Same Old Story: Lincoln Riley Defends USC’s Defense Despite Being One Of The Worst In The Nation

The USC Trojans are gearing up for a high-stakes showdown against their age-old rivals, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Entering the much-anticipated matchup with a perfect 6-0 record, Trojan fans are dreaming of a playoff berth and a potential national championship.

However, it’s quite possible that the more realistic portion of that fan base believes the Trojans have one fatal flaw.

Despite his defense surrendering 40-plus points in back-to-back weeks, head coach Lincoln Riley has staunchly defended his defensive unit and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.

Riley sought to address the growing unease and criticism of the unit, stating: “There’s a lot of great things happening here. We will own the things that need to get better. People need to make sure they’re seeing the other side of it as well.”

“That’s what we have been trying to say for a long time … We are venting a little bit of frustration with that to be completely honest. I like the job we are doing there. I think we are set up to play really well in the second half of the season.”

In defense of his team’s performance, Riley brought up the missed field goal at the end of regulation in their recent comeback win over Arizona, emphasizing that a made kick would have changed the narrative around the defense.

“You get to that point in games like that and somebody has to make a play to turn it around,” Riley said. “(If) we (made) that field goal (at the end of regulation), we would be talking about how the defense only gave up 11 points the rest of the day and they started the run that got us back on the same page.”

“But it’s one field goal that we don’t make that the defense has no control over. All everyone wants to do is look at the final score, and it just doesn’t tell the entire story … This is a much-improved (defensive) unit. There’s no question about it.”

You have to admire his public positivity and defense of his guys.

The fact however is that USC’s defense has been an extremely weak unit thus far – and time is running out to fix it. 

The Trojans defense ranks tenth in the Pac-12 in total yards allowed, conceding an average of 421.3 yards per game.

In terms of points per game, they are ranked seventh in the conference, allowing an average of 27 points. 

Their undefeated start and strong play from reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams, have helped overshadow some of the defensive concerns.

Riley remains optimistic and believes that USC’s defense will rise to the occasion. With five of the team’s final six opponents currently ranked, the Trojans will have ample opportunities to prove themselves on the defensive end.

Their challenging stretch begins this week with a crucial trip to South Bend where they will face off against star Irish quarterback Sam Hartman.

In other words, the test truly starts on Saturday night.

What do you think about Riley and USC?

Can the Trojans defense right the ship in-time for a legitimate national championship run?