uscfootball.com/Katja Liebing

For USC, 'The numbers are the numbers'

So now with USC facing five straight Pac-12 teams who play fast and put the ball in play a lot, how do the Trojans develop the depth they didn't have at the end Friday in Utah? That is the question.

Explaining the finish for his defense in Friday's 31-27 loss at Utah, Coordinator Clancy Pendergast says the bodies just aren't there.

"The numbers are the numbers," Clancy said, not directly referencing the numbers in Utah's 81 plays to USC's 59 after a final game-winning drive of more than 5:00 when USC couldn't get a stop or a takeaway with a tired defense on the field. "The numbers are what they are."

In fact, there's not any difference, in Clancy's mind, to his 2013 USC defense when he coached a Trojans team to a win over No. 4 Stanford playing just 12 players on defense. "It's the same," he said of the numbers comparison. "I don't see the depth any different."

Looking at the Goux Gate, Clancy said "All we have coming through those gates every day are 33 players on defense," and when you take away the Scout team guys, Clancy said, the numbers just aren't there. "We're trying to develop some contributors," but for now, at least through last week, not enough to get on the field.

Clay Helton said he's "visited with" Clancy about that and especially up front, with the loss of Kenny Bigelow in the spring to ACL surgery and now Noah Jefferson, to academics, an injury and personal issues until November, with all these 80-play games coming up, "we're going to have to steal six plays a half from a Connor Murphy and a Jordan Iosefa." At least. And had he not sprained his ankle, freshman CB Jack Jones would have been in there at Utah.

As to lining up differently against an end-game drive like Utah put on, Clancy said "the numbers are going to add up to seven, however you get there" from a 2-5 to a 5-2. There's not a lot different you can do.

Except for this. "We've got to do a lot better job," Clancy said. "We've got to fit the run, we've got to fit the pass, we've got to be a lot more consistent . . . hopefully we'll get off blocks more at the line of scrimmage," but it isn't all on the pass rushers, Clancy said. "They're not alone. We've got to tighten up coverage" behind them.

"It's a lot of little things," said predator linebacker Porter Gustin, talking of how his trip home might have turned out so differently. "It's really tough. We're 1-2 and leading all the way until the final seconds. Our pass rush needs to improve. But I think we have a lot more confidence, we did a lot more positive things . . . even though we didn't win"

They did a lot of things period. Senior safety Leon McQuay played 90 plays -- all 81 on defense and nine on special teams. "Ninety plays? I didn't notice," McQuay said. "Ninety plays? That's a lot." What about cutting that down to 50, he was asked. "That's the plan," Leon said.

But the plan to get Adoree' Jackson more touches, now that he's returned a kickoff back for a TD against Utah after his 77-yard punt return TD against Utah State, might be in danger. "I'm shocked when they kick it to me," Adoree' said. In the Utah game for his 100-yard return, he wasn't really supposed to catch that one and bring it out going backwards like that, but then he did and by the second or third step, he knew he was taking it to the house.

There was no one there as the seam opened wide at the 20. "It was too open," he said. "I thought there had to be a flag." But there wasn't. Just the thought that no one in America will kick it to him again.  

Wednesday footnoted

Helton opened his post-practice presser with congratulatory words for Pres. Max Nikias and USC's No. 15 overal ranking of top schools in the just-released Wall Street Journal rankings, USC's highest-ever national ranking academically . . . Helton said he hasn't yet been able to talk to former USC coach Ed Orgeron, named this week as LSU's interim coach, but he's texted him his congratulations. "A great man, a great coach, I know he'll do great things for LSU," Clay said . . .  Injuries Wednesday were not much, "a little bit of a wrist" for Khaliel Rodgers, Helton said, and "a little bit of a knee" for RB Dominic Davis . . . Back in pads and working with the second group was junior safety John Plattenburg, back from a month off on concussion protocol. He'll see action this weekend on defense and special teams . . . Damien Mama after a stinger Tuesday was back and practicing . . . Zach Banner was out in pads but still taking it easy on his ankle sprain and held out until a planned Thursday return after working up "a little bit of a lather," Clay said . . . Chuma Edoga filled in for Zach at right tackle again . . . Jack Jones was further back from his ankle sprain than expected and may have a shot at playing Saturday . . . and for a Wednesday practice play-by-play, go to WEDNESDAY ASU WEEK GHOST NOTES.

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

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