USC vs. The Arizona Schools: Stranger Than Fan Fiction

CommBro Breaker

So you might have noticed that I missed a week. Something that hasn’t happened since I started this blog. My apologies to all my loyal readers. The busyness just caught up to me. But did you really need anything from me though? It seems the close of the first half of the ASU game was enough of a joke by itself. I can’t even write content as good as that. Still, I feel I owe y’all something.

ASU vs. USC
October 28, 2017 at 7:51pm
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ: 53,446
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

GOOD/BADISMS

GOOD: Perfect throw and catch by Darnold to Deontay for the first touchdown. That’s the factor that’s been missing from the offense for most of the season.

BAD: One of the OL almost sacked his own QB.

CONFUSED: Darnold fumbed…but since it was on fourth down and immediately recovered…did it matter?

GOOD: Good use of RPOs and read options.

GOOD: Uchenna Nwosu shutting down an ASU drive, basically all by himself.

GOOD: McGrath making a career long 51 yard field goal.

GOOD: Tyler Vaughns smooth moves after the catch.

GOOD: Steven Mitchell’s box out block to spring Ronald Jones for a touchdown.

GOOD: Ronald Jones

CONFUSED: Extended first half. After the Hail Mary attempt by USC was ruled down at the 1, the officials signaled that time had expired. Both teams started to head to the locker room before they decided they should probably review it. By the time they changed their ruling, USC’s team was nowhere to be found. An angry Helton, made the officials go and grab his team. One lone referee made his way to the locker room…down the wrong tunnel. The SC players ran out of the other tunnel, doing the whole pump up routine probably to amuse themselves. The Pac-12 being the Pac-12 had to throw a flag on the ensuing PAT attempt.

/CommBro Breaker

USC vs. Arizona
November 4, 2017 at 7:51pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 70,225
Total Time: 3 hours 43 minutes

Now I’m finally back on track. I wish I could say the same about the Pac-12 conference. The already atrocious scheduling (like 12 straight games, Friday road trip after a road trip, two 7:45pm games in a row) was made so much worse by the officiating.

Remember how I commended Mark Duddy and his crew for what a great job they did in USC vs. Cal? I take it back x1000. Perhaps Mark Duddy read my blog and decided he wasn’t having any of that. I was ruining his good name amongst his fellow Pac-12 associates. He has a reputation to uphold, and gosh darn, those flags will be numerous and biased. He sure showed me.

It got to a point that students were throwing up yellow towels mockingly after every penalty. Flags were thrown for phantom penalties or ticky-tack in nature. What made it worse was that the refs would wait until seeing the outcome of the play before throwing the flag. The Trojans were called for 5 offensive holdings and 1 defensive holding. Arizona got called for 1 offensive holding…which was offset by a USC penalty. Seems suspicious. Putting that up against the total penalty numbers of 14 for 123 yards versus Arizona’s 3 for 32 yards makes it look even more problematic. Then there were the reviews that took a while to initiate and a fair bit of which were incorrect. At one point, Helton had to run onto the field to try to get attention for a review. He was flagged for that too since he a sideline warning had been given earlier in the game. Despite the ref being right by the letter of the law, no sane referee should flag that.

Those 18 yards at the beginning of the third quarter moved at a snail’s pace. It must’ve been 20 minutes of real time for those pitiful 18 yards ending in a punt. I thought I was watching a World War I documentary about trench warfare. By the start of the fourth quarter, the East Coast had hit the daylight savings time change. Who’s crazy enough to watch that, especially if it wasn’t their favorite team?

GOOD/BADISMS

BAD: Two red zone trips with no points? USC has had red zone troubles all year. Some of it is being unable to convert short yardage situations.

GOOD: The defense held Arizona to a pair of field goals for over two and a half quarters.

BAD: Defense getting tired after ridiculously drawn out game. Part of the reason that Arizona made such a furious comeback.

GOOD: John Houston had an interception made of dreams.

GOOD: JuJu Smith-Schuster joined the student section in the stands late in the fourth quarter.

GOOD: Tyler Vaughns continues to impress with what he goes after the catch

GOOD: More good work by the USC running backs

CommBro Breaker
USC still has a formidable streak intact. They are 15-0 at home, dating back to 2015. The last time they lost in the Coliseum was the game that eventually led to Sark’s dismissal.

Lottery Stats

USC leads the nation in sacks (34).

Running count of fourth down conversions: 6 of 17 (35%)

Running count of opponent fourth down conversions: 11 of 18 (61%)

USC is the second worst in the conference in allowing fourth down conversions. Only Oregon State (arguably the worst team in the conference) allows more of them than USC (69%).

USC vs. ASU: Easy as 1-2-3

USC vs. Arizona State
October 1, 2016 at 5:45pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 71,214 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

For yet another game, USC gave up in the fourth quarter. Only this time it was because of a 35-point lead rather than a 3+ score deficit. The game ended before the torch was lit—the clock was about the only thing protesting that. Cheers and applause erupted as Max Browne entered the game. It was a testament to the respect earned by the captain and former starter.

The win was sorely needed. Pretty much everything from this point is a must win, so this was vital. There were still a few criticisms, but some of the naysayers are taking it too far. If Helton was nearly bad as people were making him out to be, beating anybody—even a supposedly “crappy” ASU team—would still be significant. These people are just trying to protect their pride after predicting a blowout going the other way. Don’t let it get in the way of celebrating a win. At least let the opponents do the trash talking.

Worry not, because I got you covered with the opponent trashtalking, man. When your friendly neighborhood CommBro was undercover at the local McDonald’s (because I had to eat somewhere with Cardinal and Gold colors preceding the game), I witnessed an ASU fan heckle a USC fan. The victim was wearing a Nike shirt that said “USC Never Stops.”

usc-never-stops

The genius ASU fan’s idea? “USC NEVER STOPS BEING 1 AND 3” before quickly realizing he painted himself into a corner. He still attempted to recover, though, by tacking on “UNTIL THEY ARE 1 AND 4.” Good try, homie.

By the way, ASU belongs to an undemanding fraternity of 80ish teams that spent a flatline ZERO weeks at #1 in the AP poll. No one ever even wanted to pretend they are a contender.

In all seriousness though, Arizona State is one of the teams closest to grabbing a winning record against USC. The overall record is 20*-12-0 *(including the vacated win, of course). It would still take them nine straight wins in order to overtake USC, but that’s one of the best the Pac’s got. That would be huge if it happen since USC could no longer claim they have a winning record over the entire Pac-12 Conference. The closest team is Utah (yikes!). USC is 10-4-0 against the Utes.

No matter though, the Trojans have staved off the Sun Devils for another season. The winning ways started out early. Olympic sprinter, Allyson Felix, led the team out of the tunnel (earning the distinction of being the first woman to lead the Trojans onto the football field). I’m not sure how she managed to run while carrying the weight of her six gold medals (no, she didn’t actually have them on her person), but it shows that she knows a thing or two about winning.

The announced 71,214 barely managed to file in (again, because of the long security lines), but gave the game a nice atmosphere. Quite a good turnout despite doom and gloom over a 1-3 start.

I have to qualify a statement I made earlier; there was a slight hiccup with the winning beginning. Clay Helton started out the game in a dubious manner. Going for it on 4th down with a sputtering run game on their own side of the 50-yard line on an uninspired play was straight up wrong. Nobody in the entire stadium believed in that call and unsurprisingly, it got blown up. Sure seemed like Helton wanted to appease a crowd rather than make a good decision. The situation was completely different from the 4th down against Utah and I genuinely believed that Helton wanted use it as a “see, I told you so” kind of moment. It gave us a strange first quarter that featured no punts, which usually is typical of shootouts. The 7-6 first quarter score was decidedly not a shootout.

Luckily, Jonathan Lockett covered well and made an athletic interception to give people a short memory. Lockett exhibited a vast improvement since the last time he got significant playing time. As a true freshman that entered the corner rotation, he failed to impress. He made many critical errors. He had a breakout game against ASU, showing that he really turned the corner. Instead of critical errors, he made critical plays ande made his presence felt as early as the second series.

Lockett’s pick set the offense up at the 5-yard line. Sam Darnold threw some legit passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster until Justin Davis decided he was tired of running for a loss. Davis drove it 49 yards to set up Darnold’s eventual touchdown pass to JuJu. The Trojans would never surrender the lead again.

In order to prevent back-to-back colossal posts, I’m going into summary mode:

Rest of the Positives (that I remember)

  • Started the first half strong: only 2 penalties for 10 yards
  • Boermeester making two 40+ yard field goals
  • Chuma at right tackle
  • Not allowing ASU to score for two and a half quarters
  • Darnold’s 4 total touchdowns, 0 interceptions and ~70% completion percentage
  • Deontay Burnett’s hard work paying off in tangible stats
  • Six tackles for losses
  • Back ups getting playing time so they can develop
  • CommBro trying to learn how to keep things concise with bullet points

Concerns

  • Referees gifted calls to USC…for once. I felt kind of dirty
  • The 2-4-5 nicket formation matches up better with ASU than with Stanford or Alabama
  • Weaker pass rush might work on this team, but might not against others
  • USC took advantage of a slow ASU secondary
  • Dependent on explosive plays (20+ yard plays) to spark scoring drives

The above are the kind of things that don’t quite fit into the negatives. In some of these cases, it was difficult to make too much of a judgment. Beating ASU in this fashion doesn’t allow for a proper measure.

Straight Up Problems (Negatives)

  • A 4th down call so bad I have to mention it twice
  • Mismanagement of timeouts continue to be a problem
  • Less than 11 out on the field for special teams again…
  • Boermeester missing two field goals
  • Helton developed more as a coach, but is still trying to learn too much on the job

USC is USC and a bounce back was bound to happen evetually. What is this team going to do going foward?

CommBro Breaker

At this point, you might be wondering what the heck the title means. Here’s why:

JuJu Smith-Schuster: 123 yards receiving
Justin Davis: 123 yards rushing

Yeah, sometimes the titles are that shallow. At least it’s not clickbait.

Misleading Stat of the Week: Arizona State celebrates America more than USC. See for yourself:

USA!

USA!

I guess it just depends on what angle you’re looking from.