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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats’ offense needs to be close to perfect to defeat USC

Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley (7) spots a receiver in the second quarter against Hawaii at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday, September 1, 2012, in Los Angeles, California. USC topped Hawaii, 49-10. (Paul Rodriguez/Orange County Register/MCT)

USC’s offensive talents are well-documented in quarterback Matt Barkley contending for the Heisman, and also because of All-American receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

It’s no secret that Arizona’s defense has struggled this season, especially against teams that run a traditional, run-first system with two tight ends (See: Stanford and Oregon State).

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez doesn’t believe the Wildcats will have to play a perfect game against the Trojans, but the margin of error must be smaller than usual.

The Wildcats cannot afford to go 0-for-6 in the red zone against USC, as they did against Oregon. Arizona also cannot afford to give up a double-digit fourth quarter lead for the third time this season, as it did against both Oregon State and Stanford.

“The margin for error is very thin,” Rodriguez said. “When we have a chance to get a play like we did on special teams [a 63-yard punt return touchdown against Washington] or get a turnover on defense, to us, it’s really important for us to take advantage of it.”

It sounds simple enough, but those opportunities don’t appear too often against the Trojans’ defense. However, Arizona quarterback Matt Scott remains confident.

“There are some things I think we can do on offense to keep them on their toes,” Scott said. “We’ll push the tempo like we have the last few games.”

USC is in the top five in the Pac-12 for total defense, pass defense and rushing defense, and allows just 16.7 points per game, 22.4 fewer than the Wildcats average as an offense.

Sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey has rushed for more than 100 yards in three straight games, and in five of seven games this season.

USC allows more than 100 yards per game, but just barely — 109.6.

Carey has a knack for starting slow in games, only rushing for more than 30 yards in the first half against Washington last week.

“Ka’Deem makes you tackle him. He has incredible balance,” Rodriguez said. “I have had a couple guys that are close to this, but Ka’Deem, on a consistent basis, has been able to show that. It is a lot of fun to coach him, because he runs the same way in practice.”

That could put more pressure on Scott, who has shown hesitation to run against opponents that rank highly in run defense. Against Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford, Scott rushed for only 32 yards and no scores. All three are in the top five in the conference in run defense.

Rodriguez said the Washington game was Arizona’s “cleanest game up front” and that the line has held it together well, despite injuries to “our two most important offensive linemen,” in seniors Trace Biskin and Kyle Quinn.

The loss of Biskin and Quinn has led to increased playing time for freshman Cayman Bundage and senior Addison Bachman. On the season, the line has allowed 12 sacks on Scott, fifth-best in the conference.

“I think the guys have competed. I’m proud of the way they hung in there. We still have a long way to go up front,” Rodriguez said.

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