Arizona vs. USC
October 15, 2016 at 12:35pm
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ: 55,463 (55,675)
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
The Trojans won for the first time in their new road jerseys and the first in Helton’s tenure as permanent head coach. USC moves up to a winning record overall (4-3) and in the Pac-12 (3-2) for the first time this season. That’s a start. A good way to head into the bye week. Now the Trojans can focus on recovering from injuries. It’s a good time for a bye with injuries to key personnel. Off the top of my head, there guys like Justin Davis, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Steven Mitchell. But before looking forward, let’s look back.
Update: Steven Mitchell has torn his ACL and will be out for the season. Best wishes to him on his recovery.
After playing a solid first half, they could afford to go into cruise control mode for the second half. Not a bad way to go. The last USC drive of the half was really a microcosm of the entire game. Two minute drill, even though the Trojans don’t really have one at this point. After making a sweet first down grab, JuJu gets flagged for taunting. Come on man. Now a bunch of time runs off the clock for no reason. I thought that penalty would prevent USC from making that last score before the half.
USC was driving down the field, quickly running out of time. If only Helton had, y’know, saved his timeouts. I’ve been harping on this crap all season and here’s a point when having them would really help. But wait, Arizona takes a timeout with 34 seconds left on the clock. Despite spending all of USC’s timeouts, Helton somehow managed to get a favorable timeout call. Why save your timeouts when you can dip into your opponents’ too? Sorry I doubted you Helton. I didn’t know you were such a master manipulator like that.
Right out of the timeout, JuJu makes an unreal catch and run for the touchdown. Looks like I was wrong for doubting him too. Luck > logic.
In reality, Arizona’s players and coaching staff made repeated errors that allowed the Trojans to dominate them. Combined with Darnold’s elite mprovisation and a zero turnover game, the Trojans had all but put the game away by halftime.
The only times that the Wildcats showed anything worthwhile was on their first touchdown drive. Even then, most of the yardage was subsidized. The Trojans punted from their own 19 for an underwhelming 34 yards. It was immediately followed up by a personal foul penalty, nullifying half the punt. Two plays later, a pass interference penalty took off another 16 yards. Two penalties and the punt was effectively useless.The Wildcats had to drive a mere 16 yards on their own for their only touchdown that mattered.
The Arizona quarterback finished the first half with a -9.5 passer rating. Granted, he is apparently 17 years old and starting the first game of his college career. Still, stellar job by the defense to shut him down that hard.
(CommBro Breaker Conspiracy)
You know what else was -9.5? The opening spread for USC-Arizona. Must be Illuminati or something.
(/CommBro Breaker Conspiracy)
Like I was saying, the offensive gameplan for USC didn’t inspire much confidence. Most of it was Sam Darnold’s ability to extend plays and scramble for first downs. He’s the fairy godmother and USC is Cinderella. Midnight will come eventually if you don’t get a real horse, bro.
Zach Banner returned to the starting lineup and the offensive line played okay. The usually penalty-accumulating Banner had zero this game, which is always good. In fact, the entire offensive line only received one penalty (I do have to note that one was offset by an Arizona penalty. Again, they helped USC out quite a bit this game). Wish I could say the same about the rest of the team though. After hitting a low last week, they’re back to normal with 8 penalties this game.
To finish up on offense, the receivers and the running backs all performed well. A lot of the running backs’ yards were picked up in garbage time in large chunks. Dom Davis got 85 yards and Aca’cedric Ware had runs of 37 and 21 yards. It really seemed like USC could’ve dropped 60 points on Arizona easily. The receivers also adjusted well to some spotty passes. However, adjustments can only get you so far. Some were so far out of reach there was no shot. Darnold has a tendency to underthrow deep balls, but seems to have overcorrected this game, overthrowing quite a few times. Since Jalen Greene overthrew as well, maybe that Arizona Stadium altitude (~700m or ~2300 ft) could have affected deep balls like it does with kicks. Either way, the receivers saved Darnold from a few picks this game, as they did last game. It feels good to have a zero turnover game.
Defensively, you can’t really say many bad things about holding a team to 14 points (7 in garbage time), forcing four turnovers and making a goal line 4th down stop. Iman Marshall bounced back this week with the interception after dropping two potential ones last week.
Lastly, special teams. Man, kind of a lackluster week for them. A fumble during a punt return, some negative returns, and almost turning a PAT into a two point conversion of Arizona. That was just an all-time bad decision by holder. He should just fell on the ball. Did you really think you could’ve Darnold’d botched snap into two points? Arizona equally matched the bad decision with an unnecessary hit to draw a penalty. Lucky us.
Going back to conspiracy theories, Dane Cruikshank was the #9 opposite of JuJu Smith-Schuster. As the cornerback, he had the unfortunate position of covering JuJu. He was most notable for being the one that JuJu stepped over, drawing a penalty. You know who else caused trouble like that? Crookshanks. Who is this Cruikshank character. Is he a Wildcat?—or is he Hermione’s cat?
Misleading Stat of the Week: Despite the failed PAT, USC remains #1 in the nation PAT conversion percentage!! (The failed handling of the snap doesn’t count as an attempt)
USC and 67 other teams also hold “first place.” It’s only slightly better than winning a participation award.
Uplifting Stat of the Week: USC is 16th in the nation with 67.5% of their kickoffs going for touchbacks. It’s been a while since we’ve had a kicker that could consistently kick that far. Guess I can’t hate on the special teams too much.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, THTR 122 is the class code for “Improvisation and Theatre Games” at USC—a 2-unit class I dropped immediately after the first class. Anyway, I just thought it was fitting because of what Darnold did on the field.