USA Today Sports

Something positive to take away from the Trojans defensive performance

USC safety Leon McQuay and linebacker Cameron Smith both made some huge plays against Alabama.

The 2016 USC Trojans football season got off to a rocky start in Texas with a 52-6 thrashing at the hands of Alabama. And while the laundry list of miscues seemed endless, the intensity and speed with which the defense played is at least a step in the right direction.

Defensively the game started off well as the Trojans forced the Tide to punt four times and fumble once over the first five drives. Alabama did score 17-straight points to end the first half, but one touchdown came on a short field and the other was a pick-six.

“We made plays,” safety Leon McQuay said. “We stopped the run, stopped the pass. We were making plays everywhere.”

“[Playing aggressively] was so much fun,” linebacker Cameron Smith said. “I thought we played really well in the first half, but we’ve just got to build on it. I thought our defense looked pretty good.”

In the second half the Crimson Tide scored five touchdowns, threw a pick and punted only one time.  One of those scores came after a dropped punt snap, but the other four were legitimate drives of 65 yards or more.

Blown coverage assignments were an issue and some of that is expected with the aggressive scheme Clancy Pendergast has incorporated. More negative plays are being forced, but not without some level of risk.

“I think that we had a lot of missed assignments,” Smith said. “We played well in the first half but you know we missed some stuff and they took advantage of it. We’ve just got to build on it and just keep getting better every week.”

The ineptness of the USC offense was another factor, putting tremendous pressure on the defense. From the 4:10 mark of the first quarter until halfway through the third quarter the Trojan offense had 10 “drives” that netted a total of minus six yards and 31 plays, averaging just 3.1 plays per drive.

That means for nearly half the game the Trojans were not only failing to put points on the board, they were giving the ball back to Alabama almost immediately.

“Yeah but I mean it’s a team sport so the offense counts on us and we count on them,” McQuay said. “Every situation is different.”

Going forward the Trojan defenders are not hanging their heads after giving up 52 points to the defending national champions.  

“I don’t think that they just beat the crap out of us,” Smith said. “I thought we missed some of our assignments and they took advantage of it. So it sucks, but we have a lot of positive stuff we can build on and that’s what we’re going to do.”

“It’s pretty much just missed assignments,” McQuay said. “We were shooting ourselves in the foot. We’ve got a lot of things we need to correct, like miscommunication. That’s all it really was.

“We’ve just got to get in there, watch film, make corrections, and just start preparing for the next game.”

Stay tuned to for more interviews, updates and analysis as the Trojans try to bounce back this weekend against Utah State. 

Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at Top Stories