USC vs. Oregon: Streak Breaking Continues

USC vs. Oregon (Trojan Family Weekend)
November 2, 2019 at 5:05pm
Los Angeles, CA: 63,011 (of 77,500)
Total Time: 3 hours 34 minutes

For the first seven games of the season, this was how it went:

Then he decided to go and do that wrong too by breaking the streak last week in an away game win. This week, he continued the streak breaking by losing at home against Oregon. It wasn’t just losing that made it bad. It was in the top five largest margin of loss in the last 50 or so years (since the 0-51 loss to Notre Dame in 1966). Of the eight losses of 30 or more points in that span, Helton accounts for three of them.

2019 USC vs. #7 Oregon: 24-56 (34 point loss)
2017 #11 USC vs. #13 Notre Dame: 14-49 (35-point loss)
2016 #20 USC vs. #1 Alabama: 6-52 (46-point loss)
2009 #11 USC vs. #25 Stanford: 21-55 (34-point loss)
1990 #5 USC vs. #21 Washington: 0-31 (31 (31-point loss)
1985 USC vs. Notre Dame: 3-37 (34-point loss)
1977 #5 USC vs. #11 Notre Dame: 19-49 (30-point loss)
1966 #10 USC vs. #1 Notre Dame: 0-51 (51-point loss)

Even if we stretch it out through all of USC football history, Helton accounts for 13% of all USC losses of 30 or more points from 1888 to 2019 and this game ties for the 7th worst.

Believe it or not, some of them still exist

Before the exodus of USC fans in the fourth quarter, there was still quite a large presence of Oregon fans in the stands. I’ve honestly seen less hostile away games during my time (like USC-Stanford in Palo Alto at 12:30pm, when it feels more like a neutral site or USC home game).

It’s hard to believe that the team started out with a double digit lead before squandering it. The Trojans even pulled back within 4 after falling behind. Most teams would be able to hold it together with 20 seconds left to go before the half, but, somehow, the team with a dedicated special teams coach allowed another large kickoff return that ultimately broke the team’s back.

Oregon scored touchdowns on six straight offensive possessions and one apiece on defense and special teams. In the time that Oregon went from zero to 56, USC scored a single touchdown. The 0-60 stat is supposed to describe how fast cars accelerate, not the scoring totals of the opposing offense. A 56-7 scoring run is absolutely disgusting. The Trojans’ three touchdowns are spaced out by about 25 minutes each after the first one (23:55 and 27:09). Scoring droughts of that length don’t win you many games against top 10 teams. At least the ones that we did see gave us some excitement.

Quarterback Kedon Slovis’ first touchdown pass to Drake London looked like he was inputting keystrokes for Dance Dance Revolution or the Konami Code. He definitely needed cheat codes if he was going to try to win this game on his own.

Unfortunately, as mentioned last week, this kind of hero mentality can also hurt when it doesn’t work. He looked absolutely frantic at times. This generated some bad plays, near-turnovers, and actual turnovers. It reminds me a bit of Darnold starting to reach more and more and becoming a turnover machine later into his time at USC. Perhaps it is borne out of a desperate desire to win under a coach that can’t seem to get it together. Hard to blame him, given the context. By the end of the first half, Slovis already attempted an astounding 40 passes. Throwing 40 passes in a game is already a lot, even for air raid teams. Pass happy air raid teams like Washington State tend to sit around 30 to 50 attempts per game. Slovis hitting those numbers at the half and finishing with nearly 60 attempts illustrates the immense strain they are putting on the true freshman. Two of the three interceptions weren’t even his fault. One was a catchable ball being tipped by the receiver and one was when the receiver fell, allowing the defender unfettered access to the interception.

Good/Badisms

GOOD: Cornerback Greg Johnson’s deep pass break up early in the first quarter. It was a well-disciplined play that has rarely been seen from corners in recent years.

GOOD: Holding Oregon’s offense to zero points and negative yardage for most of the first quarter.

GOOD: Running back Kenan Christon continues to impress at running back. Had the team not fallen behind so much and been forced into throwing situations, he likely could’ve gotten his second career 100-yard game.

BAD: After the team gave up a pick six, the PAT block unit has a member running onto the field late. Those two consecutive plays demonstrated the mess that this team is under Helton.

BAD: Bad tackling every week.

CommBro Breaker

After the ninth game of the season, USC is 5-4 and still struggling to be bowl eligible. There’s a real possibility they could lose to all three of the remaining opponents (especially with two road games) and finish with a second consecutive losing season for the first time in 60 years. Even if USC wins out, Utah will need to drop a game to make a Pac-12 championship berth a possibility. Finishing 10-4 with a Rose Bowl win is still somehow not outside the realm of possibility.

Best case scenario: 10-4 with a Rose Bowl win then Helton still gets fired and replaced with a competent head coach.

What I expect to happen: 8-5 finish then Helton still gets fired and replaced with a competent head coach.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week: Oregon had more interception return yards (102) than USC had rushing yards (91).

Uplifting Stat of the Week: We really had to dig the bottom of to the bottom of the Walmart DVD bargain bin for this one. USC is #16 in the nation in passing yardage, despite all the changes at quarterback and playing younger players.

Misleading Stat of the Week: USC has a 100% win percentage this season…in games attended by less than 62,546 people. Maybe Helton has stage fright. Just kidding. It just means they are able to beat up on teams that don’t have as much resources.

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