USC vs. Colorado: Fumbling Still Fun

USC vs. Colorado
October 8, 2016 at 1:10pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 68,302 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 17 minutes

USC claws its way back to a .500 record and sits at 3-3 overall (2-2 in Pac-12).

The Buffs entered the game at 4-1 (2-0 in Pac-12) having only lost to the current #4 Michigan. They were extremely competitive in that game, carrying the lead for half the game. However, disaster struck when their starting quarterback, Sefo Liufau went down in the 3rd quarter.

The Buffaloes looked decent on paper, but couldn’t overcome USC despite having a +3 turnover margin. Colorado, the former sole leader of the South Division, never even managed to take a lead on the Trojans. They fall to 4-2 overall (2-1 in Pac-12). They now tie with USC’s last opponent, ASU, for first place in the South. Meanwhile, USC sits at fourth despite beating them both.

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Let’s play a game. I’ll make a wish and then someone can find a way to add a qualifier to spoil the dream. Juts kidding, I’m going to find the qualifier for you.

Wish: USC will win the game and their offense won’t have any three-and-outs

Qualifier: Wish granted, but instead of a true “three-and-out” where the Trojans punt, they will have two three-and-fumbles. And a four-and-interception. We’ll throw in a nine-and-fumble on the first drive too—the endzone. Enjoy!

Sam Darnold still managed to pull out a second consecutive 300-yard, 3 touchdown game, but looked like a freshman doing it. It looks like his youth finally caught up to him. He accounted for three of the team’s four turnovers and could’ve easily caused a few more. He threw a few ill-advised passes and some heavily underthrown balls.

A combination of skill and luck turned some potential turnovers into big plays. Late in the game, in a momentum-swinging play, Darreus Rogers bailed his quarterback out with the grab of the month. Colorado cornerback, Akhello Witherspoon, might have to file a police report for the mugging that took place.

In another play, Darnold barely improvised a touchdown out of a botched handoff in the red zone.These kinds of plays represent the best and worst of Darnold. It’s great when it works, but terrible when it doesn’t (like the fumble that turned into a touchback). Part of the growing pains is learning what situations are suitable or necessary for these trying to turn crap into gold moves. The bad ones can simply defined as “trying to do too much.” Ball security should come before that. I’m not worried about this yet. If he’s still doing the dumb ones late into next season, then we’ve got a problem.

There’s a common saying that good teams find a way to win. The Trojans overcame their mistakes and won it. That’s a pretty good sign.

In other news, Adoree’ Jackson is still good. He had:

  • 38-yard kickoff return
  • 47-yard punt return
  • An athletic, leaping interception

Uchenna Nwosu was another defensive standout. He broke up two passes and sacked the QB.

On the offense, JuJu Smith-Schuster made a smart and unselfish play to seal the win. His slide late in the fourth quarter characterizes his discipline and team spirit. Looks like he might’ve seen the ending of the Tennessee-Georgia game last week. Can’t leave too much time on the clock after scoring.

An example closer to home would be that USC-ASU game in 2014. With 3:02 remaining in the game, Javorius Allen scored on a 53-yard touchdown run to put them up 34-25. ASU still came back to win it. JuJu was a freshman, so he would’ve remembered that. The situation was a little different, making a slide still a bit of a risk, but in this game, it was definitely warranted.

OR MAYBE HE WAS JUST POINT SHAVING. By sliding, he killed all hope of USC beating the spread. Some bettors lost a lot of money.

Lastly (for the positives, at least), a huge thing of note is the lack of penalties this game. Two penalties is ridiculously low. Want to know the last time USC had two or fewer penalties? 2012. The infamous Sun Bowl game against Georgia Tech.That’s right folks, it’s been 46 games since—three and a half season—since the Trojans have played such a disciplined game.

Including the Georgia Tech and Colorado games, there have only been a total of six games out of the 48 in which the Trojans had less than five penalties. Since Sarkisian took over in 2014, there have only been three. If Helton can keep the penalty numbers under five, that will already go a long way.

Just so I can tack on some angles, here are the negatives:

  • Some of the play calling on third down
  • Justin Davis and Viane Talamaivao getting injured
  • 50% (2-4) in the red zone
  • The four turnovers (obviously)

Misleading Stat of the Week: Despite the loss, Colorado is closer to getting a winning record against USC than Stanford, Washington, Washington State, Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, and UCLA.

Totally misleading. In the 11 meetings since 1927, Colorado is, as you might have guessed, 0-11 against USC. They lose by an average of 21.5 points per game

Go Buffs? How about get buff.

Misleading Stat of the Week #2: 100% of Tyler Petite’s catches went for touchdowns. All two of them.

Turnovers off of turnovers count: 3

The count is building momentum. The great thing about it is how it showcases both teams’ screw-ups. It takes two bad plays on successive drives for this to happen.

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