LOS ANGELES — Joe Bolin was a tackle at Loyola High who became a preferred walk-on at UCLA.
His practice time was devoted to the Christian Rector test. He had to make sure Rector, as edgy a rusher as Loyola had, could be brought to a halt.
It was a pass-fail test. Bolin wasn’t passing. That meant the quarterback wasn’t either.
“He never could block Christian,” said Rick Pedroarias, the Cubs’ head coach. “I’ll never forget the day he finally did. That meant he could play.”
Rector went to USC. He redshirted and he waited. Now he is a 6-foot-4, 275-pound, third-year sophomore, still applying the Christian Rector test to a more general audience. It has gotten no easier.
Rector stripped the ball from Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the second overtime, which enabled Chase McGrath to kick USC to a 27-24 victory Sept. 17.
He leads the Trojans with 3½ sacks. He and Cameron Smith are tied for the team lead in tackles-for-loss with 4½. He has forced two fumbles.
“The first day back from a game, we show them the turnovers, the sacks, the batted balls,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “The last two weeks we’ve had 10 turnovers (takeaways), eight sacks, and eight batted balls, two of which led to picks.”
“Slapping the ball out is something you learn here,” Rector said. “You take on the block and the next thing you think about is the ball. You really concentrate on it late in the game. That’s when fatigue sets in.”
USC is at Washington State on Friday night, a date encircled, highlighted and boldfaced since the schedule came out, and not just in Pullman.
If the Trojans have a stumbling block or a tripping point on the way to the Pac-12 championship game, this is supposedly it.
It’s a short week, a long trip, an exotic offense to handle. Washington State leads the FBS in touchdown passes (17, with three interceptions) and has ranked eighth, fifth, second and nine the previous four years.
That leads right into the toothiest part of USC’s defense, and Cougar quarterbacks have been sacked for 115 yards, third-most nationally.
“Friday night lights, everybody’s going to be watching us,” safety Chris Hawkins said.
This is a sudden change for the Trojans, who gave up 49 points in the Rose Bowl and were shoved all over the Coliseum floor by Western Michigan
Beginning with the second half against Stanford, they have shown Final Four capability, giving up 51 points in 10 quarters and two overtimes.
Although Rector was good enough…