Ed Orgeron. According to Dawson, that means emulating the same energy as Orgeron...or at least a fraction of it.
"Coach O just wants us to keep the energy and practice how we play," said Dawson.
"Just a lot of little things that we do out here every day in practice that we wasn't executing," said Sarao. "We're doing a lot more individual work, a lot more fundamentals. Just getting better every day. You know we're going to work on our things but we want to just get better every day too."
Orgeron may be the new leader of Troy, but Sarao says it's the players, not the coach, who have to make the change.
"I don't know if there is a difference. We're just coming out here every day working hard. I mean it's not 'oh Coach O is the new coach,' it doesn't change anything. We have to come out here and execute like we do everyday," said Sarro.
When Orgeron took over, he promised to bring the "fun and joy" back to USC football. That meant bringing back desserts to the training table and he even catered Roscoe's chicken and waffles for the team. While these treats won't make the Trojans score more touchdowns, the players say it boosts morale.
"Little things do matter," said Sarro. "I'm not going to say it makes us come out here and run faster. It makes you feel better, makes you feel like you have a coach that cares for you and treat us sometimes. So we're going to come out here and work for what he gave us."
"Cookies and Roscoe's chicken and waffles really do make a difference," said Dawson. "We not used to it. We didn't get it and now. It's a change, we're having fun and it doesn't really matter what we eat."
From the blowout in the desert to Kiffin's firing, the Trojans have been knocked down. But Sarao says it's giving them the chance to stand up together.
"We're definitely coming closer. I mean, when you have adversity, you got to come closer. You have to turn the negatives into positives and that's what we're trying to do," said Sarao.
The Men of Troy will try to bounce back this Thursday night against Arizona. It's a historic game, the first non-Thanksgiving non-bowl game played on a Thursday night in the Coliseum. Even more reason for the Trojan defense to show up.
"We're going to be juiced up on Saturday, I mean Thursday, I keep saying Saturday. We're going to be juiced up on Thursday because we've never had it before. Coach O, he's fired up so we're going to come out," said Sarao. "He's just been saying since the Arizona State game that Thursday is coming and it's our night, our night to show out and show we are Trojans and that we're going to fight on."
Both the Trojans and the Wildcats will be playing for their first conference win of the season. The Trojan defense--once No. 2 against the run in the nation--will have to bring it all as they square off against Ka'Deem Carey, a premier running back. Carey already has over 400 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Be sure to keep it on Fox Sports SCPlaybook.com throughout the week. I'll be keeping my eye on the linebackers on Thursday to bring you the Unit Recap this weekend.