Wednesday practice report: USC intent on avoiding a Joshua Kelley repeat
No, the USC defensive players haven't forgotten what happened last season against UCLA. They didn't need any reminders of Joshua Kelley running up and down the field for 289 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead the Bruins to a 34-27 win.
It was the most rushing yards ever in the storied rivalry series by any player on either side.
So yes, that has been on the Trojans' minds this week leading into this next showdown with the Bruins on Saturday in the Coliseum.
"Yeah, definitely. He went crazy against us last year," defensive end Christian Rector said. "That's good for him and that's great and all -- we're trying not to let that happen this year."
The acknowledgement aside, the Trojans didn't really want to spend much time talking about the breakdowns from 2018.
"You look at that film, they've got new players, we've got new players and it is what it is," defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said.
In terms of their defensive front, though, the Trojans actually have a lot of the same players, and Kelley hasn't gone anywhere for UCLA.
Now a redshirt senior, Kelley has rushed for 939 yards and 9 touchdowns on an average of 4.8 yards per carry this fall. He's rushed for at least 120 yards in four of the Bruins' last six games, including 176 yards vs. Stanford and 164 vs. Arizona State. He's second in the Pac-12 in rushing at 104.3 yards per game, just behind Utah's Zack Moss (106.1).
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"It starts with reading the line and lining up first. We were misaligned so many times in that game, and I think we have a lot better game plan this year," Rector said. "We have guys that are more focused from the jump, the beginning of the week in film room and team meetings. It starts here in practice, so yeah, I think we have a good game plan to stop the run this year."
To Rector's point -- and perhaps Pendergast's as well -- this is a different USC team in regard to its approach to the final stretch of the season. The 2018 Trojans went off a cliff on their way to a 5-7 finish, including that loss to UCLA, while this group has won four of its last five games while seeming intent on maximizing its finish.
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