USC Owns the Red Zone

Can USC and Lincoln Riley halt Oregon State’s perfect red-zone streak?

Ryan Kartje (LA Times)  —  Less than two minutes remained on the clock — a comfortable, four-touchdown win over Fresno State long ago secured — but as USC lined up for one final stand with its back against the end zone last Saturday, no one seemed to have told its defense.

Instead of coasting to the finish line, USC mounted one of its strongest defensive stands of the season, stopping three straight rushes inside the two-yard-line to force a turnover on downs. Afterward, Trojans coach Lincoln Riley called it his favorite sequence of the game.

“That’s what we’re about,” Riley said. “No matter who thinks the game is over, it all matters to us. If you’re going to be a champion, it’s gotta all matter. For our guys to get that stop right there at the end to close the game was as meaningful as anything that happened tonight.”

A similar effort near the goal line could prove especially meaningful Saturday, when USC meets Oregon State in Corvallis for a crucial early Pac-12 tilt. The Beavers have scored on all 14 red-zone trips this season. Only four schools (Michigan, Clemson, Vanderbilt and Tennessee) have more red-zone conversions, while still boasting a perfect conversion rate.

On account of their defense’s struggles between the 20s, the Trojans already have weathered 13 trips into the red zone. But while opposing offenses have had no trouble getting there, USC’s effort inside the 20s has kept them from accomplishing much when they do.

Just seven of those 13 trips (54%) have resulted in points, a rate that sets USC apart as one of the top red-zone defenses in college football through three games. No other defense that’s faced double-digit red-zone trips has held opponents to anything lower than a 60% success rate.

That probably isn’t sustainable, especially against an offense such as Oregon State‘s, which boasts one of the better rushing attacks in the conference.

“It’s just battling, not giving in, having the awareness about you to make them run another play,” USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said. “There’s no magic. You sometimes wish there was, but give our guys credit, we’ve held up in situations so far. But they’re a little different animal in the red zone this week.”

It starts with Oregon State’s rushing attack. The Beavers lead the Pac-12 — and rank eighth in the nation — with 11 rushing touchdowns through three games. The threat of the run sets up the perfect play-action scenario for quarterback Chance Nolan (10), who threw four touchdowns against USC in a dominant win for Oregon State last season.

“They’ve been efficient but we have too,” Riley said about the red zone. “We’ve been stingy against the run down there. We’ve defended well. We’ve gotten turnovers. We’ve gotten fourth-down stops. Both teams have done the things you need to do well, and it’s going to be strength versus strength. There will be some moments like that in this football game, and they’ll be pivotal moments.”

Oregon State won’t be able to turn to tight end Luke Musgrave in those moments. The Beavers top receiver through two games will miss the game because of an injury.

But Oregon State is likely to once again use linebacker Jack Colletto in short-yardage situations around the goal line. Colletto already has three touchdowns this season in six carries.

The best weapon against Oregon State’s red-zone offense might be to keep them out of the red zone. But that part has been the problem for USC’s defense this season.

latimes.com

________

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Steveg
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Steveg(@steveg)
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September 23, 2022 7:47 pm

OSU is playing decent football with decent talent and inspiration. USC is playing lights out football with exceptional talent and fierce determination. It won’t be that close. Always remember USC finally has coaches that know how to make adjustments.

Chris
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September 23, 2022 10:03 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

If I were Nebraska AD I would take guys who are program builders. If they can throw the kitchen sinkat somebody, any of these guys should be a target.

  1. Mark Stoops
  2. Luke Fickell
  3. Lance Liepold
  4. Matt Campbell
  5. Dave Arranda
HOF19
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September 23, 2022 5:50 pm

Just now on ESPN halftime of Syracuse vs Virginia (Talking about SC starting to get more coverage) of ALL the games on tomorrow…..1st game they previewed ??? ….. USC vs ORE State …..Fight On !!!!!

Golden Trojan
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September 23, 2022 9:37 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The bookies are going to clean up on all the suckers taking OSU.

TrojanRJJ
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September 23, 2022 10:49 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Isn’t it fun to be relevant again? SC is definitely must watch TV. I disagree slightly with Colin about the D talent: I think Tuli, Gentry and maybe of couple of the DBs may be NFL level talent. Shane Lee may also make an NFL roster. I also think that only Tuli and Gentry and maybe Blackmon are capable of starting in the NFL. I do agree that the DL has only one NFL caliber player on it. We need Gentry to have a game like Adrian Young had against ND (12 tackles and 4 interceptions). And we need Caleb… Read more »

Last edited 3 days ago by TrojanRJJ
Steveg
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September 23, 2022 7:39 pm
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

Give Bullock another season and he will go nfl.

UtahTrojan
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September 23, 2022 10:41 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Is the stadium going to be that loud this year. Isn’t down like a third of the seats for construction?

RialtoTrojan
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September 23, 2022 9:09 am

People keep confusing this year’s team with last year’s team. I understand it a bit, but in my lifetime USC has never been worried about Oregon State. They’re Oregon State for crying out loud. They had an impressive win against…Montana State. So while they shouldn’t be over looked, I just don’t see all the hype and worry about playing the beavers. USC own a 62-12-4 record against Oregon State. I’ve seen the term overrated when discussing the Trojans, as much as I have seen “high powered” to describe the OSU offense. USC might not be ready to beat Alabama yet,… Read more »

Golden Trojan
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September 23, 2022 10:33 am
Reply to  RialtoTrojan

Correct, over rated should be applied to the Beavers and high powered is certainly the Trojan offense.

Steveg
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September 23, 2022 7:41 pm
Reply to  Golden Trojan

They don’t realize the first half of the Fresno game they were inefficient and still built a nice lead. The second half was a well oiled machine.

TrojanRJJ
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September 23, 2022 10:53 am
Reply to  RialtoTrojan

Rialto, This is probably the best team Oregon State a has fielded since the Great Pumpkin roamed its sidelines and Bill Enyart thundered on its stadium. And remember,”it’s only Oregon State” beat one of PC’s best teams in Corvallis. I am really looking forward to this contest. I subscribed to Futol so I could watch it!

Jamaica
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September 23, 2022 3:04 pm
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

RJJ did you forget about the years 2001-2002 under Dennis Erickson and a certain QB Jonathan Smith that almost went undefeated and ripped Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl? My boss was a OL on the 1962 OSU team and later and still brags about shutting down MG in the mud-bowl that year. And yes, “wild Bill earthquakes Enyart was a bulldozer RB. He had to weight some 250-260 lbs and had surprising speed.

TrojanRJJ
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September 23, 2022 9:15 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Chris’ post in the prior thread was a clue as to attention this game is drawing. Per ESPN, more money has been bet on this game than any NFL game in Week 3. Again, a real shame it is starts at 10:30 pm EST on the Pac 12 network. Most will read about it in the morning paper. 80% of the nation leaves in the Central and Eastern time zones and very few of them get the Pac 12 Network. I repeat the thread on the Board, gross Conference mismanagement.

Last edited 3 days ago by TrojanRJJ
TrojanRJJ
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September 23, 2022 10:54 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Fun to be relevant again.