LOS ANGELES — Don’t expect any sort of defensive overhaul as USC prepares for its home opener Saturday night against Virginia.
Coach Lane Kiffin watched his team give up nearly 600 yards in the Trojans’ season-opening victory Thursday at Hawaii. Then he came back to Los Angeles and viewed it all over again, this time in taped detail.
"You don’t want to jump and make any big conclusions off one game and start changing all the things you believe in," Kiffin said Sunday.
Kiffin would like nothing more than for quarterback Matt Barkley, tailback Marc Tyler and the rest of the offense to keep playing the way it did in the 49-36 victory, especially with freshman tailback Dillon Baxter due to make his debut after sitting out the opener because of a suspension.
Special teams, save for several botched two-point conversion attempts, also appeared improved from last season.
But the defense, particularly the line, was supposed to be the Trojans’ strength.
"Every time we were close to making a significant play," Kiffin lamented, "we didn’t."
Tackle Jurrell Casey and end Armond Armstead had their moments against Hawaii, Kiffin said, but the Trojans did not get the anticipated production from nose tackles DaJohn Harris and Hebron Fangupo.
Middle linebackers Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo both need to improve, Kiffin said, and the young secondary got torched but also gained valuable experience.
"We’re not going to make a bunch of wholesale changes because we had a rough day on one of three phases," Kiffin said, adding, "Let’s make a larger assessment after three games and see where we’re at."
After being worn out by the heat and Hawaii’s spread attack, USC’s defense will face a more traditional offense against Virginia. The Cavaliers, led by quarterback Marc Verica and running back Keith Payne, won their opener, 34-13, over Richmond and former Trojans quarterback Aaron Corp.
The Trojans also could be buoyed by the return of end Nick Perry, who sat out the opener while recovering from a high ankle sprain.
But will their tackling improve?
Senior cornerback Shareece Wright said after the game that the Trojans needed to "wrap up" and finish tackles better.
Kiffin, however, has no plans to waive the moratorium on tackling in practice.
"That sounds like an easy answer, but I’ll bring up, when our backups went in, what happened?" Kiffin said.
The Trojans gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns on drives that took 2 minutes 35 seconds or less.
So, Kiffin said, the Trojans would "continue to improve on technique and our fundamentals and hopefully keep our guys healthy so we have (the frontline players) out there."
Freshman cornerback Nickell Robey, who had six tackles against Hawaii, was involved in "close to" 95 plays on defense and special teams, Kiffin said.
"We kind of wore him down, especially with the weather … we’ve just go to monitor his reps a little bit better," Kiffin said.
Freshman receiver Robert Woods returned six kickoffs, one for 30 yards, and caught four passes.
"He didn’t look like a freshman out there," Kiffin said.
No penalty was called when Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz was knocked out of the game on a jarring hit by linebacker Michael Morgan. Asked about the play, Kiffin said, "I don’t think there was any vicious intent or anything outside the lines." … Kiffin lauded the opening-game performances of offensive tackles Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith. … Corp completed 18 of 32 passes for 183 yards with an interception against Virginia. He also had a 32-yard run. … After taking Monday off, the Trojans resume practice Tuesday.