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/BADISMS

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

RIVALRY WEEK IS THIS WEEK. CONQUEST AT 5PM ON THURSDAY.

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. Stanford: The Answer to Life

USC vs. Stanford
September 9, 2017 at 5:40pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 77,614 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 11 minutes

You know what I like about USC-Stanford games? The game clock actually runs at a decent pace. The teams usually have balanced drives that actually last a while. It’s like being able to watch a rally in a volleyball game rather than back-and-forth aces.

There isn’t too much I want to say about this game. They really turned it around from last week. Stanford scored less against the Trojans than the Broncos did. Shocking.

Also shocking was getting 307 yards rushing even after losing yards on kneel downs. Forget about it being a rank #14 team…David Shaw coached Stanford teams have allowed an average of 115 yards rushing per game. Being able to put over 300 yards on them in a single game shows the caliber of the running backs and the offensive line’s runblocking. The 307 yards amassed by the Trojans would have been one fourth of Stanford’s total rushing yards allowed over fourteen games in the 2013 season.

Good-Badisms

Bad-Good: Back-to-back two interceptions is not a good look. The first pick in the game I might let go. Gotta take risks, sometimes it doesn’t go your way. The second one was another into double coverage and had almost no chance of being completed. No more of that, please. On the other hand, he threw four touchdown passes and most of them were superb throws.

Good: Defense did their job, other than one or two big plays allowed.

Bad: This one isn’t on the team. C’mon Pac-12 officials…There were some blatantly bad calls and lack of calls. Seems par for course in Stanford-SC matchups though.

“Clock operator, please reset the game clock to…”

Good: Two one hundred yard rushers.

Good: Continued Deontay performance.

Good: #14 Stanford looks to be the hardest team on USC’s regular season schedule. Barring any surprises, USC just has to remain consistent and healthy. It’s college football, though, and there will always be surprises.

Good: Balanced and complete offense.

Don’t know: USC offense looks like it’s gone through a lot of changes like:

  • Running out of split back sets. Usually, even when they line up like that, they motion one back out before the play starts
  • More RPO plays
  • Speed option play

CommBro Breaker

Ain’t City of Angles if I don’t spit some stats at ye.

This was USC’s largest margin of victory against Stanford since 2008 (45-23).

Oh, and I should probably explain the title. 42—the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

USC vs. W. Michigan: 100 Degrees of Inconsistency

USC vs. Western Michigan
September 2, 2017 at 2:22pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 61,125 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes

I was basically hiding for the past few months, but I couldn’t keep myself away now that football season has started. However, things will be in a new abridged format seeing as how I am experiencing a severe time deficit induced by graduate school.

Or maybe the real reason is because I’m having an identity crisis. My new degree is Public Administration, so can I even go by CommBro anymore? Public Admin doesn’t lend itself well to cool puns though. PUADbro? PAbro? Okay, that just sounds like a racial caricature of someone trying to pronounce Pablo. On to the real stuff.

As you can imagine, it was hot as hell so maybe this wasn’t the best game to be in the student section. I miss my old seats in the shade already. I’ve noticed that some traditions have died off since I finished undergrad. It was reassuring to see the section still packed out in the fourth quarter despite the triple digit temperatures—AND  subpar product on the field.

The last home opener loss was a 7-14 defeat at the hands of #5 Florida State back in 1997. That John Robinson’s final season before getting unceremoniously fired. While head coach Clay Helton probably wouldn’t be at risk even if he lost this game, it’s usually bad to come close to breaking a 20 year streak. I really need to speed this up because I have to do homework.

GOOD: No major injuries. Without byes, this is vital.

BAD: Darnold with the 0-2 TD-INT ratio. He underthrew and threw too many risky passes. Both interpcetions were from tips. Perhaps the new release on his throw is affecting his performance?

BAD: While Darnold clearly didn’t do that well personally, high snaps from Nico Falah certainly didn’t help. One resulted in a fumble that was barely recovered.

BAD: You know what else didn’t help? Key third down drops from a lot of receivers.

GOOD: The exception was Deontay, showing that the Rose Bowl performance was no fluke. He has worked hard amongst all the highly ranked wide receivers and has shown that he is the most complete and consistent WR.

GOOD: For a while there, it seemed like the MVPs were the kickers. Chase McGrath, other than one kick out-of-bounds,—which was really close to being a touchback—he had a good, deep kick that launched it out of the end zone. He was also perfect on PATs. I blame the coverage team for the kickoff return for TD. Reid Budrovich punted well without qualification in his debut.

BAD: Defense struggled in tackling, allowing the Bronco running back to break a bunch of arm tackles. Getting Cam Smith back improved the defense, but they were mediocre. The offense did put them in a bad spot though.

BAD: Too many penalties. 9 for 94 yards?! That’s not even counting the yards from offsetting penalties and the kick out-of-bounds. Unsportsmanlike penalties have no place in a team. Also, key penalties revived dying drives, allowing Western Michgan to score.

GOOD: Ronald Jones II was the player on the game. He was back in form, dreads and all. He put up Heisman numbers all while breaking tackles and making large runs. His 8.8 average yards per carry and three touchdowns carried the sickly offense.

GOOD: True freshman Stephen Carr showed that he could excel at the college level, capping off his day with a 52-yard scoring run. On the other side of the ball, Marvell Tell, decided to answer Carr’s score with a pick six, showing Carr that he wasn’t the only #7 in town.

GOOD: JAKE OLSON GOT TO SNAP THE BALL. There are also sweet pics of his dog. :3

PAbro Breaker? Nope, doesn’t work.

CommBro Breaker

Apparently both teams thought they were only allowed one touchdown per quarter until someone told them otherwise in the fourth quarter.

Western Michigan may have went 13-1 last year, but they had a relaxed MAC schedule. I highly doubt that they are even Pac-12 caliber and warranted such a hard fought victory.

The Trojans should have them out and rested their starters. Recall that there are no bye weeks for this team. Meanwhile, perennial contender, Stanford, is coming off a bye week.

USC vs. Oregon: Terrible Towel

USC vs. Oregon (Homecoming)
November 5, 2016 at 4:05pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 74,625 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 33 minutes

This would have been one of those great, feel good games if it didn’t look like a Steelers home game. The Trojans were flagged a total of 13 times for 129 yards.

Instead of Terrible Towels, we had penalty flags

The first few minutes of the game constantly got interrupted for calls. Even if the total 20 penalties all went against Oregon, I would’ve still been irritated by all that wasted time. Part of that is on USC for playing sloppy, but that can only get you so far. Every team says their conference has the worst refs out of a emotion-fueled rants, but watch some games out of every conference. None of them consistently perform that badly—and that’s just the eye test. The statistics show literally half the Pac-12 sits below #107 in penalties per game at this point in the season. That’s actually an improvement from previous seasons.

Oregon head coach, Mark Helfrich, decided to try his luck by challenging the ref’s call on USC’s first offensive play. Personally, I don’t mind, but man was that a waste. It’s a first down play not even two minutes into the game. You burned your challenge for the rest of the game and lost a timeout. Baffling move.

And since we’re on the topic of penalties, it was fun to watch Oregon take two false starts in a row when attempting a fourth down play. The Coliseum crowd noise scared them from a 4th-and-2 near USC’s redzone to a 4th-and-12 and a punt. This all happened after the Trojans took a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. I started to think, “wow, we may blow them out more badly than I thought.” Then the Ducks actually held USC for a few drives and scored their own touchdown. I thought, “oh wow, maybe I was wrong and they’ll actually make this a game.” Then they screwed up their PAT and I changed my mind again. Special teams—on either side—was not a bright spot in this game…except maybe for the Oregon punter pinning USC at the 1 and 3 in the first half. But let’s not stop talking about penalties just yet.

The back-to-back penalties (holding and offensive PI) set USC back to a 1st-and-35. A drive that started near mid-field was now inside their own 20. Seemed like a situation that you would end up punting on for sure. It didn’t help that their next play set up a 2nd-and-34. Passes to Michael Pittman and Ronald Jones more than made up the difference.

Ronald Jones II had another career-high night. Last week was in yards, this week in touchdowns. It’s been a long time since somebody rushed for 4 touchdowns on this team (2005), which ties the record, by the way. Definitely the offensive player of the game. Honorable mention to Deontay Burnett and a freshman honorable mention to Michael Pittman. I can’t let the defense be left out though.

Porter Gustin deserve defensive player of the game for his pass deflections and sacks. It seemed like he was in the backfield pressuring the Oregon freshman quarterback on almost every play. His best play was probably during the bat on 4th-and-2. Oregon had intercepted Darnold and drove to the USC 11 before being denied points by his pass deflection. His performance was instrumental in holding Oregon to half their average points per game.

Both USC and Oregon blitzed on a lot of plays this game. However, the USC offensive line didn’t do a great job picking it up. That probably let to a few ridiculous overthrows by Darnold. Not the best night for him either way, but not horrible either. Luckily, the Trojans were able to take advantage of Oregon’s bad run defense.

Stray Snippets

  • USC under Helton has finally managed to string together a respectable 2-minute drive.
  • TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe’s catch and run off the deflection seems to epitomize the wonky things that happen after Darnold took over as QB.
  • Oregon constantly ran a particular screen to the running back on the left side that got them a bunch of yards. That’s what you get for blitzing so much, I guess.

The Trojans have slowly climbed their way up to 6-3 (5-2 in Pac-12). It’s finally here: the biggest test in Pac-12 play for this season. Washington, sitting at a perfect 9-0. We’ll finally get a measure of how far this has really come from the loss to #1 Alabama in week 1.

CommBro Breaker

Even poor Puddles wanted to be a Trojan during that game. He brought his own plush horse to the Coliseum.

Or maybe he was just using it to chat up the cheerleaders

Or maybe he was just using it to chat up the cheerleaders

An Actual Purposeful Stat that Means a Lot More than Most of the Other Stuff I Put Here: USC is #8 in the nation in sacks allowed (9).

Useless Stat of the Week: USC averages less punt yardage (38.41) than their opponents (41.85).

Misleading Stat of the Week: Ronald Jones lost more yards on rushes than the TEAM.

This one took a lot of mental gymnastics. The stat line credits a -1 yard rush to “TEAM” for the QB kneel. Jones lost 8 yards at some point during his 20 carries.

USC vs. Arizona: A Win is a Win

USC vs. Arizona (Homecoming)
November 7, 2015 at 7:30pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: 76,309 (of 93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 11 minutes

CommBro Breaker

At a 6-3 overall record, USC is now bowl eligible for the foruth year in a row! Had the unjust postseason ban not been in play, the 2010 (8-5) and 2011 (10-2) teams would’ve connected the current streak with one that started in 2001. That would’ve been 15 consecutive bowl appearances, which would tie for the sixth longest active streak. Unfortunately, the NCAA sanctions were a reality, so the Trojans must now build off the 28th longest active streak.

Also, the quest for no loss November begins 1-0! Three games to finish it off. For the first time since 2010, USC is also 2-0 against the Arizona schools.

And the Trojans are also [Misleading Stat of the Week:] the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 South—against other Pac-12 South teams. It’s not that misleading. As long as the Trojans win out, they will own tie-breakers against ASU, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and UCLA. That means if all of them have two or more losses, USC will represent the South in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Arizona, Colorado, or UCLA need to upset Utah. Cross your fingers or something. I’m not superstitious so whatever man.

/CommBro Breaker

Now time for some analysis. Obviously, the start was uglier than a 3-foot long roach. Four possesions, three 3-and-outs, and a fumble. Two of those drives netted negative yards. Two 3rd down sacks by the defense kept the game within reach, but things looked bleak. USC closed the first quarter down 0-7 and had -22 rushing yards. Yes, negative rushing yards. It took only 4 seconds into the second quarter for the Wildcats to make it 0-14.

The Trojans drove down the field to the have a 1st-and-goal at the 8…to come up with a field goal. Just when you thought the Trojans could maybe do something, they waste a goal-to-go situation. I said at the time, the offense would not wake up without a big play by the defense. An interception or something. Then Plattenburg delivered and Kessler throws a bomb to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 72-yard touchdown. Maybe they heard me.

I started making jests about on-side kicks—then Alex Wood and company actually attempt one. I was only joking, but there’s no way they were listening to me, right? What really took the cake was when I was griping about the Jumbotron showing a bunch of selfies. “I want to some some stats, yo!” A simple request, which surely only the friends and the air could hear. The switch is made and the selfies are gone. Like I said, I’m not superstitious…but…I’ll take it!

I will also take the win. The Trojans came back from a double-digit deficit and won despite a fourth quarter deficit. The deficit was only 5 seconds long, but technically right is still right. It didn’t have to be that way though…

Down 20-17 in the third quarter, USC drove down to the Arizona 25-yard line with a chance to tie or take the lead. They did neither. Instead they took looked confused and took two timeouts. Maybe USC should steal its own signals. Is this no-huddle thing really doing the team any favors? After all of that, they come away from the red zone with no points, making Alex Wood 8-of-12 on field goals this season.

The defense continued to hold up Arizona on key drives. The Wildcats entered the game #10 in the nation in rushing yards per game (265 ypg), but were held to 60 yards—averaging a mere 1.9 yards per carry. Granted, they were able to put up a lot of pass yards, but forcing Anu Solomon to throw led to some errors (like the interception). They were also able to sack Solomon six times.

On the other side, the offensive line managed to only allow two sacks, despite having a fairly even run-pass balance (40 rushes, 36 passes). However, this unit picked up two out of the team’s eight penalties. Both were for false start. One of them came at a steep price: a nullified touchdown. At least they managed to give the running backs some room to run though. Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II combined for 262 yards on 35 carries (7.49 average) and two touchdowns apiece.

Jones is indisputably a major factor in the win. He set freshman records with 177 yards on 19 carries, finishing with an astounding 9.31 yards per carry. He was actually averaging 10.6 ypc after his 74-yard touchdown run. Although it’s certainly not as impressive as Marshawn Lynch’s run in the 2011 NFL playoffs, it reminded me of it. There seemed to be no scenario in which either of these running backs would break a couple of tacklers in the open field, but they pull it off and get the touchdown.

Jones’ receiving touchdown is worth noting too. After seeing all of our running backs and fullbacks drop a bunch of passes, it’s good to see Jones improving and making the catch. Steven Mitchell’s crucial block allowed Jones to take it in for a touchdown as well.

Justin Davis shouldn’t be forgotten about either. His two touchdowns came at critical moments. One capitalized on a fourth down stop and took to first lead of the game. The second capped off an 11-play, 5 minute drive that all but put the game away. Arizona still had a chance to score a touchdown, recover an on-side kick, score another touchdown, go for two, and then win in in overtime. So…

Basically one of these situations.

Basically one of these situations.

Finally, let’s not forget about JuJu Smith-Schuster. After getting surgery on his hand early in the week and not practicing, he seemed to pick up right where he left off. He continued his dominance, notching his sixth 100-yard receiving game of the season. The best part is that Smith-Schuster only dropped one despite major lingering pain in his hand.