As the 2009 season approached many experts felt that the Trojans' offense, which returned 9 starters from the 2008 squad, would have to carry the team while the defense would try and find its way after losing several players to the NFL.
But that hasn't been the case as Pete Carroll has proven once again, the Trojans don't rebuild, they simply reload.
The linebacker position that lost four players to the NFL has been solid, the defensive line has flourished under Jethro Franklin and the experienced secondary has been superb.
"The consistency of our defense is just great," Pete Carroll said of his group that is allowing just 8.6 points a game. "We love the guys (on defense) that left, but the guys that are here are playing really good football."
For the second straight year, the Trojans were able to contain Jahvid Best, holding the Cal tailback to just 47 yards on the ground. And Cal's Kevin Riley looked out of sync all night completing just 15-of-40 pass attempts, while throwing his first interception of the season.
"Against a good running back you want to get him early, and that's what we did," Carroll said. "We never let him get into a rhythm. Because of that they had to pass the football, and that's what we wanted."
The Bears have mustered just six points combined in their last two meetings with the Trojans.
Big Game, Big Plays
After opting for a conservative attack in the first three games of the season, the Trojans have opened up the playbook in the last two weeks and have been rewarded with big plays.
Joe McKnight's 38-yard touchdown run was the longest rush Cal has given up in ‘09, Stanley Havili's 56-yard reception from Matt Barkley was the longest pass Cal has allowed in '09 and Damian William's 66-yard punt return was the longest return the Bears have surrendered this season.
"The way we were able to move the offense around was really comfortable and familiar to how we did it in the past," Carroll said.
USC finished the game with 457 yards of total offense.
Fighting On for Stafon
The USC Trojans started the week with the sad news that senior tailback Stafon Johnson had suffered a serious injury when he dropped a weight bar on his throat while working out.
As expected, the USC players had their minds on their injured teammate as they hit the practice field on Monday, but the mood later turned from sadness to joy when Johnson emerged from seven hours of surgery with a positive diagnosis.
Several of the USC players wore the No.13 on their eye black during the Cal game to pay tribute to Johnson, who was back in a Los Angeles hospital watching the game on television. But the real tribute was in the way the team performed in the face of adversity.
"I was really happy with how we came out and how we finished. I was also really happy that we could play this game for Stafon (Johnson)," QB Matt Barkley said. "He was in our hearts the whole time. It was a great victory for us and for him."
The USC players and coaches banded together Saturday night to honor Johnson with their most complete effort of the season.
Cleaning Things Up
After committing 13 penalties a week ago against Washington State, the Trojans put an extra emphasis on cleaning up the sloppy play and mental mistakes during practice this week, and it carried over into Saturday's 30-3 victory against Cal.
"We are growing," Carroll said. "It's a process to come together; we are in that process."
The Trojans limited their penalty total to just 5 on Saturday and played a much more disciplined game.
"We eliminated our penalties which was really big for us," Barkley said following the win.
Quote of the Week: "We were zero-dimensional today, because we couldn't run it and we couldn't throw it." - Jeff Tedford following Cal's 30-3 loss against USC.
Up Next: The Trojans have a bye week before heading to South Bend to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Oct. 17th.
USC's defense held Jahvid Best to 47 rushing yards. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)
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