Colorado vs. USC
November 13, 2015 at 6:00pm
Folsom Field: 37,905 (of 50,138)
Total Time: 3 hours 6 minutes
Another week, another nailbiter, but another win. That’s 4 straight wins, 2-0 in November, 4-0 in the Pac-12 South, and 10-0 all time against Colorado. A no loss November and Pac-12 title still remain a possibility. I’m sure it was a lot closer than most would’ve imagined, but, again, this isn’t the Colorado team that you’ve known in the Pac-12. If you look at their record, you might think it’s more or less the same, but if you look closely, this was a team that lost a bunch of close games to superior teams. They were also fighting for their first bowl berth since 2007. With 6 losses, this was effectively an elimination game—and it showed.
The first drive started out promising by USC, but quickly derailed. After getting down to the goal line, a fumble followed by questionable decisions wasted a red zone possession. Going from 2nd-and-1 to a field goal is fairly disappointing. You can almost taste the points at the one yard line. USC would not score again for over 25 minutes of game time. Meanwhile, Colorado jumped to a 14 point lead in between. I guess you can only ask for so much when both teams made the field look like a Slip N’ Slide.
Overall, USC’s offense punted five times in the game. Sadly, four of them were 3-and-outs and the fifth was only four plays long. So many of the Trojans’ drives don’t even get off the ground. Almost all the drives that made it past the first set of downs ended in points. It’s feast or famine with this offense.
The pre-Thanksgiving feast took place right after halftime. A third down sack forced Colorado to punt the ball back to USC. The Trojans put together a 13-play, 83-yard drive touchdown drive, culminating in a pass complete to a fullback (wow). That was just the beginning. A fortunate stretch—brought to you in part by Delvon Simmons—allowed them to retake the lead early into the fourth quarter. The first play of Colorado’s ensuing drive turned into a tackle-for-loss and fumble caused by Simmons. The Texas Tech transfer wasn’t done after that. After the offense capitalized via a pass to a tight end (wow) for the first lead of the night, Simmons blocked a game-tying field goal attempt that was returned to Colorado territory by Adoree’ Jackson. A quick 36-yard strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster gave USC its last taste of points. The seven points in drought-ridden California would start a period of famine seven (x2) minutes long, like Egypt’s seven-year famine and drought. Must be ILLUMINATI!
No secret society caused the subpar special teams performance. A 39-yard punt was offset by a 45-yard return by Nelson Spruce and a personal foul penalty to set them up at 2-yard line. The touchdown was practically gifted to Colorado. This is where I have to inform you that USC has allowed an embarrassing average of over 15 yards per punt return, ranking in at #122. Bad punt coverage exacerbated by less than mediocre punting (rank #88, averaging barely over 40 yards per punt). Just as an aside, since we’re talking about kicking…
USC is tied for #9 in the nation—FOR KICKOFFS OUT-OF-BOUNDS. Let us come together and celebrate our top ten statistic. And just because Poe’s Law is always in play, I must emphasize that you shouldn’t celebrate because this is not a positive thing. Interestingly enough, opponents also kick out-of-bounds a lot against the Trojans. USC’s opponents must really believe in sportsmanship and evening out playing field! Or Adoree’ is so feared as a return man that opposing teams would rather risk kicking out-of-bounds than let him return it. Thank your local USC opponent for making the Trojans tied for #2 in opponent kickoffs out-of-bounds! And Adoree’ finally called for a fair catch for the first time in his USC career! But back to the team’s weaknesses.
The offensive line has improved, but isn’t to a point of being comfortable. They still can’t find themselves a penalty-free game, with Damien Mama picking up a false start. Losing Viane Talamaivao isn’t going to do the unit any favors. The continued sweet combo (commbro?) of Kessler experiencing phantom pressure and bailing out of the pocket early makes their job that much harder. Then throw Ronald Jones II in the mix for pass protection issues. There’s no doubt that Jones runs the ball well and has even improved his catching ability. However, he still has a lot to learn in pass protection. On a key third down, he allowed a free rusher to sack Kessler. That’s why he’s not in the game every play. Also because Justin Davis is a good running back. Davis’ final run of the game was big-time stuff, going untouched on 3rd-and-8 to effectively ending the game.
While the 21-0 run in the former part of the second half is impressive, the Trojans can’t keep relying on the same formula against better teams. They couldn’t pull it off against Notre Dame. It may not work against Oregon, and probably will not work against UCLA. They will show up ready right out of the gates.
Oregon is 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Pac-12—just like USC. Both Oregon and USC will be going into the game with a 4-game win streak. One of them will end in Autzen. The difference is that a Pac-12 division title is out of reach for Oregon while USC is in the driver’s seat. That should be a motivation for the Trojans to play their best against what looks to be a fully recovered Oregon offense. Might be difficult with Cam Smith and Lamar Dawson out with injuries.
Misleading Stat of the Week: 37.5% of Taylor McNamara’s catches have been touchdown receptions! (8 catches, 3 TDs)