USC vs. Oregon: Terrible Towel

USC vs. Oregon (Homecoming)
November 5, 2016 at 4:05pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 74,625 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 33 minutes

This would have been one of those great, feel good games if it didn’t look like a Steelers home game. The Trojans were flagged a total of 13 times for 129 yards.

Instead of Terrible Towels, we had penalty flags

The first few minutes of the game constantly got interrupted for calls. Even if the total 20 penalties all went against Oregon, I would’ve still been irritated by all that wasted time. Part of that is on USC for playing sloppy, but that can only get you so far. Every team says their conference has the worst refs out of a emotion-fueled rants, but watch some games out of every conference. None of them consistently perform that badly—and that’s just the eye test. The statistics show literally half the Pac-12 sits below #107 in penalties per game at this point in the season. That’s actually an improvement from previous seasons.

Oregon head coach, Mark Helfrich, decided to try his luck by challenging the ref’s call on USC’s first offensive play. Personally, I don’t mind, but man was that a waste. It’s a first down play not even two minutes into the game. You burned your challenge for the rest of the game and lost a timeout. Baffling move.

And since we’re on the topic of penalties, it was fun to watch Oregon take two false starts in a row when attempting a fourth down play. The Coliseum crowd noise scared them from a 4th-and-2 near USC’s redzone to a 4th-and-12 and a punt. This all happened after the Trojans took a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. I started to think, “wow, we may blow them out more badly than I thought.” Then the Ducks actually held USC for a few drives and scored their own touchdown. I thought, “oh wow, maybe I was wrong and they’ll actually make this a game.” Then they screwed up their PAT and I changed my mind again. Special teams—on either side—was not a bright spot in this game…except maybe for the Oregon punter pinning USC at the 1 and 3 in the first half. But let’s not stop talking about penalties just yet.

The back-to-back penalties (holding and offensive PI) set USC back to a 1st-and-35. A drive that started near mid-field was now inside their own 20. Seemed like a situation that you would end up punting on for sure. It didn’t help that their next play set up a 2nd-and-34. Passes to Michael Pittman and Ronald Jones more than made up the difference.

Ronald Jones II had another career-high night. Last week was in yards, this week in touchdowns. It’s been a long time since somebody rushed for 4 touchdowns on this team (2005), which ties the record, by the way. Definitely the offensive player of the game. Honorable mention to Deontay Burnett and a freshman honorable mention to Michael Pittman. I can’t let the defense be left out though.

Porter Gustin deserve defensive player of the game for his pass deflections and sacks. It seemed like he was in the backfield pressuring the Oregon freshman quarterback on almost every play. His best play was probably during the bat on 4th-and-2. Oregon had intercepted Darnold and drove to the USC 11 before being denied points by his pass deflection. His performance was instrumental in holding Oregon to half their average points per game.

Both USC and Oregon blitzed on a lot of plays this game. However, the USC offensive line didn’t do a great job picking it up. That probably let to a few ridiculous overthrows by Darnold. Not the best night for him either way, but not horrible either. Luckily, the Trojans were able to take advantage of Oregon’s bad run defense.

Stray Snippets

  • USC under Helton has finally managed to string together a respectable 2-minute drive.
  • TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe’s catch and run off the deflection seems to epitomize the wonky things that happen after Darnold took over as QB.
  • Oregon constantly ran a particular screen to the running back on the left side that got them a bunch of yards. That’s what you get for blitzing so much, I guess.

The Trojans have slowly climbed their way up to 6-3 (5-2 in Pac-12). It’s finally here: the biggest test in Pac-12 play for this season. Washington, sitting at a perfect 9-0. We’ll finally get a measure of how far this has really come from the loss to #1 Alabama in week 1.

CommBro Breaker

Even poor Puddles wanted to be a Trojan during that game. He brought his own plush horse to the Coliseum.

Or maybe he was just using it to chat up the cheerleaders

Or maybe he was just using it to chat up the cheerleaders

An Actual Purposeful Stat that Means a Lot More than Most of the Other Stuff I Put Here: USC is #8 in the nation in sacks allowed (9).

Useless Stat of the Week: USC averages less punt yardage (38.41) than their opponents (41.85).

Misleading Stat of the Week: Ronald Jones lost more yards on rushes than the TEAM.

This one took a lot of mental gymnastics. The stat line credits a -1 yard rush to “TEAM” for the QB kneel. Jones lost 8 yards at some point during his 20 carries.

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