USC gets healthier at linebacker position with return of Eric Gentry

LOS ANGELES — USC regained a linebacker when Eric Gentry returned to action on Saturday night against Stanford.

Tackett Curtis and Raesjon Davis started at each linebacker spot, but Gentry was able to get into the game with roughly six minutes remaining in the first quarter after missing last week’s game against Nevada. Fellow linebacker Mason Cobb, who was also out for that game, was on the sideline in street clothes on Saturday.

Coach Lincoln Riley said during media availability on Thursday that he was “hopeful” Gentry and Cobb would play against Stanford, but was unable to offer much more clarity.

“I don’t know that either one of them is a green light, like, for sure gonna go,” he said. “But I couldn’t say that either one of them doesn’t have a chance. They’ve both progressed well and today will probably tell if they’re able to keep that progression going and if they’re ready to go out there and make plays.”

Cobb played in USC’s season opener against San Jose State and logged six tackles and two tackles for a loss, but was out during the Trojans’ second game against Nevada. Gentry logged two tackles against San Jose State.

Cobb and Gentry are two parts of a defense that has given up an average of 21 points per game this season, 123.5 rushing yards per game and 254.5 passing yards. USC limited Stanford to one field goal, 96 rushing yards and 146 passing yards in the first half.

“I feel like we’ve been pretty physical,” Riley said. “I think we’ve had some errors. We’ve had some things that we’ve had to clean up, but I have not seen a moment this year where we’re getting overpowered by any stretch.

“We are a thicker, stronger football team. We are a deeper football team than we were a year ago and I feel a significant difference there.”

High-scoring first half

The Trojans set a new record for first-half points scored in Riley’s tenure on Saturday night when they put up 49 points against the Cardinal. The previous record was 35 points, which was achieved twice last season against Rice and Stanford.

USC dominated the time of possession in the first half, keeping the ball for 14 minutes to Stanford’s 10:14.

USC also ran 39 total offensive plays in the first half, which puts them on track for a season-high after running 69 plays against San Jose State and 54 plays against Nevada.

The amount of plays USC ran also comes in the face of an NCAA rule change regarding the clock. The clock continues to run even after a first down is gained — a rule change that was designed to speed up the game. Last season, time was stopped after each first down.

Historic alumni recognized at Coliseum

The Trojans welcomed an alumnus as old as the Coliseum itself on Saturday night when it honored 100-year-old Bruce Gelker with a medal of courage in the first quarter.

Gelker played both football and baseball for USC in 1943 and played at tackle for the Trojans in the 1944 Rose Bowl. After his time at USC, he joined the Marine Corps during the Korean War.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, another USC alumnus and current NFL receiver, served as the Trojans’ coin toss captain and announced the countdown for the tunnel run. St. Ra is 11th on USC’s career receptions list with 178 catches for 2,270 yards and 16 touchdowns.

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