It could not be less about the score here. As it really wasn't last week against Arkansas State when the 55-6 score probably didn't accurately reflect how that game went. As Arkansas State is still trying to figure out, that wasn't a 55-6 game. USC wasn't that good. The Red Wolves not that bad.
So forget the scoreboard focus. Keep your eyes on a number of other things. Things that in Week 2 must be handled better than they were in Week 1. Although as far as Week 1 was concerned, it was just that -- the first time out of the box and about what you would have expected.
The first imperative is simply this, as Steve Sarkisian and a number of Trojans echoed this week: the Week 1 to Week 2 improvement curve. It should be the biggest of the season for a single week.
In USC's case, maybe even more so with those 13 freshmen among 23 Trojan newcomers. That's the first thing that has to happen here. As Cody Kessler made clear, this is the week to go from "good to great."
And for those first-time guys, "no more what to expect," Kessler said. It's just plain "expect." They're veterans now.
So here's what we expect:
NO SURPRISES, NO EXCUSES ON THE O-LINE: Just get the job done. Get it together. Start playing up to your size and physicality. Start pushing people around. Get a push on short yardage. Don't make Tre Madden have to break one for 65 yards to get to a 100-yard game. Don't leave him with seven rushes of three-or-fewer yards. That's inexcusable against an Arkansas State no matter how scrappy the Red Wolves may have played. We'd like to see them play the way this USC defense is expected to play: with their eyes as much as anything. No more running past people on screens and not seeing them. No more drive-stopping Aundrey Walker ole'-look-the-other-way plays. And that would allow Clay Helton to get into a playcalling rhythm and not have to dial up home run balls on third-and-long.
EVEN MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE FRESHMEN: No program in the Pac-12 had more freshmen making more plays than USC did in Week 1 -- and almost certainly no other ranked program anywhere did, either . But that has to be amped up this week. More responsibility for them. More turning them loose, seeing what they can do -- on both sides of the ball but especially on defense.
GET THE RUN GAME RIGHT: Working Justin Davis in, after he pretty much missed fall camp, could not be more important. Getting the timing down with the line so there are no more plays where, from the handoff, a USC back is already looking for an alternate route, well, that has to stop. No wonder Tre said he didn't hit it up there the way he felt he should. He wasn't convinced that "up there" would be any sort of seam. As to the three freshmen, see above. Just more than six carries for each of the RJII, Cedric and DD trio. That's really all they need now. Get 'em a seam and get out of the way.
GET ADOREE' GOING: After the opening game hip/abdominal issue, getting Adoree' into the offense/defense/special teams swing of things is more important this week than we might have originally thought. Just get a rhythm going, much as it's needed for the playcallers and the quarterbck, you need it for your most talented player who figures into all three phases of the game so there's a comfort level going before the Stanford and Arizona State games.
GET CODY, RECEIVERS ON THE SAME PAGE: Sure, Cody might have held on to it a little too long at times or had to let it go a bit early at others on the deep balls that his receivers couldn't catch up to last week. It's a learning experience for everybody when the lights go on. The deep balls seemed to be a little early leaving Cody's hands when line blocking was breaking down. Can't blame him there. Was surprised that some of the receivers didn't seem to get up to speed or get out of their breaks at speed. Again, that and the line blocking has to get it together so that Cody can sit back there with confidence at both ends of the passing game.
GET DEFENDERS TO THE FOOTBALL: As well as the Trojans ran to the football in Week 1, as much as they managed to swarm and gang-tackle, the one thing to work on this week is the getting disengaged from blockers better. Do that more effectively and this team will have a chance to be special -- especially against the run and a running quarterback. Got to get to the pocket passers when they give you the chance.
PUT THE SPECIAL IN ALL SPECIAL TEAMS: Sark said this week they're going to keep working on the kicking component of special teams. Saturday would be a good time to amp that up. The coverage game was special against Arkansas State. What a little depth, and a lot of young talent that can run, will do for you. Very encouraging. Just keep on keeping on there.
JUST KEEP GETTING BETTER: This is the week to do it. Forget the score. Forget the next two weeks. Today is all that matters. Great teams take care of their business one game at a time. Young teams get better one game at a time. This is this team's chance.
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