Practice makes perfect… I guess?

At the very least, practice makes a bad thing not so bad anymore.

Fittingly, USC’s plan to fix last season’s red zone woes is to work on its red zone offense in practice! Lincoln Riley continues to be an offensive innovator. Of course the Trojans should be working on situational football in practice. A game on Saturday is a reflection of a practice on Tuesday in the summertime. Great coaches will all sound alike when it comes to what makes or breaks a special season; we’re talking about practice.

All that sounds pretty self-explanatory. Or so you’d think. That USC is fixing its red zone woes by now practicing situational work would suggest it was not doing that before. And that seems to be what USC quarterback Miller Moss suggested to reporters on Tuesday when asked what was different about their red zone work under first-year coach Lincoln Riley compared to last year.

“It’s interesting because we dominated the red zone period today,” Moss said. “That was definitely good for us. I mean, we actually work on red zone, so that’s helpful. We install for red zone, we have different packages and stuff like that, and we really, really work on that because, as you guys know and as we’ve seen over the course of the last year, that stuff wins and loses you games.”


The suggestion from Moss that USC didn’t work on red zone packages much prior to Riley’s arrival isn’t even the first shot at former offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s operation that has been taken since the Trojans began spring ball.

A little over a week ago, running back Darwin Barlow revealed that if a running back wasn’t sure of the play-call, he could just run a swing and things would usually work out.

So… good luck to West Virginia next season.

With regards to the red zone, USC closed last season 94th nationally in touchdown percentage inside the 20. They got 28 scores from 51 trips. USC did well enough to put itself in scoring positions (52% of its drives crossed over the opponent’s 40-yard-line), but when you’re able to get yourself within striking distance, field goals feel like let-downs. Only six teams kicked more red zone field goals than the Trojans last year.

Coincidentally, Riley’s offense at Oklahoma had the second-best touchdown rate in the country.

OU punched the ball in on 76% of its red zone trips (47-of-62) in 2021. It was the best mark of Riley’s tenure to date, but certainly not a flash-in-the-pan kind of performance. In Riley’s five years as a head coach and two years as the Sooner offensive coordinator, his offenses have never ranked lower than 33rd in touchdown percentage.

Trust he can get things turned around.

At the very least, he’s trying to.