A week after showing the nation how good it can be for 22 minutes and then for 38 minutes showing how bad it is capable of being, the USC defense had something to prove.
"I'm glad that we finished the whole game," sophomore linebacker Cameron Smith said. "That was important for us."
Smith led the way for the Trojans with 13 tackles, including his first tackle behind the line of scrimmage this season. Smith now has 22 tackles on the season, seven more than any other USC defender.
The defense was hoping for a shutout, but Utah State was able to score on the final play of the third quarter to cap a 12-play, 75-yard drive.
"It would have been nice, but it is what it is," Smith said of the potential shutout. "They had a couple of big plays, but I thought our goal was to shut down the run and I think we did just that. But we've just got to keep building on it and move forward."
For Smith, showing they could play a full game was more important than the shutout.
"I think it was just important for us to play like us."
That meant each player doing their assignment. That's what will be key next week against Stanford as well, according to Smith. The Trojans know they have to try to contain Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey who forced all 11 defenders to be assignment-steady.
"I think we just keep doing our thing and we focus on our assignments and play well, we can take on any team," Smith said. "They've got a big factor of a guy. We've got to shut him down and that's going to be our focus."
"They're going to get him out in space and they're going to let him do his thing, so we've got to tackle, tackle well and get our guys on him."
Watch Cameron Smith, above, talk about the defense's performance bouncing back with a 41-7 win over Utah State. He also looks forward to next week's matchup with Stanford and its electric playmaker, Christian McCaffrey.
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