Wisconsin vs. USC (National Funding Holiday Bowl)
December 30, 2015 at 7:40pm
Qualcomm Stadium: 48,329 (of 71,500)
Total Time: 3 hours 28 minutes
In the Trojans’ longest game of the season, USC fell to Wisconsin in a struggle of a match. The Badgers experienced their first win against a Trojan team after seven tries, spanning over 60 years. It’s funny how a team USC was undefeated against ends the Trojans’ 13-game winning streak against Big Ten teams. USC continues to set a lot of unfortunate firsts in this decade. Like the final 8-6 record—which looks really bad.
Most teams have not ever gotten an 8-6 record because having a 14-game season is already uncommon. Wisconsin joined the uncommon crowd back in 2012 when they went to a Rose Bowl with an 8-5 record. They eventually lost to Stanford, ending their season 8-6.
There’s not a whole lot I want to say about this game, so I’ll get it over with quickly.
I refrained from commenting on the light practice schedule heading into the bowl game, but now with the benefit of hindsight reinforcing my opinion, I can say that was probably a major mistake. Wisconsin’s team is physically tough and boasts one of the best defenses that USC has faced this season.
Instead of showing up, USC continued to showcase that everything wrong with the Trojans in 2015. It’s sad that the same issues from the first few games were still alive and well in the 14th game of the season. Stupid penalties from lack of discipline, an absurd number of tackles for loss allowed, wasted timeouts, and plain incomprehensible decision-making.
Wisconsin did better in most statistical categories, including time of possession. For a USC team that’s supposed to be tough, physical, and focus on the power run, failing at an almost 2:1 ratio is beyond disappointing.
Then there’s the tackles for a loss. Redshirt sopohomore linebacker, Jack Cichy, picked up three sacks in a row—bolstered by a 5-yard penalty—to bring up a 4th-and-38. At least it wasn’t 4th-and-40. By the way, Cichy only had 2 sacks his entire career. That helped them total an astounding 9 tackles for a loss against USC.
Meanwhile, USC failed to sack any Wisconsin QB. Not even the backup QB after Joel Stave got cleated in the face. Speaking of Stave, he was mediocre to subpar for most of his games. Throughout his career, he tended to throw about as many interceptions as touchdowns. The game against USC turned out to be arguably his best performances against a Power 5 team this season.
The penalty problem didn’t go away either. None being worse than that last one. I don’t really like calling individual players out, but come on Don Hill. That was a dumb penalty at the end that played a large factor in costing the team the game. It wasn’t some kind of subjective call or a failing to make a tough play. It was just hot-headness, ego or whatever that led to a stupid personal foul penalty. It was completely unnecessary and avoidable.
Through it all, USC still had a chance down the stretch. The offense had possession with 2:27 remaining. The ball is in your hands with 2 minutes left and only down by 2. This is where legends are made! Oh, interception? That’s cool too, I guess.
Ah, but destiny grants you another chance! Throw to an 8-yard out route on 4th-and-10 with 7 seconds left? Hi, this is fate calling. I’m giving up on you. Bye. Seriously though, that was excrutiating to watch.
After a preseason #8 ranking, the Trojans will fall to unranked after the bowl season ends.
Wisconsin’s scoring defense led the nation in allowing only 13.1 points per game. USC scored 21—above average!
Misleading Stat of the Week: USC is undefeated against team names that start with the vowels A, E, I , and U. Their only vowel loss was to Oregon.
Arkansas State W
Arizona State W
Real Stats: If you want to play apologist, the combined number of losses of USC’s opponents in 2015 is the fewest in a decade. You’d have to reach back a decade to 2005, when USC played six ranked teams with a combined record of 88-65. The combined record for 2015 is 116-67 and they faced five ranked teams. Only two of those teams were not bowl eligible. No matter how you cut it, it was a difficult season even before coaching changes and sanction effects