USC vs. Colorado: Is this a quality road win?

Colorado vs. USC
October 25, 2019 at 6:00pm
Folsom Field, Boulder, CO: 48,913 (of 50,183)
Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes

Survey says: No.

Clay Helton has defied the narrative and broken the road losing streak! That’s how it looks on paper, but if you watched the game, you might have noticed how painful and Helton-like it actually was.

The Trojans fell behind as much as 10 points and played from behind for nearly 43 minutes of the game. We’re looking at trends here. This kind of thing even happened to Pete Carroll every once in a while, but Helton is facing worse competition and still manages to make these easier games look like a playoff slugfest week after week. This wasn’t #1 vs. #2; it was a team with 3 wins and 4 losses trying to stay afloat in the Pac-12 South and has never beaten USC. At least he won, I guess.

The offensive side of the ball looked great in flashes, but failed to find consistency…yet again. While the young quarterback, Kedon Slovis, produced a good statistical performance, completing 30 of 44 passes (68%) for 406 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, there were some concerning areas. Perhaps it’s the pressure of an unreliable coach, but he has appeared to take on a hero mentality and regressed in some areas. For one, he began to dance around in the pocket a bit and hold onto the ball for too long.  Other times he threw passes up haphazardly and dangerously in the air to avoid sacks in shades of Josh Rosen. That kind of playing leads to intentional grounding, interceptions, and fumbles. In fact, in one situation, he needlessly reached forward for extra yards after picking up a first down near the goal line. The resulting fumble took a lucky bounce.

It’s not all negative though. Slovis was on the receiving end of many hits during and after plays. Few quarterbacks, especially true freshman, can continue to deliver a solid performance after getting repeatedly knocked down play-after-play on the road.

If Colorado had a tad bit more in them, they could have ended the game several times over. They had plenty of opportunities to do so, but the heavily penalized Buffaloes allowed USC to complete the comeback with approximately two minutes remaining, giving rise to the meme above. Actually, it doesn’t matter. Win or lose, there will be memes.


GOOD: Amon-Ra St. Brown’s performance at running back. He had only a few carries, but made them all worthwhile. His vision for hitting the gap particularly stood out.

GOOD: Kenan Christon and Drake London quickly recovering fumbles that probably would’ve otherwise been the back-breaking difference maker in this game.

BAD: First missed field goal of the season

BAD: Plenty of plays could have been stopped for a loss or minimal gain if the defense had properly tackled. This continues to fall on Helton for not practicing/fixing something so fundamental to the game.

BAD: Misplaced pass that ended in an interception.

GOOD: The receivers made tough catches to keep the game alive.

CommBro  Breaker

Watch Helton defy the narrative and break a streak again next week—by losing a home game.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #1: USC goes back to losing the turnover battle this week

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #2: Colorado receiver, Lavis Shenault had more receiving yards (172 yards) than the entire USC running backs gained, even before accounting for lost rushing yardage (151 yards).

Illuminati Stat of the Week: The kickoff stats between the two teams are eerily similar. USC kicked off six times for 389 yards with 5 touchbacks. Colorado kicked off six times for 390 yards and 5 touchbacks.

USC vs. Colorado: Statistical Anomaly

USC vs. Colorado
October 13, 2018 at 7:45pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 57,615 (of 78,467)
Total Time: 3 hours 42 minutes

Two SCents: 

#19AP/#18Coaches Colorado entered this game undefeated (5-0, 2-0 conf.) against a USC team that hasn’t lost to CU from the times of Howard Jones to the present and decided to put up a performance in recognition of that. The Trojan would’ve looked just as bad if not for some heroic catches by Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns.

CommBro Breaker/Bonus SCents:

Newcomer Palaie Gaoteote played well at linebacker in the absence of Cam Smith. The defensive back play as also fun to watch in the fourth quarter. There were more break ups there than the summer after a high school graduation.

It was also great to see Matt Barkley out there launching some shirts into the crowd with the cannon.

Professional level photo quality

The 13 penalties for 123 yards is bad, but the officials’ management of the game was worse. Dragging out a 7:30pm game to nearly four hours with unnecessary, ticky-tack penalties sucked lots of the enjoyment out of the game. Rumor is that Colorado didn’t even know they had scored the touchdown when they went for that inexplicable two point conversion. You’d think they’d tried to clean things up after the recent scandals.

Special teams also crapped out another mess.

Basically the entire game was some of statistical mess, so buckle up for the ridiculous stats of the week.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #1: USC had ZERO rushing yards at the end of the first half.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #2: JT Daniels’ 50% completion rate for 272 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs. While the final stat line is acceptable for a true freshman starting his first season, the breakdown reveals a problem with the entire offense, especially in context of the rushing yard stats.

Quarter Passing Yards % of total passing yards
1st quarter 43 15.80%
2nd quarter 212 77.90%
3rd quarter 10 3.70%
4th quarter 7 2.60%

The second half passing yards (17) were less than 50% of the first quarter passing yards (43). That means almost all of his passing yards were a product of the second quarter. That’s 212 passing yards within those 15 minutes (77.9%), and basically nothing much else. You might say that this doesn’t include the two major drops that would’ve resulted in big plays/touchdowns, but that means this offense has an overreliance on explosive plays much like Sark’s offenses did. Clay Helton and his offensive coordinator continue to disappoint.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #3: USC has been on the losing end of the time of possession stat for the fifth straight game. The last time they had a higher TOP was against UNLV.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #4: Three home games in, USC attendance has hit a 10+ year low. Both the average (56,248) and peak attendance (58,708, vs. UNLV) are lower than USC’s previous 10 year low of 60,314 (vs. Oregon State, 2017). Bad football and ongoing renovations seem to be taking their toll on attendance.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #5: Colorado finished the third quarter with less rushing yards than the end of the second quarter. I guess neither team could really run in this one. Other than allowing a few fluky plays, Pendergast called a pretty good game.



USC vs. Colorado: See You in Santa Clara

Colorado vs. USC
November 11, 2017 at 1:05pm
Folsom Field, Boulder, CO: 49,337
Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes

With the win against Colorado, USC has clinched the Pac-12 South for the second (third) time! USC previous won in 2015 then lost to Stanford in the championship game during Helton’s second interim stint. For those who remember, the Trojans also commandingly won the South in 2011, but the inagural championship game featured South runner-up UCLA and Oregon, both of whom USC beat in back-to-back weeks leading up to the this sham of a game.The Trojans have a good shot of being able to win the conference (if they can be consistent). It would be the first time in the Pac-12 era and the first since Pete Carroll left.

The Trojans will have a bye week leading up to the championship game, but probably won’t know their opponent until the regular season closes up on 11/25. Half of the north still have a shot to win it. Washington, Washington State, and Stanford could all conceivably face USC on December 1st.


GOOD: Two of the younger receivers, Pittman and Vaughns, made a big impact this game.

BAD: The refs taking the time to review a first down early in the game. They then decided to change the call from the field afterwards. Even the commentators were unhappy with the process.

GOOD: The special teams unit impressively made two field goal blocks.

GOOD-BAD: The fumbling problem reared its ugly head again. Both Jack Jones and Sam Darnold fumbled, but managed to recover them instantly. It looked like they were trying a basketball dribble. Maybe they just wanted to commemorate USC basketball’s season-opening win against Cal State Fullerton.

GOOD-ISH: Ajene Harris’ second interception and attempted lateral could’ve been such a beautiful play had he gotten it out a split second earlier. Nonetheless, that was fun to watch.

BAD: Allowing a punt to be blocked, setting up an easy touchdown for Colorado.

BAD: The team is still unable to convert in short yardage situations. That leads directly to their low third down, fourth down, and red zone conversion numbers.

GOOD: John Houston’s touchdown-saving coverage reflexes in the end zone was quite impressive. Two plays later, he hit the CU QB for a 5 yard loss on fourth down to effectively end the game.

GOOD: Darnold had a third straight decent game.

GOOD: Ronald Jones had another great game. He has beat all his previous season rushing yard totals with three games to go (UCLA, Pac-12 CG, Bowl Game).

BAD: Missed field goal and PAT. Chase McGrath’s injury seems to be affecting him a lot.

BAD: Continued inability to close out games.

CommBro Breaker


BAD: Apparently they are enforcing the Coliseum clear bag policy at Conquest this year…………

Lottery Stats

USC remains undefeated against the Colorado Buffaloes. This win puts them at 12-0 all-time.

Weird stat of last week: I’m kicking myself for missing this last week (it’s okay though, because all the kicks got blocked anyway), but the I’ll chalk it up to an Illuminati cover up. Ronald Jones broke 1,000 yards after the game against Arizona, sitting exactly 1,082 yards. His 2016 season total was 1,082. NEED I SAY MORE?!

RoJo, why have you joined them?

Running count of fourth down conversions: 7 of 20 (35%)

Running count of opponent fourth down conversions: 13 of 23 (56.5%)

USC vs. Colorado: Fumbling Still Fun

USC vs. Colorado
October 8, 2016 at 1:10pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 68,302 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 17 minutes

USC claws its way back to a .500 record and sits at 3-3 overall (2-2 in Pac-12).

The Buffs entered the game at 4-1 (2-0 in Pac-12) having only lost to the current #4 Michigan. They were extremely competitive in that game, carrying the lead for half the game. However, disaster struck when their starting quarterback, Sefo Liufau went down in the 3rd quarter.

The Buffaloes looked decent on paper, but couldn’t overcome USC despite having a +3 turnover margin. Colorado, the former sole leader of the South Division, never even managed to take a lead on the Trojans. They fall to 4-2 overall (2-1 in Pac-12). They now tie with USC’s last opponent, ASU, for first place in the South. Meanwhile, USC sits at fourth despite beating them both.


Let’s play a game. I’ll make a wish and then someone can find a way to add a qualifier to spoil the dream. Juts kidding, I’m going to find the qualifier for you.

Wish: USC will win the game and their offense won’t have any three-and-outs

Qualifier: Wish granted, but instead of a true “three-and-out” where the Trojans punt, they will have two three-and-fumbles. And a four-and-interception. We’ll throw in a nine-and-fumble on the first drive too—the endzone. Enjoy!

Sam Darnold still managed to pull out a second consecutive 300-yard, 3 touchdown game, but looked like a freshman doing it. It looks like his youth finally caught up to him. He accounted for three of the team’s four turnovers and could’ve easily caused a few more. He threw a few ill-advised passes and some heavily underthrown balls.

A combination of skill and luck turned some potential turnovers into big plays. Late in the game, in a momentum-swinging play, Darreus Rogers bailed his quarterback out with the grab of the month. Colorado cornerback, Akhello Witherspoon, might have to file a police report for the mugging that took place.

In another play, Darnold barely improvised a touchdown out of a botched handoff in the red zone.These kinds of plays represent the best and worst of Darnold. It’s great when it works, but terrible when it doesn’t (like the fumble that turned into a touchback). Part of the growing pains is learning what situations are suitable or necessary for these trying to turn crap into gold moves. The bad ones can simply defined as “trying to do too much.” Ball security should come before that. I’m not worried about this yet. If he’s still doing the dumb ones late into next season, then we’ve got a problem.

There’s a common saying that good teams find a way to win. The Trojans overcame their mistakes and won it. That’s a pretty good sign.

In other news, Adoree’ Jackson is still good. He had:

  • 38-yard kickoff return
  • 47-yard punt return
  • An athletic, leaping interception

Uchenna Nwosu was another defensive standout. He broke up two passes and sacked the QB.

On the offense, JuJu Smith-Schuster made a smart and unselfish play to seal the win. His slide late in the fourth quarter characterizes his discipline and team spirit. Looks like he might’ve seen the ending of the Tennessee-Georgia game last week. Can’t leave too much time on the clock after scoring.

An example closer to home would be that USC-ASU game in 2014. With 3:02 remaining in the game, Javorius Allen scored on a 53-yard touchdown run to put them up 34-25. ASU still came back to win it. JuJu was a freshman, so he would’ve remembered that. The situation was a little different, making a slide still a bit of a risk, but in this game, it was definitely warranted.

OR MAYBE HE WAS JUST POINT SHAVING. By sliding, he killed all hope of USC beating the spread. Some bettors lost a lot of money.

Lastly (for the positives, at least), a huge thing of note is the lack of penalties this game. Two penalties is ridiculously low. Want to know the last time USC had two or fewer penalties? 2012. The infamous Sun Bowl game against Georgia Tech.That’s right folks, it’s been 46 games since—three and a half season—since the Trojans have played such a disciplined game.

Including the Georgia Tech and Colorado games, there have only been a total of six games out of the 48 in which the Trojans had less than five penalties. Since Sarkisian took over in 2014, there have only been three. If Helton can keep the penalty numbers under five, that will already go a long way.

Just so I can tack on some angles, here are the negatives:

  • Some of the play calling on third down
  • Justin Davis and Viane Talamaivao getting injured
  • 50% (2-4) in the red zone
  • The four turnovers (obviously)

Misleading Stat of the Week: Despite the loss, Colorado is closer to getting a winning record against USC than Stanford, Washington, Washington State, Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, and UCLA.

Totally misleading. In the 11 meetings since 1927, Colorado is, as you might have guessed, 0-11 against USC. They lose by an average of 21.5 points per game

Go Buffs? How about get buff.

Misleading Stat of the Week #2: 100% of Tyler Petite’s catches went for touchdowns. All two of them.

Turnovers off of turnovers count: 3

The count is building momentum. The great thing about it is how it showcases both teams’ screw-ups. It takes two bad plays on successive drives for this to happen.

USC vs. Colorado: A Win is a Win Part 2

Colorado vs. USC
November 13, 2015 at 6:00pm
Folsom Field: 37,905 (of 50,138)
Total Time: 3 hours 6 minutes

Another week, another nailbiter, but another win. That’s 4 straight wins, 2-0 in November, 4-0 in the Pac-12 South, and 10-0 all time against Colorado. A no loss November and Pac-12 title still remain a possibility. I’m sure it was a lot closer than most would’ve imagined, but, again, this isn’t the Colorado team that you’ve known in the Pac-12. If you look at their record, you might think it’s more or less the same, but if you look closely, this was a team that lost a bunch of close games to superior teams. They were also fighting for their first bowl berth since 2007. With 6 losses, this was effectively an elimination game—and it showed.

The first drive started out promising by USC, but quickly derailed. After getting down to the goal line, a fumble followed by questionable decisions wasted a red zone possession. Going from 2nd-and-1 to a field goal is fairly disappointing. You can almost taste the points at the one yard line. USC would not score again for over 25 minutes of game time. Meanwhile, Colorado jumped to a 14 point lead in between. I guess you can only ask for so much when both teams made the field look like a Slip N’ Slide.

Overall, USC’s offense punted five times in the game. Sadly, four of them were 3-and-outs and the fifth was only four plays long. So many of the Trojans’ drives don’t even get off the ground. Almost all the drives that made it past the first set of downs ended in points. It’s feast or famine with this offense.

The pre-Thanksgiving feast took place right after halftime. A third down sack forced Colorado to punt the ball back to USC. The Trojans put together a 13-play, 83-yard drive touchdown drive, culminating in a pass complete to a fullback (wow). That was just the beginning. A fortunate stretch—brought to you in part by Delvon Simmons—allowed them to retake the lead early into the fourth quarter. The first play of Colorado’s ensuing drive turned into a tackle-for-loss and fumble caused by Simmons. The Texas Tech transfer wasn’t done after that. After the offense capitalized via a pass to a tight end (wow) for the first lead of the night, Simmons blocked a game-tying field goal attempt that was returned to Colorado territory by Adoree’ Jackson. A quick 36-yard strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster gave USC its last taste of points. The seven points in drought-ridden California would start a period of famine seven (x2) minutes long, like Egypt’s seven-year famine and drought. Must be ILLUMINATI!


The green represents the grass on the field. The eye represents the shape of the football. And of course the pyramid represents the Egyptian famine. It was foretold.

No secret society caused the subpar special teams performance. A 39-yard punt was offset by a 45-yard return by Nelson Spruce and a personal foul penalty to set them up at 2-yard line. The touchdown was practically gifted to Colorado. This is where I have to inform you that USC has allowed an embarrassing average of over 15 yards per punt return, ranking in at #122. Bad punt coverage exacerbated by less than mediocre punting (rank #88, averaging barely over 40 yards per punt). Just as an aside, since we’re talking about kicking…

USC is tied for #9 in the nation—FOR KICKOFFS OUT-OF-BOUNDS. Let us come together and celebrate our top ten statistic. And just because Poe’s Law is always in play, I must emphasize that you shouldn’t celebrate because this is not a positive thing. Interestingly enough, opponents also kick out-of-bounds a lot against the Trojans. USC’s opponents must really believe in sportsmanship and evening out playing field! Or Adoree’ is so feared as a return man that opposing teams would rather risk kicking out-of-bounds than let him return it. Thank your local USC opponent for making the Trojans tied for #2 in opponent kickoffs out-of-bounds! And Adoree’ finally called for a fair catch for the first time in his USC career! But back to the team’s weaknesses.

The offensive line has improved, but isn’t to a point of being comfortable. They still can’t find themselves a penalty-free game, with Damien Mama picking up a false start. Losing Viane Talamaivao isn’t going to do the unit any favors. The continued sweet combo (commbro?) of Kessler experiencing phantom pressure and bailing out of the pocket early makes their job that much harder. Then throw Ronald Jones II in the mix for pass protection issues. There’s no doubt that Jones runs the ball well and has even improved his catching ability. However, he still has a lot to learn in pass protection. On a key third down, he allowed a free rusher to sack Kessler. That’s why he’s not in the game every play. Also because Justin Davis is a good running back. Davis’ final run of the game was big-time stuff, going untouched on 3rd-and-8 to effectively ending the game.

CommBro Breaker

While the 21-0 run in the former part of the second half is impressive, the Trojans can’t keep relying on the same formula against better teams. They couldn’t pull it off against Notre Dame. It may not work against Oregon, and probably will not work against UCLA. They will show up ready right out of the gates.

Oregon is 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Pac-12—just like USC. Both Oregon and USC will be going into the game with a 4-game win streak. One of them will end in Autzen. The difference is that a Pac-12 division title is out of reach for Oregon while USC is in the driver’s seat. That should be a motivation for the Trojans to play their best against what looks to be a fully recovered Oregon offense. Might be difficult with Cam Smith and Lamar Dawson out with injuries.

Misleading Stat of the Week: 37.5% of Taylor McNamara’s catches have been touchdown receptions! (8 catches, 3 TDs)