Washington vs. USC
November 12, 2016 at 4:36pm
Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA: 72,364 (70,183)
Total Time: 3 hours 24 minutes
USC went on the road and orchestrated a double digit win against the formerly undefeated #4 team in the nation in primetime. No other team had even taken a double digit lead against the Washington Huskies previously. The Trojans held their lead for nearly the entire game. With that, Lee Corso’s College Gameday streak of 21 picks, UDub’s 12-game win streak, and a string of unfortunate Pac-12 opponents fall victim to USC’s resurgence.
The story of the game would have to be the championship caliber defense. Yet another week, they hold a team well below their average. USC took a 17-6 lead at halftime, holding Washington to 158 total yards and a mere 36 rushing yards. Somehow, the Huskies finished the game with even less (17) rushing yards than at the half. Other than Adoree’ Jackson slipping to give up a 70-yard touchdown pass, the defense did not allow a touchdown for 60 minutes. A defense that only gives up an average of 6.5 points per half to the former #2 scoring offense in the nation in an offense-crazy college football is one that I’ll take. Clancy Pendergast’s defense even managed to score some points towards the end when when Tee Martin’s offense stalled out in the fourth quarter.
The team mostly rushed four and still generated enough pressure to keep Jake Browning uncomfortable. Porter Gustin remains one of the most influential players on this side of the ball. His pass breakup, two sacks, constant pressures, and hits on the QB were vital to the win.
Adoree Jackson’ would qualify as a tie or close second. Jackson intercepted the Heisman candidate twice, accounting for 40% of Browning’s interceptions on the season (5 total). This Washington team was, and still is #1 in the nation in turnover margin with +15. They really don’t turn the ball over a lot, making Jackon’s achievement that much more impressive. However, a margin like that has as much to do with their offense as it does their defense.
This has been a statisically stingy Washington defense, allowing only 17 points per game, good for #11 in the nation. When viewing it from that lens, the offense did alright. Sam Darnold threw two interceptions, but one wasn’t his fault. Apparently the team has a slipping problem, because Darreus’ slip on the slant route led directly to Darnold’s second interception. The first one was totally on Darnold though for throwing it into triple coverage. More notable is that a redshirt freshman like Darnold was able to
both times. He led a decent drive after the first, but a dropped ball on third down led to a field goal. In the end, it didn’t matter that USC had to settle, but there was no way we could’ve known at the time. That was a pretty big mistake. After the second interception, Darnold led a 60-yard touchdown drive for their only offensive score in the second half. This offense needs to get over that last hump. They had lots of failed drives that could’veeffectively ended the game instead of leaving it up to the defense. Their last three offensive drives ended the following ways: punt (three-and-out), punt, and turnover on downs. Conversely, the defense’s last three were: forced punt, interception, safety.
Sure, Darnold has been responsible for the offensive awakening, but I’ve made three other picks for offensive players deserving recognition:
- Darreus Rogers made key receptions and I really mean that. Five of his six catches went for first downs or touchdowns—three of which were on third downs. One of his best plays was when he turned a likely interception on third down at the USC 14 into a 27-yard catch and run for a first down. I’m sure all of that makes up for his slip up.
- Ronald Jones, while not breaking off any large runs, showed that he could pick up the tough yards and be trusted to carry for 20 times a game.
- Daniel Imatorbhebhe for making challenging catches and a touchdown grab.
Lastly, we can’t forget about the special teams. After Darnold’s second interception, the defense rallied for a stop in field goal range. What really capped that off was a block by Rasheem Green and returned by Jackson to the USC 40. If they had made that kick, it would’ve turned it into a one point game.
I’ve been saying all season that the Trojans had to put together a complete game against Washington to prove to the nation how far they’ve come. They had their opportunity and capitalized, bringing a very convincing win as evidence of their progress. And they did it all with Helton’s strange timeout game, turnovers, dumb penalties, and probably everything else I complained about at some point in the season. All the mistakes they’ve made they were able to pare down to a manageable level. If you were holding your breath, you can celebrate a little now. I am too, nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t go too far though.
As much as I’d like to say…
Pac-12, you had your chance when Pete Carroll lost his starting quarterback, most of his defense, and his offensive and defensive coordinator in a single offseason. You had your chance when Lane Kiffin was called in to rebuild a program straddled with unjust sanctions and an unprecedented number of transfers. You had your chance when we had 5 coaching changes in 3 seasons. During that entire stretch of seven years, all 11 (or nine back in ’09 and ’10) Pac-12 teams only managed to put together four Rose Bowl wins, two national championship appearances and one Heisman Trophy winner. For comparison, in the 7 year stretch immediately preceding that, USC topped all of that with 7 straight BCS bowl appearances, 4 of which were Rose Bowl wins, 2 national championships, and 3 Heisman Trophy winners. It’s our turn again.
I wouldn’t recommend actually going on record with that. Helton has clearly taken a huge step forward with this statement win. However, we’ve seen many teams fail to sustain that success. Just at USC:
- Lane Kiffin 2011 beat #4 Oregon at Autzen Stadium in 2011, but eventually gets fired after 7-6 season and 3-2 start
- Ed Orgeron beat #4 Stanford at the Coliseum in 2013, but lost to Notre Dame and UCLA
If you need examples outside of USC:
- Kirk Ferentz at Iowa got a big contract extension after a 12-2 season and Rose Bowl appearance. Now 6-4 (4-3 in Big Ten), but they’re stuck with him and a huge buyout for like a decade
- Charlie Strong had two 11+ win seasons at Louisville, but is now having trouble putting together a winning season in his third year at Texas
Sustained success is one of the most difficult things to achieve in football. Think of all the flash in the pan coaching jobs that everyone wanted to anoint. This major step is one that had to be taken by Helton, but unless you’re into gambling, you probably shouldn’t be touting him as the next Pete Carroll or anything like that. Helton has many more steps to take and that’s okay. He’s clearly grown a lot since he started and hopefully will grow a lot more. Be patient and let it play out because Helton isn’t going to be fired, hired away, or get a contract extension after his first full season as head coach.
CommBro Breaker 3.14
Useless Stat of the Week: Since Pete Carroll has left USC plays well against teams ranked between #4 for some reason…
- 26-13 win against 2016 Washington #4 (AP, Coaches Playoff)
- 20-17 win against 2013 Stanford #4 (BCS)
- 38-35 win against 2011 Oregon #4 (AP, Coaches, BCS)
- 48-56 3OT loss against 2011 Stanford #4 (AP, BCS)
Yet, they get beat by almost everyone else in the top ten
Misleading Stat of the Week: The Trojans are ranked #15 and #25 in the AP Poll
The USC Trojans shot up from unranked to #15. The Troy Trojans dragged themselves up from unranked to #25. Troy University is a school out in Alabama. Currently, they have only lost to Clemson.