3 Keys to Victory Revisited

SCPlaybook's Lyle Everett revisits the 3 Keys to USC's 35-3 Victory over Ohio State last Saturday night in the Coliseum to break down the prime factors that led to the Trojans' dominance of the overmatched Buckeyes.

1) Spread the Ohio State defense from sideline to sideline – Majority opinion going into the "Collision at the Coliseum" was that Ohio State was not going to be able to keep up with USC's speed. Anyone who witnessed Joe McKnight cutting through the Ohio State defense like a hot knife through butter can attest to that. Sporting a fresh mohawk complimented with a full beard, McKnight rushed for 83 yards on seven carries in the first half, seizing the early momentum while making things look easy in breezing to a 105 yard rush total.

McKnight simply plays at a different speed than everyone else on the field. His ability to make people miss is becoming more and more Bush-like with every game that passes. "He's so explosive," Mark Sanchez said of McKnight. "When he's got time, when he's got a little space, anything can happen." USC faithful have seen flashes of his greatness each of the past two seasons, but he has seemed to become a complete player this year. In being so effective with every touch, he's making it harder for Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable to get reps.

2) Shut down the run – Ohio State's 17-play drive on the second series of the game in which they came up with three points actually helped the Trojans. Jim Tressel effectively handed Pete Carroll his entire playbook and game plan on that drive. The Trojans saw Terrelle Pryor just about every other play. When he was in the game, Pryor ran the ball out of the shotgun spread, sweeping right one play and sweeping left the other. When Todd Boeckman was under center, he handed the ball off to his running backs between the tackles on first and second downs and dropped back to throw on third. This was not rocket science. Upon dropping back in the pocket, Boeckman never found any semblance of timing or rhythm. His total of 84 yards passing with two interceptions proved it.

USC's front four on defense opened up giant holes for Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews Jr. to blitz through. Boeckman faced constant pressure all night long and took shot after shot. It's pretty much a guarantee that his ribs are still feeling the impact of Matthews' helmet upon coming off the edge a minute before halftime. Even when he was able to get a pass off, he often clenched his body and braced for hits that weren't coming. SC's defense got into his head early and destroyed his confidence. They ruined any ideas he had for a big night, punctuated by Rey Maualuga's stepping in front of a pass just before halftime and taking it back 48 yards for six points. Ohio State's offense is not built to come from behind. They proved this once again on Saturday night.

3) Contain Terrelle Pryor – The highly touted Pryor looked good at times, especially for a true freshman in his third collegiate game lining up against the number one team in the nation. He finished the game as the Buckeyes second leading rusher with 40 yards on 11 carries and threw the ball decently, going 7-9 for 52 yards. His limited knowledge of the playbook could be one reason for not lighting up the scoreboard, yet another reason could be the lack of a playbook overall. Tressel failed to do anything out of the ordinary. SC's defense seemed to know what the offense was going to run before Ohio State did.

The argument could be made that USC prepared well by watching film, or that Ohio State did nothing to tailor their approach while being stymied all night. Ohio State made this game easy for the Trojans' D. Everson Griffin gyrating to the capacity crowd of 93,607 in their third quarter surround-sound chant of "U-S-C" demonstrated just how much fun the defense was having. Cushing led the team with 10 tackles. Taylor Mays had seven. Ohio State never had a passing play of more than 16 yards.

Next up: Oregon State Beavers

The USC defense pressured Todd Boeckman all night.

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