USC vs. Arizona (Homecoming)
November 7, 2015 at 7:30pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: 76,309 (of 93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 11 minutes
At a 6-3 overall record, USC is now bowl eligible for the foruth year in a row! Had the unjust postseason ban not been in play, the 2010 (8-5) and 2011 (10-2) teams would’ve connected the current streak with one that started in 2001. That would’ve been 15 consecutive bowl appearances, which would tie for the sixth longest active streak. Unfortunately, the NCAA sanctions were a reality, so the Trojans must now build off the 28th longest active streak.
Also, the quest for no loss November begins 1-0! Three games to finish it off. For the first time since 2010, USC is also 2-0 against the Arizona schools.
And the Trojans are also [Misleading Stat of the Week:] the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 South—against other Pac-12 South teams. It’s not that misleading. As long as the Trojans win out, they will own tie-breakers against ASU, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and UCLA. That means if all of them have two or more losses, USC will represent the South in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Arizona, Colorado, or UCLA need to upset Utah. Cross your fingers or something. I’m not superstitious so whatever man.
Now time for some analysis. Obviously, the start was uglier than a 3-foot long roach. Four possesions, three 3-and-outs, and a fumble. Two of those drives netted negative yards. Two 3rd down sacks by the defense kept the game within reach, but things looked bleak. USC closed the first quarter down 0-7 and had -22 rushing yards. Yes, negative rushing yards. It took only 4 seconds into the second quarter for the Wildcats to make it 0-14.
The Trojans drove down the field to the have a 1st-and-goal at the 8…to come up with a field goal. Just when you thought the Trojans could maybe do something, they waste a goal-to-go situation. I said at the time, the offense would not wake up without a big play by the defense. An interception or something. Then Plattenburg delivered and Kessler throws a bomb to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 72-yard touchdown. Maybe they heard me.
I started making jests about on-side kicks—then Alex Wood and company actually attempt one. I was only joking, but there’s no way they were listening to me, right? What really took the cake was when I was griping about the Jumbotron showing a bunch of selfies. “I want to some some stats, yo!” A simple request, which surely only the friends and the air could hear. The switch is made and the selfies are gone. Like I said, I’m not superstitious…but…I’ll take it!
I will also take the win. The Trojans came back from a double-digit deficit and won despite a fourth quarter deficit. The deficit was only 5 seconds long, but technically right is still right. It didn’t have to be that way though…
Down 20-17 in the third quarter, USC drove down to the Arizona 25-yard line with a chance to tie or take the lead. They did neither. Instead they took looked confused and took two timeouts. Maybe USC should steal its own signals. Is this no-huddle thing really doing the team any favors? After all of that, they come away from the red zone with no points, making Alex Wood 8-of-12 on field goals this season.
The defense continued to hold up Arizona on key drives. The Wildcats entered the game #10 in the nation in rushing yards per game (265 ypg), but were held to 60 yards—averaging a mere 1.9 yards per carry. Granted, they were able to put up a lot of pass yards, but forcing Anu Solomon to throw led to some errors (like the interception). They were also able to sack Solomon six times.
On the other side, the offensive line managed to only allow two sacks, despite having a fairly even run-pass balance (40 rushes, 36 passes). However, this unit picked up two out of the team’s eight penalties. Both were for false start. One of them came at a steep price: a nullified touchdown. At least they managed to give the running backs some room to run though. Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II combined for 262 yards on 35 carries (7.49 average) and two touchdowns apiece.
Jones is indisputably a major factor in the win. He set freshman records with 177 yards on 19 carries, finishing with an astounding 9.31 yards per carry. He was actually averaging 10.6 ypc after his 74-yard touchdown run. Although it’s certainly not as impressive as Marshawn Lynch’s run in the 2011 NFL playoffs, it reminded me of it. There seemed to be no scenario in which either of these running backs would break a couple of tacklers in the open field, but they pull it off and get the touchdown.
Jones’ receiving touchdown is worth noting too. After seeing all of our running backs and fullbacks drop a bunch of passes, it’s good to see Jones improving and making the catch. Steven Mitchell’s crucial block allowed Jones to take it in for a touchdown as well.
Justin Davis shouldn’t be forgotten about either. His two touchdowns came at critical moments. One capitalized on a fourth down stop and took to first lead of the game. The second capped off an 11-play, 5 minute drive that all but put the game away. Arizona still had a chance to score a touchdown, recover an on-side kick, score another touchdown, go for two, and then win in in overtime. So…
Finally, let’s not forget about JuJu Smith-Schuster. After getting surgery on his hand early in the week and not practicing, he seemed to pick up right where he left off. He continued his dominance, notching his sixth 100-yard receiving game of the season. The best part is that Smith-Schuster only dropped one despite major lingering pain in his hand.