Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams set a record with six touchdown passes against the Trojans, some of which were to wide open receivers. USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and secondary coach Keith Heyward talked after the game about some of the defensive breakdowns.
What went wrong?
Justin Wilcox: "We obviously didn't do a good enough job preparing them. We didn't execute well enough to beat the team that Oregon is. I thought we would execute better in the pass game. [Vernon Adams] would scramble around and buy some time, we didn't make a lot of plays there on the ball. We're going to have to watch the tape to see exactly what it was, there was a couple busts that they took advantage of and there was a couple times where we got to finish better.
"So obviously, unacceptable and disappointing and we got to go fix it."
Was not having Cameron Smith and Lamar Dawson a big factor?
JW: "We prepared all week and we knew we were not going to have them. We were confident in the guys who were in there."
Was Vernon Adams everything you thought he was?
JW: "We knew that him improvising and buying time on plays, there were some critical, critical downs where, we call it 'plastered' in the pass game, where you plaster your man if you are playing zone or if you're in man you've got to keep covering, and that he hurt us bad. There was a number of them. You pick and choose your time to pressure him and a couple of times he escaped and made some plays on us. We've got to do a better job preparing the guys, that's on us as coaches, and we got to execute better against a team like that."
Why didn't Uchenna Nwosu play inside linebacker after he practiced there during the week?
JW: "We'll discuss that later. Uchenna does some good stuff. He's only played there about a week. With the numbers of formations and variations there's just so many multiples, tempo, variations of formation that we felt the other guys gave us a better chance to play the game."
Were all the formations Oregon runs too much for the young USC players?
JW: "We knew there was going to be a lot of multiples and they did stuff that we hadn't seen. That's what you expect so you got to play plays on principles and your numbers aren't always going to be perfect in the run game, so those are where you've got to win some one-on-ones. We won a few but obviously not near enough to stop a team like Oregon."
Are you surprised things went this way after how well the defense had been playing?
JW: "I thought we would play better than that, yeah. I think we all did, absolutely."
Were the breakdowns in the secondary because of communication issues?
Keith Heyward: "No, there was no communication issues. We have to make a play when the opportunity is presented. When you play a zone and you talk about plastering and getting to the receivers, you have to plaster them and go get to them, especially when you've got a mobile quarterback who is going to extend plays with his feet."
How do you account for the poor play in the secondary?
KH: "It was unfortunate. They're a good team, they've got good players, but at the same time when you're play pass defense coverage we need to cover better. Bottom line, we've got to have our man and you've got to stick to him and you have to cover him."
Was it assignment issues? Physical issues?
KH: "It's one-on-one. It's me and you, who's going to win?"
What about Vernon Adams' ability to extend plays and make coverage last longer?
KH: "That happens too, you want to get some pressure but at the same time you're a DB, cover. Cover 10 seconds if you have to. It's a one-on-one play and then you have to do it. Something's gotta give."
How frustrating was it to see guys breaking free like that?
KH: "It was only a couple plays in zone that they actually broke free. It was plays in man that we were right there and you got to have them. It's frustrating, I'm the DB coach, you never want to see the ball in the air and guys running and catching the ball."
What do you think needs to get corrected heading into next week's game?
KH: "You have to do your job. You just have to do your job. If you're playing man coverage, you have to cover your man. You just have to do your job down in, down out. Over and over and over again. It gets boring but you have to do it."
Any particular thing you noticed about Iman Marshall struggling?
KH: "No, I am wondering why too. It is what it is and we gotta fix it, we gotta fix it."
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more coverage from USC's disappointing loss to Oregon.
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