Getting ready for a hot run

No more piddling 70 plays a game this week for USC with an ASU team in town and the temperature expected to be in the mid-90s for Saturdays 4:30 kickoff at the Coliseum, expect the plays to be in the mid-90s as well.

The talk on a Tuesday when the Trojans were still a little bit sore from Saturday but in full pads and trying to shake it off was about this coming Saturday. And a 4:30 Coliseum start aganst an Arizona State team that ran 111 plays last week against UCLA, almost exactly double the 56 Oregon State managed.

This week, Steve Sarkisian said he expects "with both teams going to play fast" that you're looking at a game with plays numbering "in the mid-90s" for both teams. And this is a USC team that has averaged just 70 plays a game since the 105 in the opener against Fresno State.

That changes the personnel needs for a relatively healthy USC team that didn't need much of a rotation against the Beavers, didn't need Greg Townsend Jr. and Cody Temple up front even though they were back and ready. But they'll need them -- and plenty more -- this week, Sark said.

Especially so against the first of five Pac-12 South opponents, all of whom will have more preparation time for the USC game than the Trojans will have.with ASU (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) one of three South opponents coming off a Thursday night game with two extra days to get ready. Two others, UCLA and Colorado, have an extra week. None of the five play the Saturday before the USC game.

"I just noticed that," Sark said. "I didn't think about that before this."

But now that he has, Sark says, here's his approach. "So much of what we're doing is about us, about us doing the little things right . . . we're getting close."

And yes, it is something to think about, Sark said, when "everybody's getting more time to prepare . . . but I really didn't make a big deal about it."

But concentrating on USC being USC and maybe less on preparing for a specific opponent might be exactly what this youngish team needs. Might be really a good thing.

"Teams do a lot of different things on us," Cody Kessler said, changing their look on film to something USC often hasn't seen. "We just have to be prepared."

"We're getting info on them," Sark said of ASU and he can tell you what a challenge a "versatile" D.J. Foster is going to be as a runner and pass-catcher and how the Sun Devils give you so many sets and looks on offense and on a defense run by head coach Todd Graham

"Coach Graham does a really good job with that defense," Kessler said, "He gives you different looks and you know the blitzes will be coming."

The UCLA blowout giving up 62 points -- the same number ASU posted on USC last year in Tempe -- "was a little bit of an aberration," Sark said. "They missed some tackles against UCLA."

Which is just the idea for this week with Sark starting Sunday by talking to his running backs about running by people in the open field, something that did not happen in the Oregon State game.

"I didn't take it as an insult," Buck Allen said of Sark talking to him about "being a great back not just a good back" and how "you have to make people miss at the second level. We've just got to make people miss . . . it's all about instincts when you get there, they can't teach you that."

But they can get you thinking about it, Sark said, "and developing a plan getting to the second level," whether the plan involves a deadleg move or a stiffarm or whatever, "it's about getting them to have an awareness of it."

Buck said he didn't know why it didn't happen Saturday. Are the slower-tempo practices with more focus on Scout team work the issue? That's where Sark says he's attacking it when the backs get to that second level, as they often do against the Scout team, even if it's not full-go and no tackling, that's when "it has to be applied."

And after the way UCLA's guys ran past the Sun Devils a week ago, it just may be there for the taking -- if USC will only take it.

After all, Justin Davis took it last year with his 122-yards-on-10-carries game for three touchdowns (from 26, 15 and 58 yards out) in Tempe. And James Toland was getting a lot of run Tuesday as well with a trio of Trojan backs looking like they're going to try to see if ASU's tackling really was an "aberration."


Tailback Tre Madden was in pads for the first time in more than a month that he's been out with turf toe and managed to do individual drills -- "minimal work" Sark called it before "we shut it down . . . We're taking it day by day," Tre said when asked about his Saturday prospects . . . Victor Blackwell again was not in attendance at practice and Sark said in describing the junior wide receiver's situation after playing in just the Fresno State opener and then disappearing after the Boston College game that "there is not even a limbo for him to be in . . . we haven't seen him in two weeks . . . if he wants to come in and talk to me . . . " . . . Lamar Dawson's rehab, it seems, is coming along slowly enough now that it looks pretty clear that the senior linebacker after knee surgery last fall will most likely redshirt. He was here in pads but no work in team at all.

For a wrapup of Tuesday morning's practice, check out TUESDAY ASU WEEK GHOST NOTES.

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