LOS ANGELES — The Boston College football team arrived here Thursday night for its first road game of the season, facing Southern Cal on Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a puncher’s chance of improving to 3-0.
But Eagles coach Steve Addazio knows his team, fresh off gritty victories over Villanova and Wake Forest, must adhere to the core values of mental and physical toughness if they intend to beat a talented but underachieving USC team for the first time in four tries.
“It’s tough to go on the road and beat a top-tier team,’’ said Addazio.
USC (1-1) lost at home to Washington State last Saturday, the 10-7 defeat knocking the then-No. 25 Trojans out of the national poll. USC held the Cougars to 222 total yards (just 7 rushing), but Washington State won on an interception return and late field goal.
USC’s offense, meanwhile, seemed stuck in neutral as coach Lane Kiffin continued to hold open auditions for quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, who combined for 54 yards passing. The indecision at quarterback seemed to frustrate not only the fans of Troy, who booed their team off the field, but also junior wide receiver Marqise Lee, the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner, who was limited to 27 yards on seven catches.
Kiffin this week announced he is going with Kessler, a 6-foot-1-inch, 215-pound redshirt sophomore from Bakersfield, Calif., as his starter for the remainder of the season.
“You know receiver-quarterback chemistry is critically important,’’ said Addazio. “I’m guessing, just listening and watching that right now, that [USC is] trying to find that but you’re not going to hold down a receiver like Lee. He’s so talented. He’s going to get his hands on that football, and when he does, that’s going to keep you up at night now, because I think he is legit.’’
To keep Lee off the field, BC’s offense will have to remain on it.
Senior quarterback Chase Rettig, the only California native on BC’s roster, said the Eagles will have to deploy a balanced, ball-control scheme to hold their own against a formidable USC defense.
“They have the best recruits in the country at every position, so they have a lot of talent,’’ Rettig said. “The first two teams [USC faced] had a lot of trouble moving the ball against them. We have our game plan and we’re going to execute it as best we can.’’
It will be incumbent upon BC’s offensive line to set the tone. It explains why there was an added sense of urgency in practices this week.
“You definitely see the extra fire, going to play a USC out there,’’ said senior right tackle and cocaptain Ian White. “You hear about their offensive struggles, but their defense is an NFL defense. They run an NFL scheme and they have NFL players and they look pretty getting off the bus.’’
Senior running back Andre Williams, a bruising 6-foot, 227-pounder who rushed 35 times for a career-high 204 yards in BC’s 24-10 victory over Wake Forest last Friday night, would appear to be key to BC’s plan to control the ball.
But that doesn’t mean BC will abandon its passing game. Amidon, who had five catches for 93 yards and a 26-yard TD against Wake Forest, could factor prominently in BC’s aerial attack.
“The challenge for us will be to strike some balance,’’ Addazio said. “In order to do that, our receivers are going to have to get open and we’re going to have to throw well and catch well.
“So I think it’s the balance of it that we’re really, really going to need against this outstanding defense. But people don’t move the ball real well against this defense now.’’
The Eagles have not visited LA Coliseum since 1987, when BC suffered a 23-17 loss to the Trojans. USC prevailed again the following year at Alumni Stadium with a 34-7 victory in a Thursday night game.
USC also beat BC, 24-13, in the 2009 Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.
Addazio knows his team must adhere to a simple plan on Saturday.
“What we’ve got to do is really take care of the football,’’ he said. “We’ve got to be really aggressive on defense, and we’ve got to get this game into the fourth quarter and just keep swinging away with them. That’s what we need to do.’’