Opponent Analysis: USC's running game a double-edged sword

By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 7, 2005

A running back who can rush for 100 or more yards on a weekly basis is something any college football coach would welcome. Two such backs on the same team is an occurrence almost unheard of.

Unless, of course, you're USC.

The Trojans boast one of the nation's most dangerous two-pronged rushing attacks in juniors Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

In four USC wins this season, the duo has averaged 122.8 yards and 109.2 yards on the ground, respectively, while scoring six touchdowns apiece.

Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops said his squad will have to dig deep to stifle the Trojans' backfield pair tomorrow when the teams lock up in Los Angeles.

The Wildcats limited Bush, a frontrunner for this year's Heisman Trophy, to just 45 rushing yards on 12 carries a season ago, and will need a similar effort this weekend, Stoops said.

"(Bush) is fantastic. He's probably the closest thing you'll see to Barry Sanders in this lifetime," Stoops said. "He can make you miss in a phone booth."

Bush comes into this weekend's matchup one week removed from a 158-yard, two- touchdown performance in a 38-28 win at No. 17 ASU.

"He's such a terrific competitor," said USC head coach Pete Carroll in a phone interview Monday. "We try to give him an opportunity to do everything in his ability. He can run the ball downhill out of the backfield. He can get on the edge and hurt you, and he can catch the ball as a route-runner out of the backfield, and he can go get you when he's a wide receiver as well."

Bush's multidimensional play, which has included 175 receiving yards on 11 catches and two touchdowns, could pose problems for the Arizona defense, Stoops said.

"It's hard to load up (the line of scrimmage) to the run game, and they're very equipped to hurt you through their passing game," he said. "They know the strengths and weaknesses of every coverage, and they've got the people to hurt you on the perimeter."

Southern California

  • 2005 record (through four games):
  • Players to Watch:
  • Matt Leinart (QB): 1,286 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, two interceptions
  • Reggie Bush (RB): 57 carries, 491 yards (8.6-yard average)
  • LenDale White (RB): 57 carries, 437 yards (7.7-yard average

Not to be overshadowed, White, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound bruiser, has established a reputation of his own as one of the NCAA's elite backs, and is fresh off a 197-yard outing against ASU.

"LenDale's the guy that rushed for 31 touchdowns his first two years and 1,000 yards last year, so he's been a huge part of our offense and continues to be," Carroll said.

After starting all 11 regular season games for the Trojans last year, White has yet to start a contest in 2005.

That has done little to affect his performance, as he is averaging 7.7 yards on 57 carries - the same number of attempts as Bush.

"Their style is just different," Carroll said of Bush and White. "(White) can run around and through you and 'whatever you need me to do.'

"He gives us a real good mix in our style," Carroll said. "We've been at our best over the years when we've had a physical running back ... to mix with the passing game, and obviously, we've been the best we've been when we've got Reggie and LenDale hitting it at the same time."

That truly double-edged sword is something members of the Arizona defense are already well aware of.

"You try to stop one, and the other one hurts you," said sophomore linebacker Dane Krogstad.

While Bush was limited last year against Arizona, White was able to accrue 118 yards on 16 carries and find the end zone three times.

"When you shut down a guy like that, they have to go to alternate plans for what they're trying to do," said sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason.

"And, of course, they have other guys they can go to," he said. "They are the No. 1 team in the country, but we're going to try to shut down everybody."