Sark stand-in answers (y)our questions

We missed him Sunday on his conference call so here we make up for it with a stand-in for Steve Sarkisian this bye week.

We know how much you look forward to the weekly conference call with Steve Sarkisian and how much you -- and we -- missed it for the "miscommunication" of the bye week Sunday that made it a no-go.

But we had our questions all ready to go. And with the excitement of the 42-14 romp over Arizona State fresh in all our minds, there's always a chance for more -- and more extensive -- answers.

Here we go. We'll still do the questions. And we'll have, much like with the famed "Fake Bo Pelini" of a year ago, our own "Fake Steve Sarkisian" (FSS here) in to answer them.

USCFBQ: So we missed you Sunday. Any chance to catch up with you now?

FSS: Try Tuesday.

USCFBQ: Just a few football questions, OK? You've got some extra time this week before the Oct. 8 Washington game. We know Pete used to like getting freshmen who hadn't been playing really involved at times like this. But since this freshman class has been really involved already, what are your plans?

FSS: Get them even more involved. You're not going to see less of them. They're here to stay. We'll work with them individually, like trying to get Biggie [Iman Marshall] to become more physical. Just kidding. We're going to try to keep Biggie onside and with his hands off people when the officials are looking -- and spend more time finding the football. Just a couple of other examples. We're going to try to get Ronald Jones going north-south not east-west. Although that's not on Ronald. Going to try to get them all smarter -- Tyler Petite, this is the Pac-12, they are not going to let you get away with running into a defender with the ball in the air no matter how far away he is from the play. But overall, no big changes, just get better with what we're trying to do.

USCFBQ: Talking about freshmen, can we expect to see as many as five of them in there together on defense regularly going forward as we did in the ASU game?

FSS: Why stop at five? Just because we have three rookie linebackers together in Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin and Osa Masina with Biggie and Marvell Tell at safety, that doesn't mean Rasheem Green and/or Noah Jefferson couldn't be out there as well at the same time. If they belong out there, they'll be out there.

USCFBQ: Just askin', as we sometimes say, after the ASU game, if you don't let Cody Kessler target Adoree' Jackson at least the four times he did Saturday in the desert, is Cody going to start throwing things at you?

FSS: I hope so.

USCFBQ: OK, enough of the upbeat stuff, what about the physicality that didn't seem to be there once again -- on both sides of the football? What do you do to get that amped up? You've got Notre Dame, Utah and UCLA, for starters, as teams that love to be physical. How do you match that?

FSS: Not sure I have the answer to that one. I was a quarterback. In all, four of our coaches were QB's. We're pretty much finesse folks. We like to draw up plays and read defenses. QB's don't do that smashmouth stuff. Thinking we just may have to keep out-finessing people for now and hope we score enough points and get enough takeaways. But we'll keep thinking about it. It's probably a good idea to get more physical.

USCFBQ: Can your team really be good if it can't run the ball when it has to -- or stop the run? Wasn't that the way it worked for Pete when you were an assistant here? As soon as USC could do both, they became a behemoth of a program?

FSS: That's how I remember it. Wish we could do that. Hey, I'd like it if we could do just one of those right now. We'll keep trying. It sounds like a really good idea. You can actually control a game that way. Maybe next week. Last week, we worked on takeaways and you saw what happened.

USCFBQ: Which comes first -- O-line or D-line?

FSS: Not sure. Maybe we'll pit those two against one another this week and see who comes out on top. Watching our guys get double-teamed coming in high and just cleared out when their pad level isn't what it should be has me concerned. But then watching Delvon Simmons with the penetration and that ball-jarring tackle when we needed it down at the one and I'm encouraged that we can play like that some of the time. Maybe we just should turn 'em loose more.

USCFBQ: You said you knew trying to run the ball against an all-out blitzing Arizona State defense would be a "feast and famine" deal but is there a way for this run attack to do a little more feasting? Like when you have the ball on the ASU 1-yard line thanks to a great Tre Mdden effort and the next play, he's hit by four people at the 4-yard line and you have your entire O-line blocking no one in the end zone. How does that happen?

FSS: I wish I knew. Maybe Coach Connelly can tell us.

USCFBQ: You gave your O-line some help there with that diamond formation with fullbacks on both sides of Cody allowing you to run the tailback either way behind a single blocker for a quick hitter or behind both for power -- and still run play-action. It looked like it got RJII upfield a couple of times. And that last TD to Isaac Whitney came out of it. Will we see more of it?

FSS: Maybe.

USCFBQ: As a former quarterback, maybe you can help us here. We've got a stat question for you. Cody, with 89 completions in 122 attempts for 1,297 yards and 15 TDs with one interception is second in the nation with a 201.2 QB efficiency rating behind Baylor's Seth Russell, whose numbers are 50 of 80 passing for 995 yards, also 15 TDs, with four interceptions and a QB rating of 218.9. How exactly does that work?

FSS: Beats me. I'll take Cody.

USCFBQ: While you're at it, could you ask Coach Connelly if some of his guys might need to get a bit more disciplined with their feet and hands, their ability to hear the count and see the games defensive guys are playing across from them? How about a general sense of awareness to know where the threats are coming from and the discipline to keep from killing drives with penalties?

FSS:I'm all for that. Sounds good to me.

USCFBQ: Not to be catty here but would a few of your O-line guys maybe benefit by losing a little weight? They seem to be getting beat to the punch by quicker defenders?

FSS:Yeah, they would. We're working on it.

USCFBQ: But while they're one of the absolute biggest lines in college football, would it not be good if they had a bit more punch?

FSS: It would.

USCFBQ:Speaking of penalties, does it bother you that a USC team that averaged just 4.5 penalties a game for an average 46 negative yards the first two games with these same Pac-12 officials all of a sudden is called for 18 penalties the first two Pac-12 games for 178 negative yards and a handful of scoring drives stopped while your Pac-12 opponents are flagged for a total of just seven penalties for 65 yards?

FSS: Like I'm going to answer that? Why don't you go ask Tom Brady what he thinks about Roger Goodell. As if I weren't in enough trouble already. Just do the math is all I'm going to say.

USCFBQ: OK, we did the math. If you get your season penalty average up to your Pac-12 average for the first two games, you'll be in the bottom five nationally in penalty yards per game at 89 and bottom 10 in number of penalties averaging nine. What do you have to say about that?

FSS: Pat, can you come here a minute.

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