LOS ANGELES — Before Stephen Carr dashed for 52 yards along the north sideline of the Coliseum in USC’s win over Stanford, he ran through a vast hole.

Carr, the Trojans’ freshman running back, was untouched past the line of scrimmage.

The hole, on the left side of USC’s offensive line, might have been close to 10 yards, based on TV replays.

Why was it so gaping?

Start with left guard Chris Brown, who pushed the defensive tackle, Mike Tyler, to the right, shoving him several feet backward.

“When you see it from the sideline,” USC coach Clay Helton said, “I knew that was going to be a block that sprung it.”

At first, Toa Lobendahn was supposed to combo block Tyler, but Brown took care of it.

“He blew ’em so far, I didn’t even help him,” Lobendahn said.

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Instead, Lobendahn matched up with an outside linebacker. Tight end Josh Falo sealed off a defensive end. And Carr was off.

“That’d be the goal,” Brown said, “to do that every play.

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As USC totaled 307 rushing yards against Stanford, it was often its offensive line that vaulted Carr, Ronald Jones and the rest of its running backs downfield.

The group, certainly the left side of the offensive line, has appeared to gel quickly.

Lobendahn, a fourth-year junior, is starting at left tackle for the first time since his freshman season in 2014, replacing Chad Wheeler. Brown, a fourth-year junior, is the full-time starter at left guard for the first time, replacing Damien Mama.

Helton, after assessing Brown’s block, called it “by far his best game since being a Trojan.”

For Lobendahn, he has returned from two consecutive season-ending knee injuries.

“We’ve had great communication so far up front,” right guard Viane Talamaivao said.

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Along with right tackle Chuma Edoga, a junior, USC began this season with three new starters on the offensive line.

“It’s three new starters,” Talamaivao said, “but it’s guys who have been around each other for a long time.”


Several of USC’s starters were held out of practice on Tuesday following injuries sustained against Stanford.