USC vs. Arizona: Goal Line Torture
Arizona vs. USC
September 29, 2018 at 7:35pm
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ: 43,573 (55,675)
Total Time: 3 hours 26 minutes
Two SCents: Ridiculous Stats of the Week:
Games against the Arizona schools always bring out the strangest occurrences. Things like the Kiffin’s firing after a particularly bad ASU loss (this game was played on the 5 year anniversary of that event), weird timeout scenarios in Tucson, or the time they had to drag everyone out of the locker room to kick a field goal. There are plenty of other examples in the past several years, but I’m already way past two sentences. My point is, this game is no exception to the peculiarity, but this game is an exception to 2018’s two sentence rule.
“A win is a win” is how the saying goes, but it’s starting to not feel that way. The ridiculous stat of the week section could not encompass all the ridiculousness that transpired, so this entire section has been hijacked for it.
Let’s start with the 25 minute scoring drought. Can’t win games if you can’t score and they spent half of it not scoring. The 24-0 lead got cut down to a 24-20 lead. It still took recovering an onside kick to preserve the win. Maybe scoring isn’t the best indicator, though, since that can be a bit difficult. What about third downs?
The Trojans finished the game going 5 of 16 on third down conversions after starting 3 of 4. From the moment they scored their first touchdown with 5:52 left in the first quarter, they did not convert another third down until there was 10:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. That’s nearly 40 minutes of game time without any third down conversions. This isn’t a cherry-picked stat. It’s not like an all-powerful USC offense managed to get first downs or score before even getting to third down.
Throw in some more bad snaps and three fumbles (two in back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter) and we’ve got ourselves some drama. That’s 11 fumbles on the season—averaging more than two per game. Here are how the last 6 meaningful drives went: punt, punt (3-and-out), punt (3-and-out), fumble, fumble, turnover on downs. And by last 6, I meant basically half of the Trojan’s drives (14).
Next up for criticism are the 18 penatlies for 169 yards. To put it in perspective, 40% of this season’s penalties came from this game. It is also at least a 11-year record high of penalties in single game. I didn’t have time to crawl back further than 2008, so it’s probably worse than that. That was all showcased in Arizona’s final scoring drive.
Who was feeling more pain during that goal line stand, I wonder? Helton had to be seething inside from all the penalties that brought the Wildcats to like the one inch line. On the other side, Sumlin was probably bristling that it took them a 4th and goal after countless plays to punch it in when the distance was about the length of one of their synthetic blades of grass.
There were 11 plays in the red zone, 8 of which were in a goal-to-go situation. Don’t forget about the 3 penalties near the end zone and four total in the 12 play drive. Officially, that got logged as an 8-play drive, since penalties don’t count as plays. All that to end in a missed PAT.
Imagine if you had no idea what was going on, you kept screwing up, going in the wrong direction, and when you finally get what you need to done, you still have no idea how to accomplish it next time. You just go home feeling like you wasted your entire day. Basically, a visit to the DMV. Oh, and probably what the coaching staff feels like.
I may have spent 90% of the words writing about negative things, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t positives! Running for 253 yards in a game is an achievement for any team, but definitely for this team. That’s more rushing yards than their last three games combined! It was also the first time someone on the team had a 100-yard rushing performance since week one against UNLV. Both were as a result of Aca’Cedric Ware (10-100 vs. UNLV and 21-173 vs. AZ).
The USC defense also snagged its first interception of the season off of Marvell Tell’s efforts in the second quarter. Tell also managed to block the field goal attempt at the end of the second half.
Ridiculous Stat of the Week: Couldn’t help but sneak one more of these into the mix. USC is rank 122 of 129 in percentage of fourth down conversions allowed (77.78%).