We asked the Los Angeles Times' Lindsey Thiry, who covers the Trojans, all about Thursday night's showdown between UW and USC in L.A.
In this week’s installment of Five Questions, Five Answers, we caught up with Los Angeles Times’ Lindsey Thiry to help preview Thursday’s UW-USC game. Sincere thanks to Lindsey for her participation. You can find her work here and follow her on Twitter here.
1. Obviously a top storyline this week is Steve Sarkisian facing his old team for the first time. Do you sense any added buildup around USC because of that, or is this more business as usual?
It is business as usual, except several players have referenced that USC coaches have addressed this storyline with them and have emphasized that it’s “business as usual.” USC coaches and assistants, despite being asked about their Washington connections daily, have downplayed the subject.
2. What did Stanford do so well to upset USC in their Pac-12 opener? What went wrong for USC?
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Stanford returned to its physical, grind-it-out style of play. Quarterback Kevin Hogan completed 18 of 23 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Christian McCaffrey rushed for 115 yards in 26 carries. USC’s defense could neither slow down the run, nor could it put pressure on, or contain, Hogan.
3. Justin Wilcox and the USC defense took a lot of heat after the Stanford loss. Were there any major adjustments they rolled out a week later in the rout of Arizona State?
The night before USC played Arizona State, Sarkisian held a 30 minute meeting where he instructed players on the fundamentals of defense and showed a highlight reel of former Trojans teams forcing turnovers. USC forced a season-high four turnovers against Arizona State. Players said the meeting emphasized the need to attack the football on defense and that is what inspired the turnaround in their performance.
4. Cody Kessler’s number are off the charts: 15 touchdowns, one interceptions, 201.2 passer rating. What’s working so well for him and where has he progressed the most in the past couple years?
Kessler, a fifth-year senior, is starting for a third season and has continued his trend from last year, when he threw 39 touchdowns, with five interceptions. Kessler has adapted well to Sarkisian’s system and routinely makes good decisions. This season, he has noticeably improved his ability to move inside the pocket, avoid the rush, and also is capable of keeping plays alive with his feet. He also has a stable of reliable receivers to throw to.
5. USC is billing sophomore three-way star Adoree’ Jackson as “the most exciting player in college football.” So, well, what makes him so exciting?
Everyone — coaches, opponents, teammates, fans, media and NFL scouts — hold their breath every time he touches the ball. Whether it is on offense, defense or as kick or punt returner, he has the ability to change the game within seconds because of his speed and athleticism — and it’s easy to see from the second you start watching him. Jackson, as a freshman, won the long jump at the Pac-12 Championships. Against Arizona State, he caught three passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. In a defeat by Stanford, he returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown — though it was called back because of a holding penalty. And on defense, quarterbacks rarely test his side of the field because of his ability to turn it into a defensive touchdown. Bottom line: When USC puts the ball in his hands, he has the ability to change the game.