Defense Wins USC Spring Football Game

    April 23, 2011


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    The USC offense scored 4 touchdowns--including a pair by tailback Curtis McNeal--but the Trojan defense won the USC Spring Football Game, 42-29, in front of 16,850 fans in the Coliseum.

    The defense was awarded 3 points for stopping the offense on downs or a missed field goal, 5 points for a forced turnover and 7 points for a defensive touchdown.

    The defense stopped the offense 6 times on downs and came up with 3 turnovers, and there were 3 missed field goals.

    McNeal scored both times on fourth-and-1 plays, the first escaping from a pile to jet 49 yards and the second for 11 yards. On the day, he ran for 107 yards on 13 carries (an 8.2 average).

    Tailback Dillon Baxter, who rushed for 104 yards on 14 carries (a 7.4 average), ran for an 8-yard TD and threw a 3-yard scoring pass to quarterback Matt Barkley on the game's final play.

    Barkley was 22-of-42 for 212 yards, but was intercepted twice.

    Barkley was without Freshman All-American wide receiver Robert Woods, who sat out with an ankle sprain. Several other receivers--including Brandon Carswell and tight end Rhett Ellison--left the game early with minor injuries. (Twelve other USC scholarship players sat out spring practice while recuperating from injuries, but should be available in the fall.)

    Tight end Xavier Grimble had 8 receptions for 73 yards, wide receivers Markeith Ambles (76 yards) and Robbie Boyer (51 yards) each had 6 catches and wideout De'Von Flournoy added 5 grabs for 62 yards.

    Tailback D.J. Morgan ran for 89 yards on 14 carries before being sidelined with a minor injury.

    Quarterback Jesse Scroggins was 6-of-15 for 68 yards and was picked off once, while Cody Kessler went 4-of-6 for 24 yards.

    Cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Brian Baucham and linebacker Dallas Kelley each had an interception. Kelley added 8 tackles. Safety Jawanza Starling had a game-high 9 tackles with a deflection, linebacker Hayes Pullard had 7 tackles, defensive end Nick Perry had 6 tackles with 2 sacks, defensive tackle DaJohn Harris had 5 tackles (including 2 for losses) and defensive end Zack Kusnir had a pair of sacks.

    Placekicker Andre Heidari hit a 27-yard field goal after missing a pair of longer attempts. In all, the Trojans missed 3 field goals.

    "The play of our first team defense really stood out," said second-year USC head coach Lane Kiffin. "It was good to see guys push through the scrimmage with our limited numbers and it was good that we generally stayed healthy.

    "It's obvious our defense is improved from a year ago, even with a lot of guys out with injuries. But I don't have a feel for this team yet. I hope we'll be real good on defense and special teams, but we have a lot of work to do on offense. It's hard to answer that right now with so many guys out and with so many new players coming this fall."

    The Trojans open their 2011 season at home against Minnesota on Sept. 3.