Run game goes long, pass game to follow?

Behind the blocking of USC's young offensive line, Buck Allen helped the Trojans improve their explosiveness in the ground game at Arizona. Now the passing game has to get on board with the long gainers.

If USC is going to throw the ball down the field more, as Steve Sarkisian says they must every time he talks now, two players involved in doing that would be Steven Mitchell, back all the way from last year's knee surgery, the redshirt freshman assures us, and George Farmer.

And on a day when Cody Kessler had a midterm and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week Buck Allen, moving up in the Heisman race to ESPN's No 10 spot, was headed quickly to class, it's probably good to go to some new sources. You can add running backs coach Johnny Nansen and O-line coach Tim Drevno to that list as well.

After Tuesday morning's full-pads practice, a spirited workout in the Scout team portion looked much more game-speeded-up.

Mitchell just was happy that he was full speed. "Yes . . . yes . . . most definitely," he said of his chance to run slot receiver with the ones. But even more, of his chance to show what he can -- and could -- do. "Yeah, down the field," he said of the offensive emphasis for a second straight week.

They're trying to get us a real feel out there," he said of the Scout guys after just watching the Colorado film. "I thought they did a great job of it. Now all I'm doing is trying to get back into things."

Mission accomplished? "Yes sir," Mitchell said. "Yes sir."

Farmer was analytical. They tried to get him down the field a couple of times at Arizona, didn't get the coverage they hoped for and didn't turn it loose to him. But he's not worried. It'll come.

"As long as they run the ball like that, the pass game will be there," Farmer said. "We're going to play our game . . . going to play Trojan football."

Sark agreed: "We'd like to be able to throw the ball down the field more," he said ticking off the points of emphasis this week -- much the same as last week. That comes after Sark admitted they've been re-thinking their end-of-game strategy for the last seven to eight minutes.

No surprise after USC threw for a single yard in the fourth quarter in Tucson. (Ed. Note: An earlier version of this story based on the quarter-by-quarter stats from the Arizona State game indicated that USC had a minus-one yard passing in the fourth quarter in that game the week before. But that was incorrect when re-checked against the play-by-play. Apparently the first two completions in the fourth quarter were credited to the third quarter. USC actually had 45 yards passing in the fourth quarter of the ASU game.

But that's not the only agenda item

"Young defensive backs making plays and putting pressure on the quarterback," are two others. Notably missing were the O-line and the run game making explosive plays. Buck's career-high 205 yards for three TDs, two of them from 48 and 34 yards out, took care of that.

"That was all Buck," Nansen said. "I'm very proud of him . . . I think our young O-line guys are picking it up and Buck is trusting them . . . and that's when you can expect to see big runs like that."

"They're doing a good job," Drevno said of his young guys. "They're getting there." And "the running backs are getting a feel of the game as it goes on."

That includes Justin Davis, the one real backup for Allen in Arizona who dropped the ball one play and gave Arizona a scoring chance on the deep turnover. "Most of that was physical," Nansen said. "He's trying to break away or finish his run and maybe he's trying too hard to please his coaches . . . we need for him to step up . . . we can't have Buck run 45 snaps in there."

And after returning to the game for three more plays late in the game, Nansen said he felt that's just what Davis did.

Further news from Sark on this day was that yes, after Saturday's finish and Tuesday's practice, freshman John Plattenburg was pushing to start: "Yes," Sark said simply. "He played well enough to consider him starting."

As to the final minutes, Sark said they've brainstorming since Saturday. "It's something we're evaluating . . . we have to remain aggressive . . . if we get into that situation (as they've been the last two weeks against the Arizona schools) we have a plan."

And that's simply this: "In our conference if you don't come ready to play, you will get beat." Especially in the fourth quarter with a lead. Or maybe even more so at home, where the visiting teams have won 14 of the first 18 conference games this season -- something Sark said he wasn't aware of.

"I didn't know that stat," Sark said. "Good work . . . I'll take it."

USC is a big part of it, with road wins over ranked Stanford and Arizona and a last-second loss at home to ASU -- all of which could be termed "upsets" according to the rankings.

And coming into the Coliseum this week: Colorado. "Uh oh."

Footnoted



For those who didn't catch it Friday, the California Court of Appeals has postponed Wednesday's hearing on the NCAA"s appeal to have the Todd McNair lawsuit dismissed and put it off to Nov. 27 saying this: "On the court's own motion, oral argument in the above entitled matter is hereby continued from October 15, 2014 to October 27, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. Oral argument on October 27, 2014 will be limited to the NCAA's motion to seal the record lodged conditionally under seal." . . . The rest of the appeal will be heard at a later date . . . Freshman wide receiver Ajene Harris returned in full pads after his hamstring pull kept him from making the Arizona trip but fullback/special teams specialist Soma Vainuku missed practice to rehab his hamstring pull from the Arizona game . . . Leonard Williams was out of his shoulder pads and helmet and road the bike but stayed away from contact or team stuff . . . Adoree Jackson along with Uchenna Nwosu and Jordan Simmons arrived after 45 minutes out of pads after rehabbing . . . Safety Gerald Bowman and corner Kevon Seymour were both practicing and going with the ones although Gerald was getting in some bike riding between plays for his deep thigh bruise while Kevon was surprisingly going strong from the get-go after not finishing the Arizona game . . . Andre Heidari was out in pads but did not kick with his groin pull that kept him out of the Arizona game as Alex Wood did most of the field goal team work with redshirt Matt Boermeester.

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

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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