When Curtis McNeal came out of Friday's game against Colorado early in the third quarter because of a deep thigh bruise, it gave freshmen running backs D.J. Morgan and Amir Carlisle their first opportunities in quite while to get in-game carries for the Trojans.
And both players jumped on the chance, carrying the ball a combined 19 times for 146 yards, or 7.7 yards per rush. Looking back, Marc Tyler was in Boulder but not ready to play because of a shoulder injury, and George Farmer, the only other non-redshirting scholarship running back, was home in Los Angeles because of an ankle injury.
So Morgan and Carlisle were all the Trojans had, but they didn't look bad at all.
"It felt great to actually get in there and contribute," Carlisle said after the game, in which he scored his first career touchdown on Matt Barkley's record-breaking sixth touchdown pass. "Coach called my number and I just went out there and made the most of it."
Before Friday's game, Carlisle only had two carries in a USC uniform. He made his Trojans' debut in the Arizona State loss in Week 4 after being sidelined by an ankle injury early on and then reinjured the ankle soon after. So the Colorado game really was, for him, an opportunity to prove he deserves continued playing time.
And it was the same for Morgan, really -- whose nine carries were the most he'd gotten since the season opener, which he started in place of a suspended Marc Tyler.
"I think it was great for me," Morgan said Monday. "I was in the game in a critical situation. Curtis went down and I went in and I picked up some blocks."
USC coach Lane Kiffin indicated Monday that Farmer is unlikely to play Saturday against Washington, and Tyler is not a sure thing either. So Morgan and Carlisle -- or at least one of them -- is a good bet to get some significant carries in support of McNeal on Saturday.
And that's been a long time coming.
"We have a big stable here," Morgan said. "You have to put yourself into the shuffle to even be thought of during the game, and that's during the week through hard work in practice."