USC vs. Oregon: Duck, Duck, Punt

Oregon vs. USC
November 21, 2015 at 12:30pm
Autzen Stadium: 59,904?! (of 59,000?!)
Total Time: 3 hours 11 minutes

No loss November officially ended on Saturday. As soon as USC climbed back into the rankings, they dropped right back out. It was a record breaking afternoon—in all the wrong ways. USC gave up the most single game passing touchdowns (6) from a QB ever; the most points allowed since losing to Arizona State 62-41 in 2013 (after which Kiffin was fired); and the largest margin of defeat since losing to UCLA 35-14 in 2013. This was in front of a crowd of 59,904, which is over their officially listed capacity. It was all in front of the fifth highest attendance in Autzen Stadium history.

It started with an interception in the endzone, fufilling Vernon Adams’ childhood dream to complete a pass to a USC player.

Jokes aside, things quickly went downhill after Chris Hawkins’ pick. Vernon Adams Jr. finished the first half with 4 touchdowns and over 300 yards passing. He closed out the game with more touchdowns passes than incompletions. Nothing went as planned for the Trojans.

Not even the broadcast went as planned. With the previous game going into overtime, the television broadcast was delayed until halfway through the first quarter. Meanwhile, fans had to watch through WatchESPN which was glitching out for whatever reason. The TV-lifers wouldn’t even have seen the interception, so for all they know, Adams looked error-free.

Adams averaged over 16 yards per pass attempt. The average Oregon scoring drive was 4.62 plays, spanning a 62.38 yards. The average touchdown drive was even less: 4.17 plays and 62.17 yards. USC, on the other hand, had three 9+ play drives end with a punt or loss failed 4th down conversion.

Like I’ve been saying, this slow start stuff wasn’t gonna cut it against better teams. A better team hit USC in the form of Oregon. The Trojans weaknesses were finally exploited to fruition and it was just ugly.

Embarrassingly bad blown coverage was a problem on a few of the Oregon touchdowns. It’s one thing to get beat one on one because a backup is unable to physically unable to keep up. These were a much bigger error. Just take a look at the frame below. As the ball is making contact with the receiver, there is nobody within a 10-yard radius of Evan Baylis.

nobodyhome

If a receiver catches a ball on the field and no DB was around to see it, was it really a catch? -NFL Refs

Adoree’s helmet didn’t even peek into the screen until both of Baylis’ feet were on the ground. He took it straight to the house to reestablish their lead. It was the first play from scrimmage for that drive. It’s crap like that that allowed Oregon to go on a 24-point scoring run spanning the 2nd and 3rd quarter.

USC’s offense had a few good drives, but ultimately were not consistent enough. Instead of catching up on points, they let dumb penalties catch up to them. A kick-catch interference was bad enough, but it also offset a roughing the kicker penalty. That ultimately cost the team a first down, forcing Albarado to punt again. Another drive killing penalty was Chad Wheeler’s personal foul penalty turning a makeable 4th-and-1 into a 4th-and-16. Instead of making up for it, he comes back out and has a false start before the next drive even started. Then the other tackle, Zach Banner picks up a false start. It’s 1st-and-20 before they could get a play off. In total the team had four personal fouls and four false starts—things that are easily avoidable. Having 12 penalties for 124 yards—both season highs—is not a winning formula. Surprisingly, they were able to get past that 1st-and-20, but it was something else they could not recover from.

Cody Kessler made a costly choice on the ensuing 1st-and-10 low snap. He ain’t Russell Wilson, bro. He’s either got to fall on it or throw it away. Instead he tried to roll out and make a play. That ended in a fumble and a quick touchdown by Oregon. Had the Trojans drove down and even scored even a field goal, it would’ve been a one score game. Instead, it became a three score game. With so little time and so many points to catch up on, the USC offense became increasingly more one-dimensional. A pass was expected pretty much every down, and that’s what they did. A predictable offense like that is pretty ineffective. That fumble was so crucial. USC couldn’t even score again that quarter.

On 4th-and-3, down 17 points in the 4th quarter, the team elected to punt. They had a little over 10 minutes to score three times when it took them almost 50 minutes to do that previously (on offense). That punt was basically a surrendering. The defense managed to hold Oregon to a field goal, but the damage was done. With less than 7 minutes and behind three scores, they had no shot, barring a string of miracles longer than the distance from LA to Eugene, Oregon.

While not a miracle, Adoree’ Jackson finally scored on special teams this season, this time returning a punt 41 yards for the touchdown. He also called for a fair catch for the second time in his college career, which might be more of a miracle. However, he had a mistake early, muffing a punt, but Iman Marshall hopped on it like a Black Friday deal.

Justin Davis’ overall performance was great as well. None were better than his run 25-yard run into the red zone in the 2nd quarter. I think I saw something like that before. No, not Kalen Ballage’s run against UCLA. I saw them do that in the Ender’s Game movie first.

CommBro Breaker

By some stroke of luck (shame on you if you cheered for UCLA), Utah lost their game, allowing USC to maintain control of their destiny. However, UCLA is in control of theirs as well. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Who will win? Who will represent the Pac-12 South in the Pac-12 Championship game against Stanford?

Double CommBro Breaker

Sounds way too dramatic. It’s more like an inconsistent force meets a semipermeable object. But still, WHO WILL WIN? Jim Mora Jr. plays against the fourth USC head coach in four years, two of them being interim. Both teams have struggled at times against beatable opponents and each have enough injuries to fill up a hospital ward. One of them will hobble to the finish line against Stanford to get roasted by Christian McCaffrey. Doesn’t that sound better than the CommBro Breaker?

Misleading Stat of the Week: 

If USC somehow manages to beat Stanford and UCLA, they will somehow manage not to be the losingest Pac-12 champion and certainly not the losingest Rose Bowl participant in history.

John Robinson’s 8-5 USC squad in 1993 actually had a 6-2 record in conference, tying both UCLA and Arizona. All three were recognized as co-champions, but USC was unsurprisingly unranked. UCLA went on to lose to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, while Arizona defeated Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. USC beat Utah in the Freedom Bowl.

There have been three previous teams have played in the Rose Bowl with 4 losses. They were 1963 Washington (6-4), 1977 Washington (7-4), and 1983 UCLA (6-4-1). However, 2012 Wisconsin snuck in at 8-5 when both Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible to play in the postseason. So again, USC would not be the worst team (record-wise) to play in the Rose Bowl.

Why is this misleading? Because that unranked 2012 Wisconsin team somehow managed to take down #14 Nebraska in the 2012 Big Ten Championship game—by a margin of 39. The final score was 70-31 and Wisconsin amassed two 200-yard rusher and one 100-yard rusher. So while the Trojans would have a better record than that 8-5 team, it might be difficult to say that they’re better than that.

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