After struggling to control the line of scrimmage against Stanford last week, the USC defensive line bounced back in a big way against Arizona State.
Defensive line coach Chris Wilson was happy with how his unit performed against a very potent Sun Devils offense.
"They improved and we got what we emphasized," Wilson said about the Trojan defensive line. "I was pleased that these guys are buying in and just trying to improve every week. The biggest thing I know is we have great kids, they don't ever try to go out there and lose a game. We just have to keep improving the standard from week to week and that's what they did."
The biggest change from a week ago was how the USC defense performed on the early downs.
"We were really able to manage first downs," Wilson said. "So we got a lot more opportunities to rush on third and longs than we had a week ago. That was really the key to any success on defense, if you can control first and second down, you really get into manageable situations on third down and rush the passer. The kids did a great job of that."
Redshirt senior nose tackle Antwaun Woods made the trip to Tempe but he did not play due to a shoulder injury. Wilson moved over fellow redshirt senior Claude Pelon into the nose tackle spot to start in Woods' place.
"I was comfortable and ready to go," Pelon said after the game. "I practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday, put in the work and I was ready to go. I didn't do anything different, I just went out there and played."
Like Wilson, Pelon was generally happy with how the defensive line performed.
"I think there was a lot of good stuff, some things we have to go back into the film room and clean up," he said. "But overall, we got the win.
"We wanted to stop the run game, try to be consistent in the run game. If we are consistent in the run game, we are ahead of the sticks and that is how we see it."
Keeping ahead of the sticks was important for the Trojan defense, forcing Arizona State into more difficult third down situations.
"We got them into third and long and that was the key," Wilson said. "As a play caller, you don't spend an inordinate amount of time on third and two, there are really no great calls. So if you've done a great job on normal downs it gives you an opportunity on third downs."
After falling behind Stanford, the defensive line wasn't able to mix up the pass rush with twists and stunts as the Cardinal brought in extra offensive linemen and focused on running the football.
But with the early success against the Sun Devils, Wilson was able to mix things up a bit.
"We put a few games in that we talked about during the week, but they were all predicated on what we did on first and second down," Wilson said. "I know that sounds redundant, but there is no great call for coach [Justin]Wilcox on third and two. And so when we got into some third and six, third and seven personnel the routes have to get up the field, which gives your rushers the chance now to become rushers."
The Trojans were able work in true freshmen Rasheem Green, Noah Jefferson, Jacob Daniel and Porter Gustin as part of the rotation of Wilson's front-four.
"The [freshmen] are improving," Wilson said. "By playing it allows them to realize how important practice is. They way you practice is the way you play. The more reps they get the more they will improve.
"I really like that group of guys and I like their attitude and the ability that they have."
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates from USC's big win over Arizona State.
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