Turnaround for USC’s defense has come with more pressure – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES — Jordan Iosefa sensed Clancy Pendergast, USC’s even-tempered defensive coordinator, wasn’t pleased.

It was in the days following a thumping by Notre Dame.

“You just know he’s mad,” Iosefa said. “You can see him. He has that look. And it’s just like (darn), we have to do better.”

Since surrendering 49 points to the playoff-contending Fighting Irish on a balmy October night, the Trojans have responded with two of their better defensive efforts of this season.

They held Arizona State to two touchdowns, its second lowest total in a Pac-12 Conference game. In a win last Saturday over Arizona, they held the Wildcats, who had averaged nearly 50 points in their previous four games, spurred by dynamic quarterback Khalil Tate, to 35 points.

“We wanted to come out with an attitude,” Iosefa said.

In this recent stretch, the Trojans have been able to put pressure on opposing passers, compiling 11 sacks in the two-game span. Against Arizona, they sacked Tate five times, equaling the number of sacks the Wildcats had allowed in all of their previous games.

“Sometimes they come in bunches,” Pendergast said.

It helped, too, that USC blitzed more often against Arizona.

According to data provided by Pro Football Focus, USC blitzed on passing downs 53 percent of the time, its second-highest frequency in a game this season and well above its season average of 37 percent. The analytics website defines blitzes as either five or more tacklers rushing the quarterback at once or a defensive back hurrying into the backfield.

Safeties Chris Hawkins and Marvell Tell were among those to bring down Tate last Saturday.

“We don’t really get a chance to hit the quarterbacks much, so when we get the chance to blitz,” Hawkins said, “when we get there, we gotta make our name be heard.”

Through 10 weeks, the Trojans have 34 sacks, the most in the FBS. Defensive end Rasheem Green leads them with seven sacks, also the most in the conference.

Green thinks…

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