USC Loses Traction Against Stanford Run Game

The USC Trojans got their first true test last night facing off against the Stanford Cardinal at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Like some of the students that could be found in the student section on Saturday, tests were not the top priority.

Unranked Stanford was able to impose their will on USC, beating the Trojans 41–31, in both teams’ first taste of Pac-12 action. USC had no answer for the Stanford running game, which grinded out 195 yards on 49 carries.

“As much as Stanford is that ground-and-pound [running style], the ball gets to the edge a lot,” Sarkisian said after the game. “It was important for us to set the edge and that didn’t happen enough.”

READ MORE: Lack of Execution Leads to a Stanford Upset

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford’s do-everything back, took the lead for the Cardinal, pouring in 115 rushing yards, taking advantage of those outside running lanes that the offensive line opened for him.

Remound Wright joined in on the festivities with 41 yards on the ground. Wright was Stanford’s go-to running back in the red zone, punching in three touchdowns, as the Trojans constantly allowed the Cardinal to gain leverage in trenches for substantial gains.

And honestly, it should not be that surprising.

Not saying that there isn’t talent on the defense or a cohesive unit that can play together, but USC had a Downy-soft non-conference schedule against teams that inspired more confused shrugs than genuine levels of respect.

Even so, USC showed a little crack in their defense against Arkansas State two weeks ago when they allowed the Red Wolves to gain 208 rushing yards. The Trojans improved the next week against Idaho allowing only 32 yards on the ground and 2.2 yards per carry.

Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy

However, starting their season against woefully less talented teams did not prepare the Trojans to walk into the annual street fight that is USC vs. Stanford. Unlike those other teams, when Stanford got hit with a Tre Madden touchdown in the first series, they hit back.

What may be frustrating to know for USC fans is that Stanford’s run game was not running at optimal performance before coming into the Los Angeles Coliseum. Against Northwestern two weeks ago, they were only able to gain 85 yards on the ground.

The bad news for the Trojans is that the next week may not be any easier.

Starting nose tackle Antwaun Woods walked out of the Coliseum after the game with a noticeable limp and his arm in a sling. If he is not able to go against Arizona State on the road next Saturday, the Trojans may continue to have trouble stopping the run.

Arizona State has had two games after that disastrous season opener against Texas A&M to get their season back on track. They have responded by averaging 190 rushing yards over the last two games and present a real threat to the Trojans.

USC has a lot of holes to plug in the run defense in the coming week. They will need to accomplish that in order to get a passing grade in Tempe against Arizona State.

You can reach Daniel Tran here, or follow him at @DanTranCA

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