USC vs. ASU: What’s the difference between Helton and a dollar bill?

November 9, 2019 at 12:35pm
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ: 54,191 (of 55,000)
Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes

I had predicted a loss to ASU, and despite the early 28-7 lead, I still expected it to happen. Luckily, I was proven wrong and we can enjoy being bowl eligible for the first time since 2017. Many of you probably still feel like this:

However, I don’t think that will be the issue. Would a new athletic director really want their performance evaluated based on a head coach that has lost the fanbase and is a hire from two athletic directors ago? Based on subtle hints in Mike Bohn’s speech, it seems like we should expect a set outcome no matter how Helton finishes the season.

Helton posted up one of the highest scoring first quarters—the highest since Sark’s first season, with Kessler throwing for 4 TDs against Colorado. He almost tricked us into thinking he knew what he was doing.

Slovis looked like he had end of game stats by the end of the first quarter (297 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions). As a result, Helton seemed to be lulled into thinking the game actually ended already. He could’ve stayed at his first quarter scoring numbers and still won the game. Getting an average of one point per quarter after the first isn’t much better than that.

  • ZERO touchdowns in quarters two through four
  • Allowing a 19-3 scoring run by ASU
  • Scoring drought of 28:45…basically half the game

Still, that was one of the better first quarters we’ve seen. Being able to gain 315 yards compared to ASU’s 1 yard, while holding the Sun Devils to 0 first downs is quite a sight. He had a decent first quarter against Oregon last week too. That’s three quarters he’s basically MIA for. Where’s the other 75% of the coach? Now we know where the other quarter platform went in King’s Cross Station.

We wish Helton could disappear into the wall as well.

Now imagine him in other professions.

  • Pizza delivery: Order a large pizza, only get two individual slices
  • Audio technician: half a speaker for your stereo setup
  • Marathon runner: Stops after 6.55 miles
  • Furniture designer: One-legged table
  • College student: Cooks minute rice for 15 seconds

Can the school pay him 25% of the salary? Even his first quarter was full of problems like:

  • illegal shift on a freaking PAT after the first touchdown
  • allowed large kickoff return after going up 14-0 and again after 21-0. The second one was a squib kick that still got to the 50-yard line. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what a squib is supposed to do?


GOOD: Former USC safety, Jack Jones tried to strip the ball from running back Kenan Christon and failed miserably. The transfer’s greedy play allowed Christon to run it in for the touchdown.

BAD: Linebacker John Houston’s near interception that bounced directly into an ASU player’s hands.

GOOD: Kedon Slovis’ perfect touch pass from the 5-yard line that Amon-Ra St. Brown turned into a touchdown.

GOOD: Safety Isaiah Pola-Mao making an interception as if he was the receiver.

BAD: Slovis’ first mistake near the end of the second quarter. He overthrew Pittman on double coverage despite having time. That led to an interception.

BAD: False start penalty while trying to go for it on 4th down.

BAD: A pass interference on cornerback Olijah Griffin, which ESPN showed on screen as committed by “Devon Williams”—who is currently an Oregon wide receiver. Williams and Griffin both wore #2 when they were on the USC roster. Williams transferred a while ago. Maybe ESPN can put this on their “C’mon Man!” segments?

GOOD: Receiver Drake London ripping away a near interception from a defender’s hands on a 3rd-and-18 during the short period of time Matt Fink was in for Slovis.

BAD: Roughing the passer penalty that wiped out an interception. It’s technically written that way in the rulebook, but it really shouldn’t be that way. If the roughing penalty caused the turnover, I could understand returning possession back to the offense, but if that’s the case, that means it shouldn’t be roughing since he hit the guy as he passed the ball. If it didn’t affect the play, the 15-yard penalty should be assessed after the play has ended, which means the ball still gets turned over. The rule is the same in the NFL and CFB, but I think it should be changed.

GOOD/BAD: C’mon Pac-12, a review on a punt? At least it showed punter Ben Griffiths and the special teams’ best work all year: pinning ASU at the 1-yard line.

GOOD: St. Brown’s 24-yard punt return.

GOOD: Defensive lineman Christian Rector with the tip and the interception.

CommBro Breaker

Finally bowl eligible! We can safely say this season is better than last season. Only took 10 weeks of the season to confirm. They’ve got back-to-back UCs in the next two weeks. We’ll see how it goes…

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #1: The offensive line only allowed 1 sack this game. They also gave Slovis time to throw on most passing plays. Quite surprising since he was getting rushed or knocked down every other play last week.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #2: Don’t ever let anyone tell you Helton isn’t the best at something. He is the best in the nation in every statistical category for allowing long kickoff returns. That means everything from 30+ to 90+ yards. Can you think of the worst FBS teams—ones that may not even have any wins right now? Well, they have allowed less than Helton’s team has this season.

USC vs. ASU: Sears Not Bankrupt

USC vs. Arizona State
October 27, 2018 at 12:41pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 47,406 (of 78,467)
Total Time: 3 hours 21 minutes

Okay, I had to make a Sears pun. It was ripe for the taking, much like this game that Clay Helton and his staff failed to close out on.

Can USC get 40% off on Helton’s salary?

Can the Pac-12 also get 40% off on the officials’ salaries? I showed up to watch the reviews but they kept letting it get interrupted with this football. Yes, I’m being facetious about the latter.

Two SCents: 

Mounting injuries on defense and a coaching staff that continues to get in the way of their own team prove to be insurmountable for third string quarterback, Jack Sears, to overcome. His play actually kind of makes you wonder why he was third on the depth chart anyway.

CommBro Breaker/Bonus SCents:

The last vestiges of arguments for Clay Helton’s head coach position have ended with the 19 game home winning streak. That was the first time the Trojans have lost in the Coliseum since Steve Sarkisian botched the game against to his former team, Washington, in 2015.

It’s not often that we hear of a third string quarterback starting a game. When was the last time USC played one not during garbage time? You’d have to go back to Paul Hackett’s second season in 1999 when Carson Palmer, John Fox, and Mike Van Raaphorst all played a few games that season.

The good news is that the offense looked a bit different than what we’ve seen throughout the season. The adjustments actually allowed Sears to thrive a bit. He was able to gain confidence and capped it off with a ridiculous pass to Vaughns to give the Trojans a sliver of a chance in the fourth quarter.

The punting (both kicking and receiving) crew looked fairly solid early on with a punt return TD and a few pinned deep into ASU territory, including at the one yard line. Giving up the 92-yard punt return TD kind of puts a significant mark on their performance though.

Talanoa Hufanga being out for the season puts this team’s defense at a huge disadvantage. With Bubba Bolden gone, and Isaiah Pola-Mao and Marvell Tell injured, only C.J. Pollard remains as a scholarship safety. The defense has to suffer this while also missing Porter Gustin and Cam Smith from the linebacking corps.

Lastly, that was a miserable game to watch in an 80+ degree and 94% humidity day. A good rule to live by is that the temperature and humidity level should both be lower than your grades in school.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #1: A new low in attendance numbers for Saturday with a shocking sub 50,000 people. Since this keeps coming up, I actually crawled back through records to see that last time it was lower. We have to go back to the 2001 season that played follow-up to a 5-7 2000 season. It was Pete Carroll’s first year and his 3-5 team competed in front of 44,800 against Oregon State early in November.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #2: An abysmally low third down conversion rate with 2 of 11 (18.18%).Eight games in, the Trojans are 117 out of 130 in third down conversion percentage.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #3: USC also happens to have the highest penalties yards per game in the Pac-12 and third most in the Power 5 conferences. They sit 124 out of 130 nationally.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #4: Are we allowed to have good ridiculous stats? I make the rules and I say yes. Tyler Vaughns scored touchdowns in an astounding three different ways: an 82-yard punt return to open USC’s possessions, a 36-yard pass to Michael Pittman to take the lead, and a desperately necessary 48-yard reception near the end of the fourth quarter.

Misleading Stat(s) of the Week #1: If you want something USC is #1 at, it’s for 80+ yard punt returns. They are tied with 11 teams…including ASU. Other than that, it’s PAT kicking percentage. This and the previous stat are the only two I could find, but they have to share this #1 spot with 69 other teams.



USC vs. ASU: Adidas-Not Even Once

September 26, 2015 at 7:30pm
Sun Devil Stadium: 61,904
Total Time: 3 hours 8 minutes

I don’t think anybody was that coming. Las Vegas oddsmakers expected a 4-point Trojan win. Maybe they meant to say a 4 touchdown win.

If you told someone the Trojans were gonna pitch a first half shut out—especially following that defensive performance against Stanford—they totally would’ve thought you were hard trolling.

ASU was largely considered to be a contender in the Pac-12 South during the preseason. Sure, they had a rough outing against Texas A&M. Then those two option heavy teams in Cal Poly and New Mexico gave them trouble at first, but they managed to get those wins. It was difficult to gauge where they were at from these three games. In fact, we still can’t really evaluate enough. They could bounce back and take out some other Pac-12 team. Many people counted Stanford after their excrutiating loss to Northwestern…

Don’t get too comfortable with this win though. Just look at what UCLA and Utah managed to do in their conference matchups. Utah did to Oregon, what Oregon used to do to them. And wow, look at me. I’m doing exactly what the commentators did at the start of the second half: chatting about every other game that had happened in the nation other than the one I’m supposed to follow.

Back to USC…I’d be stupid to say I wasn’t impressed or satisfied with a blowout win—or just a win in general. This was also USC’s first win in Tempe since 2009. However, the Trojans still had their fair share of mistakes this game. Without all the extra help from ASU miscues, this game could’ve been a lot closer.

If you were wondering whether the Trojans could pick up more flags than last week, they gave you an answer. They outdid their previous 8 with 10 penalties for 91 yards. On the other side, ASU had 2 for 25. Some were extremely costly despite the small amount of yardage. An offside penalty on third down ended up gifting ASU a first down. A pass interference on fourth down was even worse. There was also a baffling offside penalty on Iman Marshall. When’s the last time you heard of a non-blitzing corner get called for that. It got declined though—because he picked up a personal foul later that play.

USC had more flags than this store. Probably.

USC had more flags than this store. Probably.

The defense also still had trouble stopping the run. Furthermore, there were occasions that tight ends were wide open in middle of the field. Ultimately, some great defensive plays and a little bit of bad luck on ASU’s part made it moot.

We must credit the Trojanswith improvement though. ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici looked uncomfortable the entire night. A lot of pressure provided on linebacker blitzes forced errant passes. At some point, I’m not sure what was creeping up more, the linebackers up to the line, or the midriff line of the Song Girls’ tops.

Seriously though. (Photo credit: Screenshot of ESPN broadcast)

Seriously though. (Photo credit: Screenshot of ESPN broadcast)

Adoree’ Jackson was also afforded with a few snaps on offense—and he utilized them fully. He led the team in receiving yards despite only having three catches. Nobody can say he didn’t earn those yards. Kessler threw short passes to him and he made plays in space. He is too good to not play on offense…

Jackson tacked on punt returns of 8 and 45 yards, to bring up his all-purpose yards to 184. If you do that math, he netted the team about 36.8 yards every time he touched the ball. Sadly, his 45-yard punt return with the added facemask penalty was wasted by a turnover.

Kessler’s fumble near the goal line and interception during the first drive were USC’s first two turnovers of the season. Luckily, the team had four takeaways to end it with a positive turnover margin. Unfortunately, both of USC’s turnovers happened in the red zone.

Again, these mistakes ended up not mattering in this game. Kessler more than redeemed himself. On one particular play, he avoided two would be sacks on third down to toss it off to Justin Davis for the first down. The offense he led is now averaging 8.06 yards per play, which is good for #3 in the nation. Third down conversion was phenomenal as well. Not only was their pre-garbage time third down conversion percentage great, but they managed to convert some longer ones.

ASU’s plan seemed to set on shutting down USC’s run game. I think they did a commendable job with that. They were also able to sack Kessler a couple of times. Too bad the passing game answered with big play after big play.

Remember how ASU was able to score 3 touchdowns in under four minutes without getting onside kicks and no timeouts? USC had their own version at the end of the second half. USC was up 14-0 with less then 4 minutes until halftime. If I had stepped out to take a phone call or something, I would’ve thought ESPN messed up the score again. 35-0? What?

When it looked like ASU was going to score, Delvon Simmons shot through a gap and hit the running back during the exchange. The resulting turnover was remniscent of another USC safety playing on the road.

Then the kickoff returner, De’Chavon Hayes, hesitated, but decided to take it out of the endzone anyway? Clown move, bro. Bad enough to start at the 5-yard line, but to tack on a fumble?

Maybe it’s a curse for switching to Adidas. If it is, I hope UCLA gets the same Adidas curse.

At the close of the game, USC’s offense ranks #8 in points per game. The defense ranks #25 in points allowed per game (tied with Alabama). Not a terrible position to be in, but they must continue to improve. They will face three teams in the current AP top 10 later in the schedule: #6 Notre Dame, #10 Utah, and #7 UCLA.

CommBro Breaker

What’s interesting is that Sark got it right about two teams, it seems.

Whatever pill Sark had at the Salute to Troy event, it must’ve given him prophetic abilities. Maybe it was one of those NZT-48 limitless pills from the show we kept seeing commercials about. No wonder he would keep that a secret from the media. Time to see if Notre Dame lives up to Sark’s prophecy.

Misleading Stats of the Week:

ASU outscored USC in the second half by double.

USC only outgained ASU by 1 yard.

USC is now first place in the Pac-12