USC is looking to take down the No.7 ranked Oregon Ducks this Saturday without the possibility of defensive ends, Christian Rector and Drake Jackson. This is a big hit for ‘SC as they are facing a hot Oregon offense. The Trojans’ spark of defense will have to come from others on the D-Line, specifically these three defensive players.
Three Defensive Players That Need To Step Up Against Oregon
Jay Tufele – DL
The 6’3 defensive lineman is first up on the list. Tufele is having a breakout season, rising in the conversation of top defensive linemen. Tufele first marked his spot in USC history in 2018 as a freshman. He recorded 23 tackles, 14 of them solo tackles, and 3 sacks. As a freshman, he made All-Pac 12 second team and won USC’s Defensive Lineman of the Year Award.
This season he has already recorded 25 tackles, 12 of them solo tackles, and 2.5 sacks. Tufele already has more tackles than he did last year and there are still three games left in this season. The sophomore will need to apply the pressure on Ducks quarterback, Justin Herbert, early to prevent any offensive momentum. The Ducks have not lost since their first game of the season. They also managed to score 77 points back in September against the Nevada Wolf Pack. So, any tension on the offensive line is more than welcomed.
Marlon Tuipulotu – DT
Another pivotal defensive player is Marlon Tuipulotu. He is USC’s starting defensive lineman and has started this season with 37 total tackles, 20 of those solo, and 1.5 sacks. Four of those tackles came in last Friday’s win against Colorado.
Tuipulotu missed a lot of the 2017 season with a back injury so, there was speculation on how we would perform the following season. Well, he had no problems and the following season recorded 33 tackles, four of those against UNLV.
That same comeback energy will be needed for the Ducks on Saturday. Tuipulotu will not only need to predict Oregon’s runs but also stop them. Oregon is averaging 190 rushing yards per game and 5.05 yards per carry. His athleticism and build must challenge the o-line and be the catalyst to an impermeable Trojan d-line.
Isaiah Pola-Mao – S
The Trojans have only three interceptions for 11-yards this season. Interrupting QB Justin Herbert’s targets (who has only thrown one interception all season) will be the job of Isaiah Pola-Mao. He leads ‘SC with just one.
The Ducks have played through every type of situation this season, so shaking them up will be a tough undertaking. However, it’s not impossible. This will be 6’4, Pola-Moa’s chance to continue his comeback from a shoulder injury in 2018, and become a truly feared defensive player.
This season he has 49 total tackles, 31 of those solo, 1.5 sacks, and 1 interception. That interception came in the first game of the season against Fresno State.
As we are nearing the end of the season, it’s necessary for Pola-Mao to be able to match-up against Oregon’s receivers. CJ Verdell and Spencer Webb are top targets for Herbert, therefore, eliminating them as options early on will be a top priority.
USC has demonstrated the ability to play against strong running teams, like Utah and Stanford. So as long as they can stop the rushing game and eliminate targets for Herbert, they can have a chance. Saturday is more than a game, USC can continue their Rose Bowl hopes while at the same time ruin Oregon’s chances for a College Football Playoff spot. The defense is only half the battle though, will the Trojan offense be good enough or better to beat the Ducks?