In a season of upheaval and turmoil at USC, the one thing it has been able to rely on is its defense and, more specifically, its front seven. The Trojans have held two opponents without an offensive touchdown this season, three opponents to one offensive touchdown, and two opponents to two offensive touchdowns.
The USC defense has allowed eight points per game over its last three games, holding a prolific Oregon State passing offense with quarterback Sean Mannion and wide receiver Brandin Cooks to 277 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. That feat is all the more impressive knowing USC was without outside linebacker Morgan Breslin, who will miss his fourth straight game this week at California because of a hip injury.
Interim head coach Ed Orgeron made the announcement Tuesday during the Pac-12 teleconference, adding that he did not know when Breslin would return.
"In my 27 years of coaching, Morgan is absolutely one of my favorite players I've ever coached," Orgeron said. "... He's with us in the meetings, but we miss him on the field. Everything he's about exemplifies the Trojans."
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Despite having missed four games this season, Breslin has eight tackles for loss with five sacks to rank third on the team in both categories. But junior defensive end J.R. Tavai has picked up the slack, posting 19 tackles with two sacks in Breslin's absence over the last three weeks.
Breslin, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior, has been one of the most disruptive players in college football since transferring in from Diablo Valley Junior College, posting 27.5 tackles for loss with 18 sacks in 19 games at USC. There are some questions about whether Breslin has the athleticism to be an impact player in the NFL, but he has made up for it at USC with his relentless effort.
The absence of Breslin might be the lone bit of good news for the Golden Bears, who are being investigated by police after a locker-room fight left one player hospitalized. They rank No. 82 in the FBS in sacks allowed and No. 111 out of 123 teams in tackles for loss allowed. In last season's 27-9 USC win over Cal at the Coliseum, Breslin had 4.5 tackles for loss with 3.5 sacks.