A 'passion' for doing it right

USC's defensive improvement comes from doing it right not just doing it with more physicality. Do it right and the physicality comes along.

They're not "simplifying" things exactly, Chris Wilson said of his defensive line guys but they've been changing things the past two weeks.

"It's different," Wilson said of the defensive emphasis the last couple of weeks, a timeframe that just happens to coincide with the ascendancy of Clay Helton the the interim head coach. "We're doing things differently . . . really emphasizing across the board our fundamentals."

The result: a 42-24 thumping of a physical No. 3 Utah team. So was USC the more physical team Saturday in a game that should have been more one-sided in the final score, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said of giving up a late TD when it was 42-17?

Wilson wouldn't go there. "I thought our team was more disciplined," he said. That was the key. Just one missed defensive assignment the entire game, a big improvement over the week before at Notre Dame.

As to not making it simpler, Wilson said it's like this. "We looked at some things and asked what do we really need." And then they worked on those -- hard. It's that whole getting the techniques and fundamentals right. Doing them every day. Understanding why you're doing them. And why they'll make you a winner.

Stop the run, make them throw it, was the way to beating Utah, they said. "That's our philosophy every game," Wilson said. "If we can win on the early downs, we'll have an opportunity to get after the quarterback."

Although that was last week. This week against Cal's Jared Goff and the pass-happy Bears, they won't have to wait that long.

"It'll be a great challenge," Wilcox said, to repeat the mistake-free performance against the Utes. But he pointed in this direction: "technique and pushing the pile back."

USC fans like the sound of "pushing the pile back." And liked watching it work in that Utah game. So did defensive end Greg Townsend Jr., who just keeps playing more effectively in this his fifth season.

"We're doing more stuff," Townsend said of a USC D-line roomful of fifth-year seniors. "The more we do this, the more we have a feel for it, the more natural it becomes."

Townsend was talking about the twists and stunts that have become more a part of a defensive front that's no longer simply reading and reacting. But you have to do it right.

Which is why Helton keeps talking about "technique" over "schemes." "It's not the Xs and O's guys," it's about working on technique and getting that exactly right. The results will follow.

Which is why USC spent a second day on pass rush Wednesday, Helton said, with emphasis on team technique after individual technique work Tuesday.

And why Helton was in the middle of it when the two lines went against one another. "I've been an offensive coordinator and an offensive line coach's son and I wanted them to feel my passion . . . the head coach has to be around them . . . I'll try to pass on anything I can from my 21 years of experience."

WEDNESDAY QUICK HITS: TE Taylor McNamara opened up without his yellow no-contact jersey and then put it on later to protect his dislocated right shoulder . . . Tyler Petite's foot is still sore and he gave way to Connor Spears for the second reps at tight end . . . Chad Wheeler completely back from his concussion at left tackle . . . D-lineman Rasheem Green looked fully ready to go and working in team 11 on 11 . . . WR Steven Mitchell (ankle) did sideline running and starts and stops but not any of the 11 on 11 work . . . Darreus Rogers (hamstring) caught punts and then jumped into 11 on 11 with one athletic leaping catch over the middle and looks like he's back for Saturday . . . First time in a couple of weeks we've seen Tre Madden run the ball and he looked good, finished with a 25-yard in-and-out run that was the rush of the day . . . Keyshawn Johnson dropped by and addressed the team . . . Leon McQuay III and Chris Hawkins first-team safeties, Matt Lopes and John Plattenburg the second group . . . Thursday at 2:30, USC will present the renovaton plan for the Coliseum to the LA Coliseum Commission at their offices. Meeting is open to the public.

CHECK THIS OUT: For Wednesday's practice report, check out WEDNESDAY CAL BEARS WEEK GHOST NOTES.

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

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