USC defense hoping to bounce back vs. Arizona St.

USC defense hoping to bounce back vs. Arizona St.

LOS ANGELES (AP) If No. 21 Southern California even hopes to think about a big finish to its disappointing season, the Trojans realize they must improve quickly and significantly on defense.

The good news? That shouldn't be too tough.

After the worst defensive game in USC history last week, almost anything at all would be an improvement Saturday against Arizona State.

``I don't think we're ever going to play a game like that again,'' USC safety T.J. McDonald said after the Trojans allowed 730 yards and 62 points in a loss to Oregon.

USC (6-3, 4-3 Pac-12) hosts the slumping Sun Devils (5-4, 3-3) at the Coliseum in what's essentially an elimination game for the Pac-12 South title. The Trojans haven't lost three straight games since 2001, when Lane Kiffin was the Trojans' 26-year-old tight ends coach under Pete Carroll.

``We all know we've got to get better,'' Kiffin said. ``We have to look at ourselves, always, when anything is that lopsided.''

The Trojans went back to work with determination this week after that embarrassing defensive effort against Oregon in their second straight loss. They also endured another round of the off-the-field shenanigans that seem to surround this program, this time the dismissal of a student manager for underinflating footballs before that loss to the Ducks.

USC's defense appeared overwhelmed by the Ducks - and while they're hardly alone there, the result was discouraging for the players and coaches who must try to keep up with Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly and his solid offense this week. The Trojans have yielded 1,318 yards and 101 points in their last two games.

``When you perform like we did, it's totally unacceptable,'' USC defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron said. ``We did not play well. I did not coach them well, and we've got to get better. There's no excuse for it. ... It's hard, especially during the week, when you're representing a great program like USC, and you feel like you let everybody down. We've got to deal with it. We can't let this happen to us twice.''

Not everything has been awful for the Trojans lately: The offense led by Matt Barkley and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee has scored at least 36 points in four of the last five games, following much the same path of gradual maturity shown by last season's offense.

``We're starting to come together,'' center Khaled Holmes said. ``I think we've played better each week. We're still not where we want to be, but you can see the progress.''

But the Trojans will face the Pac-12's best pass defense when Arizona State goes after its first win in Los Angeles since 1999.

``They're very simple in what they do, unlike the teams we've faced over the last three weeks who are all over the map with their looks,'' said Barkley, who has thrown four interceptions in the past two weeks. ``This week, it will be much simpler, but they are very good at what they do.''

Although the Sun Devils have lost three straight after a 5-1 start under new coach Todd Graham, they're still in the running for postseason play. Graham insists Arizona State isn't headed for another late-season swoon matching last year's five-game skid, which cost Dennis Erickson his job.

``They have had many opportunities in the last three weeks to implode or to take a step backward, but they haven't done that,'' Graham said of his players. ``And that is first and foremost what we committed to our fans. This program is going to be out winning championships, and we are going to have the same expectations. The season isn't over, is what I would tell (fans).''

The Trojans also have motivation for the matchup from last season, when the Sun Devils largely shut down Barkley in a 43-22 victory, snapping an 11-game skid against USC.

``We remember that game, but we've still got a lot of games to play this season,'' Woods said. ``We could still win out and get to where we want to be, but we're not getting ahead of ourselves.''


AP College Football Writer John Marshall in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.


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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.


Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.


Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.


Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.


Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.