LOS ANGELES -- It was both a damning indictment of former USC head coach Lane Kiffin's offensive philosophy and a reflection of wide receiver Nelson Agholor's immense talent when the sophomore gutted Arizona's secondary for catches of 62 and 39 yards in the first quarter of the Trojans' 38-31 win Thursday night.
Agholor did not have a catch longer than 28 yards coming into the game, even with opposing defenses focusing their coverage on electric junior Marqise Lee. But even with Lee sidelined by a knee injury, Agholor finished with 161 yards and one touchdown on a career-high seven catches.
Agholor was used on deep posts, crossing routes and comebacks, plays that didn't seem to exist in Kiffin's playbook and, if they did, certainly were never used. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton, however, broke them out at exactly the right time in his first game calling plays for interim head coach Ed Orgeron.
There were no bubble screens or fades to be seen.
Helton also dialed up a perfect call for running back Tre Madden, who caught a pass from quarterback Cody Kessler and rumbled down the middle of the field for a 63-yard touchdown.
Madden, who moved from linebacker to running back in the opposite career path of crosstown superstar Anthony Barr at UCLA, also rushed for 28 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury. However, Javorius "Buck" Allen, freshmen Justin Davis and Ty Isaac and the returning Silas Redd ably filled in, combining for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries.
With the offensive line accepting Orgeron's challenge to be "nasty," USC finished with 547 yards of total offense and averaged 7.3 yards per play. In five games under Kiffin, the team was gaining just 380 yards per game on 5.7 yards per play.
USC can do the same.