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.


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 Spring Game 2017

USC vs. USC vs. USC (USC Spring Game)
April 15, 2017 at 12:00pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: (Attendance Not Announced)
Total Time: Approximately 1 hours 40 minutes

Renovations have already started at the Coliseum, as you can see from the picture above. Honestly, it looked like a dilapidated structure that you’d find in Pripyat or some other torn up place.

The Peristyle might actually look worse than this right now
(Photo credit: Timm Suess)

You know what you won’t find in Pripyat though? Great weather! I still got sunburned though…Between that and a condensed and non-game format, you don’t need to feel too bad if you missed it.

You know, maybe they didn’t want to keep score after tearing down a scoreboard.

Below are some observations…pretty much all from offense. Sorry if that offends the defensive-minded folks.

  • Sam Darnold still looks sharp on his passes. During drills, he managed to throw some perfect deep balls between the coverage
  • Jack Sears is deceptively fast and has the instincts to know when to slide on a scramble. I have gained more confidence in him as Darnold’s backup
  • Matt Fink improved a lot since last spring, but still throws late across the middle with regularity. Strangely enough, this issue seems to be less noticeable on left-breaking routes.
  • Tyler Vaughns was clearly favored receiver amongst the quarterbacks, but did not make the most out of his numerous targets. He also needs to tie his shoes.
  • Velus Jones broke off a 30+ yard run on a reverse
  • The redshirt freshman, Vavae Malepeai, looked excellent out there. He could find the holes to run through, good lateral speed and finished runs with force.
  • Ronald Jones caught some passes out of the backfield. That’s a good sign for his continued development.
  • Jake Olsen got to snap for a field goal.
  • Exiting seniors and juniors got their Rose Bowl rings.

CommBro Breaker

The spring poster for this season looks fairly generic compared to some previous ones.

Misleading Stat of the Week: Velus Jones had more yards in one play than Jack Searsdid from passing the entire ‘game.’

Rose Bowl 2017: Best in the Decade?

Penn State vs. USC (103rd Rose Bowl Game)
January 2, 2017 at 2:12pm
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA: 95,128
Total Time: 4 hours 12 minutes

The USC season began with 52 points being scored on them in a soul-crushing loss. It ended with the Trojans scoring 52 points in one of the most exciting victories in half a decade. The difference four months can make.

The 103rd Rose Bowl was the stage for USC’s 25th Rose Bowl win on its 34th appearance. This is perhaps the biggest win since their last Rose Bowl back in 2009. I actually can’t think of a single win in the past decade that has been more meaningful, exciting, and impactful as this Rose Bowl.

Even Pete Carroll chimed in:

The grey clouds hovering over the Arroyo Seco could’ve been taken as a dark omen—like it could rain at any moment. However, just like it almost rained, USC almost lost.

Dark clouds and a black bird! Not to be confused with the SR-71 Blackbird.

Dark clouds and a black bird! Not to be confused with the SR-71 Blackbird.

The former 1-3 team was still down 14 points with about 8 minutes to go, as if a microcosm of the entire season. Against all odds they accomplished something that was considered to be an old memory or distant future. They ended Penn State’s nine game winning streak while extending their own to nine in the long, grueling, and highest scoring Rose Bowl in history in come-from-behind fashion.

Much like their winning streaks, both teams had their moments and scoring streaks. They traded scores for a while in the interim.

  1. USC: 13 points (13-0)
  2. Penn State: 7 points (13-7)
  3. USC: 7 points (20-7)
  4. Penn State: 7 points (20-14)
  5. USC: 7 points (27-14)
  6. Penn State: 28 points (27-42)
  7. USC: 7 points (35-42)
  8. Penn State: 7 points (35-49)
  9. USC: 17 points (52-49)

Penn State ended up being unable to score in the first and fourth quarter (four drives in each quarter)

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
USC 13 14 8 17 52
PSU 0 21 28 0 49

The Trojans started well with the Nittany Lions at their own 3-yard line before throwing an interception. And then another. It’s unfortunate that USC was unable to capitalize and get points off of turnovers. With an extremely short field on each of their first four possessions, they could’ve easily gone up 28-0. Instead they had 13-0 after missing one out of three field goals and coming away with only a single touchdown.

I had told a friend that USC needed to pad their lead to 30-0 because the Nittany Lions would score and would make a comeback. It happened earlier and harder than I expected.

Penn State scored on their next seven possessions, including a 28-0 run. The biggest morale destroyer was their 21 points off three offensive plays in 33 seconds of possession. USC was only down 15 points (two possessions), but it felt like so much more.

Because USC doesn’t do comeback wins anymore…until they did

At a time when we only dared to hope for overtime so that they had a fighting chance, the Trojans managed to pull out a victory.

The first Penn State play called a run on the first play after Deontay Burnett’s last touchdown catch in triple coverage. It seemed to signal that James Franklin wanted to play for an overtime period, but thenTrace McSorley throws a floating deep pass after the cornerback slipped. Luckily the deep safety got into position to intercept it—but dropped it. Leon McQuay probably thought he lost the opportunity and the play would haunt him forever.

McQuay got something much better than that. His interception and ensuing 32-yard return set up the game-winning field goal. As the kick sailed through the uprights, I held my celebration, unsure of what I was seeing. I only started after the official signal from the referees. Even then, I kept checking the clock to make sure the game as actually over. Absolute disbelief.

The rough season start and the Penn State comeback weren’t enough to set the stage for the wild narrative. The Trojans had to get shafted in the throughout the game to truly add enough adversity™ to make the payoff of a comeback win worthwhile.

Let’s start with that “late hit.” Both Chris Hawkins and Uchenna Nwosu arrive just as McSorley is sliding. Both of them don’t even have time to make half a step before colliding with the Penn State QB. Yet a flag is thrown for the hit. Doesn’t that give you flashbacks of when that teacher or parent in your life that said “If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late.”

Relive the trauma

Relive the trauma

Apparently, the ACC took that old phrase to a whole new level. If McSorley wants to avoid getting hit like that, slide before the dudes are in your face.

  • Uncalled pass interference(s?) on JuJu Smith-Schuster
  • The center at the same depth as the wide receivers and no ineligible receiver downfield call. The rule is that the ineligible players cannot be more than 3 yards away from the line of scrimmage (1 yard in the NFL). The center is clearly about 5 yards deep.
Ball clearly just left QB's hand. The Center is about half a yard vertically away from the receiver that catches the eventual TD pass.

Ball clearly just left QB’s hand. The Center is about half a yard vertically away from the receiver that catches the eventual TD pass.

  • Overturning the turnover. Apparently two fingers enough for clear recovery and changing the call on the field. It’s one thing if you had called it a PSU recovery then let it stand. But to call it USC’s ball on the field and overturn based on this? 
Pinning it on the ground is supposed to be enough?

Pinning it on the ground is supposed to be enough?

These ACC officials further worsens my view of them after their crapshow in the previous game against Notre Dame. Could Pac-12 referees have a new challenger?

Then down to the interviews of former players, pretty much all of them were Penn State except for Mark Sanchez. Why not have a chat with Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen, and/or Rodney Peete? Allen, Lott, and Peete all played in the Rose Bowl (multiple actually). They were all roaming around the sidelines.

Every time they did, it pumped up the Penn State crowd and got them cheering. SC did not get such things.

Info Dump

  • Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin are MVPs for Penn State

Good Stuff

  • Drum major stabbing the Rose Bowl field
  • Three interceptions by the defense
  • Sam Darnold breaking two of Vince Young’s Rose Bowl records (total yards and points responsible for) on top of breaking a third record (TD passes)
  • Career night for Deontay Burnett, previously a highly underrated wide receiver
  • Helton’s second top 5 win this season and third overall. (#3 Utah 2015, #4 Washington 2016, #5 Penn State duh)
  • Ronald Jones donned #4 in order to honor the late Joe McKnight
  • Sneaking a Rose Bowl for Obama’s final days in office. That extends USC’s streak for another administration
  • That crazy two point conversion play by Darnold. This is underrated and might have been lost in all the other insane plays made, but was crucial. Had the score been 48-49 from the PAT or 47-49 from failing the two point conversion, Penn State would’ve ran out the clock instead of throwing the ball. That would’ve killed it for the Trojans.
  • The game didn’t end in controversy like so many other high-profile games have in the past.

Bad Stuff

  • Rose Bowl field condition
  • Missed field goals at the beginning and end of the first half
  • Defense allowing the seconds most points in a game this season
  • Run game going nowhere
  • Cam Smith getting ejected
  • Adoree’ Jackson getting injured followed by Justin Davis shortly after

Next up is Western Michigan for the Home/Season Opener on September 2, 2017.

CommBro Breaker

I was uneasy about Helton’s decision to punt with less than four minutes and down by a touchdown. He sure showed me. He knew if he went for it and scored it would only get you overtime. He wanted to win in regulation, so he punted and got 10 points instead. The Helton mindgame strikes again. Now he’s graduated from stealing opponent timeouts (like against Arizona and UCLA) to stealing time itself.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week:

As you can see from the game information at the top, the 2017 Rose Bowl lasted 4 hours and 12 minutes. To underscore how ridiculous that is, the 2011 triple overtime defeat at the hands of Stanford lasted 4 hours and 1 minute. How does a game that ended in regulation take longer than a triple OT game? Thanks ACC officials. Here’s a fake conspiracy theory of why:

Rose Bowl tickets are expensive (one of the most expensive bowl games, if not the most). The ACC officials must be economic-minded folks and wanted to give you more game for your money.

The average USC game in 2016 was 3 hours and 22 minutes. That means we got 25% more game, courtesy of the ACC. Thanks indeed!

To those watching at home? You geven got it for free, why complain?

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #2: USC won its 25th Rose Bowl game. The rest of the Pac-12 combined has won 27. Shame on USC. They need to go win three more.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #3: There were two Marcus Allen’s at the Rose Bowl. Marcus Allen (USC 1978-81) was watching Marcus Allen (PSU 2014-present) from the sideline. The two are not related…unless you trace their lineage back like hundreds of generations to a point that you can say most people are related.

Stat Dump

  • USC’s defense held opponents to an average of 24.2 points per game, the lowest since Clancy Pendergast’s last stint at USC in 2013 (21.2ppg)
  • The season-end 5.16 yards per carry is tied with 2010 for the highest since 2005 (6.4 ypc)
  • The offensive line allowed 12 sacks this season (T-6th in nation), down from 38 last year (T-109th)
    • That’s the best since 2011 when they allowed only 8 (T-1st)
  • USC’s 47.75% 3rd down conversion rate (11th) is also the highest since 2011’s 48% (11th)
  • USC ended the season with a turnover margin of 0

Last thing—I make a lot of jokes about Dragon Ball Z, but this one almost makes itself

Defensive Backs for life or Dragon Ball Z for life? Let the debate rage.

Sorry I couldn’t cover everything folks, but there was just too much to talk about in this game and I’ve already written the longest post of the season.

USC vs. Notre Dame vs. Adoree’

USC vs. Notre Dame
November 26, 2016 at 12:42pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 72,402 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 39 minutes

The legendary intersectional rivalry notched another in the series. Like usual, the Trojans and Fighting Irish play following Thanksgiving every even year. And it was raining, just like 6 years ago when Notre Dame ended an 8-game losing streak to USC off the uncharacteristic drop suffered by RoJo. A different RoJo took the field on Saturday and his Trojan team delivered a different result.

A Notre Dame team entered the game with an unappealing 4-7 record. However, every single one of their seven losses had been by one possession (8 points or less). I’m not trying to tell you that they should’ve entered at 11-0 or excusing them for their losses. All I’m saying is that they’re probably a bit better than their record would indicate. Then USC proceeded to beat them by three possessions even after the Irishs’ garbage time touchdown.

The win painted a perfect backdrop for the annual senior day on an otherwise rare rainy LA day (sarcastically referred to as “perfect football weather” by more than a few Trojan fans). Most of us were expecting it, but not during the first quarter. The ACC officials present at the game seemed intent to aid the ill-weather in every way possible by dragging the game out. In the end, I’m not sure if the fans cheered louder when the sun peeked out over the horizon or for Adoree’ Jackson’s multitude of touchdowns. Just kidding, we know what got the louder cheer. Not everything was exciting fun and games though. The beginning of the game looked quite sloppy.

After a quick field goal by USC to start, the Fighting Irish caught a safety out of position and ran for 74 yards. Adoree’ Jackson managed chase him out-of-bounds short of the score remnisicent of his performance against Alabama. RoJo answered a few minutes later with a 51-yard touchdown run to get to the score to 10-7.

The next quarter and half was basically a soccer match. Seven punts and missed field goal with four possessions apiece. Then the excitement built up over!!…questionable reffing decisions….

I’m not even sure what they called on DeShone Kizer’s lateral fumble. I was at the stadium and didn’t hear jack squat. I rewatched the broadcast and still can’t tell why they decided to call it dead at the ND 8-yard line.

  • Was it an incomplete pass? We would’ve heard a whistle and it’d be 2nd-and-10 instead of 2nd-and-23.
  • Was it an intentional ground? Sure that’d get the 2nd-and-23 with loss of down at the spot of the foul, but the running back was right there and got his hands on it boefre it fell to the ground.
  • Foward progress stopped? Again, why no whistle? On the very next play, the whistle can be heard quite clearly.

Then two plays later, they cancel out a safety just because the official felt like he wasn’t backed up far enough when that kind of thing happens all the time. He was an adequate distance away and had already turned around to face the play.

In the second half, I thought I had an onset of Déjà vu when the refs blew a fumble dead as an incomplete pass, nullifying the touchdown return by Jack Jones. Why not just let him complete the return and review it after that? Instead they make the strange decision to whistle it dead after Jones has run 10-15 yards down the field. At least they got the turnover part fixed on the review. Great play by Ajene Harris and Jack Jones though to give it a chance to happen at all. Harris had to fight through two blockers to make that tip and Jones had the awareness and skill to grab that instantly in middle of his stride.

The last of the egregiously bad calls was during the nasty 28 on 28 hit. Aca’cedric Ware took a helmet shot from ND safety, Nicco Fertitta. Instead of calling the obvious targeting penalty and ejecting Fertitta, they call it a fumble by Ware. Oh, okay, fumbles are a thing now? After a review, they still think it’s a fumble with no targeting. It took them a second review before disqualifying Fertitta and reversing the fumble. Only took two reviews and 10 minutes guys. It took them two tries to flag Jerry Tillery for personal fouls too.

Wish you the best Ron Cherry, but your crew really didn’t do that well this game. That official team dragged it out to be the longest of the season—longest of two season actually. The last time a USC football game took that long was the 2014 Holiday Bowl against Nebraska going nearly 4 hours (3:55). That being said, get well soon Cherry, because your job performance doesn’t make you deserving of a concussion.

Some penalties were deserved though. USC got penalized for roughing the kicker, turning a three-and-out into a first down. USC lucked out with ND missing the field goal. It wasn’t a block though, so no free Chick-Fil-A. Sad times. You tried to give us free chicken Pittman, but it didn’t work. Next time, please don’t give them free possessions with penalties.These kinds of things could’ve been a big deal if the game was closer. The penalties weren’t their only problem.

It’s hard to imagine a game this season where Sam Darnold didn’t get the spotlight. He had a relatively pedestrian game, suffering inaccurate passes in the rain. The bright side is that he didn’t produce any turnovers.

Unfortunately, the star of the game ended up being the one to turn it over. Adoree’ fumbled it on a punt return, making it emotionally painful since it was the start of a possession change. Much like the roughing the kicker penalty, it was after a three-and-out.

Can’t be too harsh on Adoree’ when he scored as much as the entire ND team by the end of the third quarter. All three of his touchdowns spanned over 50 yards:

  • A 55-yard punt return, showing that they don’t need no stinking 2 point safety. He’ll take 6, thank you.
  • A 52-yard reception because he wanted to make Darnold look good too.
  • A 97-yard kickoff return that might’ve been the backbreaker for Notre Dame. It featured a high jump (I thought he was trying to qualify for long jump?) and a key block by Isaac Whitney for Adoree’ to take it to the house. As a bonus, kicker Matt Boermeester had a monster tackle on the ensuing kickoff earning the cheers of his teammates.

Adoree’ is the MVP of the game, no dispute.

One more good thing:

  • Ajene Harris’ pick six 17 seconds after Adoree’ Jackson’s punt return TD. In 17 seconds, USC went from a 3-point lead to a 17-point lead. Not a bad way to end the half. Reminds me of the Arizona State game in 2015.

CommBro Breaker

The regular season has ended with USC at 9-3 (7-2 in Pac-12). Utah’s loss cemented Colorado’s place as Pac-12 South champion, meaning USC just has to sit and wait for a bowl bid now. Not the worst thing in the world since USC can still get a NY6 bowl bid like the Cotton Bowl or even the Rose Bowl (if Washington is selected for the playoff and the Rose Bowl Committee selects USC over Colorado). Personally, I’d rather have the Rose Bowl for so many reasons.

  • Joey Kaufman over at the OC Register, among others, have pointed out that, “Since 1929, the Trojans have appeared in the Rose Bowl during the term of every U.S. President except Barack Obama.” It would be mighty great for them to sneak one in at the twilight of Obama’s second term.
  • It would also continue USC’s streak of at least one Rose Bowl in every decade since 1920. They have yet to get one in the 2010s.
  • It’s also easier to travel to than the Cotton Bowl game (which isn’t at the Cotton Bowl anymore). Guess where it is now. AT&T Stadium. As cool as that place is, I’d rather use my money to see new locations

Good Stat of the Week: USC has won eight streak games.The Trojans have not lost at home this season and extends their home winning streak to nine, spanning over the 2015 and 2016 season.

Ultimate Misleading Stat of the Week: Notre Dame has won ZERO conference championships, meaning USC has about 38 more than them.

Hard to win conference championships when you’re not in a conference. Notre Dame has always been independent, though they do have one foot in the ACC at this point.

Edit: How could I forget? USC completed a no loss November for the first time since 2011!!

USC vs. UCLA: Battle for Pasadena or Something

November 19, 2016 at 7:37pm
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA: 71,137 (92,524)
Total Time: 3 hours 16 minutes

Ah, the annual Battle for Los Angeles—which actually happens in Pasadena rather than LA every other year. I guess it’s still LA County so it counts? But then there’s this…

I guess they’re mad at LA or something because they don’t have their own stadium there.

I still find funny that USC is closer to UCLA’s home stadium than the Bruins are. Nothing like driving almost 30 miles in infamous LA traffic to get to your “home stadium.” Perhaps that’s why an entire freaking section was empty at the Rose Bowl.


Looks like Section 11 and half of section 10

Were they saving those seats for ghosts or something? Or maybe you shouldn’t charge a $110 base price for a regular season game. In comparison, an equivalent seat in AT&T Stadium for the USC vs. Alabama would’ve cost $100. A better seat at the Coliseum for USC vs. Notre Dame is $89. These are all face values, not secondhand pricing on StubHub or anything. The price tag is ultimately what kept me from going for the first time in 6 or 7 years, which probably uncoincidentally was about when the previous low occurred. They probably could’ve packed the place out if they dropped the price a bit to something less ridiculous.

The start was about as bad as the attendance. An aggressive defense let UCLA quarterback, Mike Fafaul complete some passes and bad tackling allowed the receiver to run 56 yards for the touchdown. USC, helped by back-to-back UCLA penalties, scored a touchdown on half a field. Not long after, Sam Darnold throws an interception when the UCLA defensive back jumps the route. That set UCLA up for their second and final score.

USC finally decided they had enough and proceded to go on a 29-0 scoring run by the end of the game. They all got together and decided to play monkey in the middle with UCLA. Of USC’s 12 drives, seven of them were for 9 or more plays. Four were for 10 or more plays, including an 18-play, 9 minute drive. They only went three-and-out twice and only punted twice. If not for some turnovers and penalties, it seemed like USC could score on just about every drive—even against a solid UCLA defense. At the final whistle, USC held the ball for a disgustingly lopsided 43 minutes and 47 seconds to UCLA’s 16 minutes and 13 seconds.

Last year was a similar affair in terms of time of possession. The 2015 totals were 40:01 to 19:59. At the time I thought that wouldn’t be topped for a while. Pretty crazy for it to happen the very next game in the series. As good as it was, there were a lot of hiccups along the way.

Right as the Trojans took the lead, they missed the PAT. Quite the frustrating start, but a lead is a lead. You’d be tempted to blame the kicker for this one, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the holder put the laces towards the kicker—a big no-no. This holder has caused quite a few issues in the past and was at fault (at Fafault?) for this PAT.

Drive-killing penalties still plague the team every now and then. Sometimes Darnold’s improv ability digs them out the hole, sometimes it doesn’t. Take for example the 3rd-and-36 when the game was only one possession apart. Darnold ended up throwing his second interception there, which wasn’t too bad. It ended up working out to basically be a punt. However, I think the better option would’ve been to try to pick up 10-15 yards and kick the field goal. Not too big of a deal though.

A big deal was the end of the first half. USC was quickly running out of time. Helton found himself in a similar predicament. He had used all of his timeouts earlier and now had to improvise for some clock stopping. Most people would simply think, “Oh, just get up to the line quickly and spike the ball.” That’s why you’re not a head coach. Don’t you remember that Helton maxed out his timeout skill past 99 in Madden? He put his ability on display again Saturday night by mindgaming UCLA head coach, Jim Mora, to take the timeout for him.

Some More Good stuff:

  • Darnold’s game-changing ability to fix broken plays.
  • De’Quan Hampton making two tough touchdown catches in traffic
  • Ronald Jones getting another 100-yard game
  • Rasheem Green for his pressure on the QB and the field goal block
  • Jalen Greene’s catch on third down while Darreus Rogers accidentally does an impression of a defensive back. They eventually scored a TD on that drive.
  • While the defense couldn’t get any sacks, they pressured Fafaul enough to cause punts on 7 out of 11 meaningful drives. Four of them were three-and-outs.

Some More Bad Stuff:

  • Khaliel Rodgers’ still hasn’t quite settled into the center role. His only snap ended in a 12 yard loss and it could’ve been worse
  • The game got bad enough that the sportscasters, Steve Levy and Brian Griese started t talking about Griese’s glory days at Michigan instead of commentating on the game. They made no mention of a near interception and continue to chat through the entire UCLA possession. The sad part was that this was probably all premeditated to some level. They had clips from the1996 Michigan-Ohio State game andsome of his career highlights all queued up.

Now that the Trojans have done all they can in the conference, they must wait for Colorado to drop a game to qualify as a the Pac-12 South Champion. Colorado will face Utah at home on Folsom Field at 4:30pm on Saturday. Thanks for the loss last week Utah, but you need to win this week.

CommBro Breaker

It’s okay UCLA, it wasn’t a real rivalry game anyway.

There was no stabbing of the field to signify the start of the game. Some say we are still waiting for the 2012 game to start.

Misleading Stat of the Week: UCLA scored more points per minute of possession(0.863) than USC (0.822)

Depressing Stat of the Week: Seven win streak, convincing win over top 5 team and local rivalry, and possibly NY6 bowl on the horizon? Gotta balance it out with some sad stat.

For the first time this season, Matt Boermeester missed an extra point attempt.

Uplifting Stat of the Week: Okay, I can’t leave you on a sour note like that.

UCLA had more yards punting (280) than total offense (266).

USC vs. UW: Party in the Husky Backfield

Washington vs. USC
November 12, 2016 at 4:36pm
Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA: 72,364 (70,183)
Total Time: 3 hours 24 minutes

USC went on the road and orchestrated a double digit win against the formerly undefeated #4 team in the nation in primetime. No other team had even taken a double digit lead against the Washington Huskies previously. The Trojans held their lead for nearly the entire game. With that, Lee Corso’s College Gameday streak of 21 picks, UDub’s 12-game win streak, and a string of unfortunate Pac-12 opponents fall victim to USC’s resurgence.

The story of the game would have to be the championship caliber defense. Yet another week, they hold a team well below their average. USC took a 17-6 lead at halftime, holding Washington to 158 total yards and a mere 36 rushing yards. Somehow, the Huskies finished the game with even less (17) rushing yards than at the half. Other than Adoree’ Jackson slipping to give up a 70-yard touchdown pass, the defense did not allow a touchdown for 60 minutes. A defense that only gives up an average of 6.5 points per half to the former #2 scoring offense in the nation in an offense-crazy college football is one that I’ll take. Clancy Pendergast’s defense even managed to score some points towards the end when when Tee Martin’s offense stalled out in the fourth quarter.

The team mostly rushed four and still generated enough pressure to keep Jake Browning uncomfortable. Porter Gustin remains one of the most influential players on this side of the ball. His pass breakup, two sacks, constant pressures, and hits on the QB were vital to the win.

Adoree Jackson’ would qualify as a tie or close second. Jackson intercepted the Heisman candidate twice, accounting for 40% of Browning’s interceptions on the season (5 total). This Washington team was, and still is #1 in the nation in turnover margin with +15. They really don’t turn the ball over a lot, making Jackon’s achievement that much more impressive. However, a margin like that has as much to do with their offense as it does their defense.

This has been a statisically stingy Washington defense, allowing only 17 points per game, good for #11 in the nation. When viewing it from that lens, the offense did alright. Sam Darnold threw two interceptions, but one wasn’t his fault. Apparently the team has a slipping problem, because Darreus’ slip on the slant route led directly to Darnold’s second interception. The first one was totally on Darnold though for throwing it into triple coverage. More notable is that a redshirt freshman like Darnold was able to

Come on, say it with me

Come on, say it with me

both times. He led a decent drive after the first, but a dropped ball on third down led to a field goal. In the end, it didn’t matter that USC had to settle, but there was no way we could’ve known at the time. That was a pretty big mistake. After the second interception, Darnold led a 60-yard touchdown drive for their only offensive score in the second half. This offense needs to get over that last hump. They had lots of failed drives that could’veeffectively ended the game instead of leaving it up to the defense. Their last three offensive drives ended the following ways: punt (three-and-out), punt, and turnover on downs. Conversely, the defense’s last three were: forced punt, interception, safety.

Sure, Darnold has been responsible for the offensive awakening, but I’ve made three other picks for offensive players deserving recognition:

  1. Darreus Rogers made key receptions and I really mean that. Five of his six catches went for first downs or touchdowns—three of which were on third downs. One of his best plays was when he turned a likely interception on third down at the USC 14 into a 27-yard catch and run for a first down. I’m sure all of that makes up for his slip up.
  2. Ronald Jones, while not breaking off any large runs, showed that he could pick up the tough yards and be trusted to carry for 20 times a game.
  3. Daniel Imatorbhebhe for making challenging catches and a touchdown grab.

Lastly, we can’t forget about the special teams. After Darnold’s second interception, the defense rallied for a stop in field goal range. What really capped that off was a block by Rasheem Green and returned by Jackson to the USC 40. If they had made that kick, it would’ve turned it into a one point game.

I’ve been saying all season that the Trojans had to put together a complete game against Washington to prove to the nation how far they’ve come. They had their opportunity and capitalized, bringing a very convincing win as evidence of their progress. And they did it all with Helton’s strange timeout game, turnovers, dumb penalties, and probably everything else I complained about at some point in the season. All the mistakes they’ve made they were able to pare down to a manageable level. If you were holding your breath, you can celebrate a little now. I am too, nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t go too far though.

As much as I’d like to say…

(CommBro Breaker)

Pac-12, you had your chance when Pete Carroll lost his starting quarterback, most of his defense, and his offensive and defensive coordinator in a single offseason. You had your chance when Lane Kiffin was called in to rebuild a program straddled with unjust sanctions and an unprecedented number of transfers. You had your chance when we had 5 coaching changes in 3 seasons. During that entire stretch of seven years, all 11 (or nine back in ’09 and ’10) Pac-12 teams only managed to put together four Rose Bowl wins, two national championship appearances and one Heisman Trophy winner. For comparison, in the 7 year stretch immediately preceding that, USC topped all of that with 7 straight BCS bowl appearances, 4 of which were Rose Bowl wins, 2 national championships, and 3 Heisman Trophy winners. It’s our turn again.

(/CommBro Breaker)

I wouldn’t recommend actually going on record with that. Helton has clearly taken a huge step forward with this statement win. However, we’ve seen many teams fail to sustain that success. Just at USC:

  • Lane Kiffin 2011 beat #4 Oregon at Autzen Stadium in 2011, but eventually gets fired after 7-6 season and 3-2 start
  • Ed Orgeron beat #4 Stanford at the Coliseum in 2013, but lost to Notre Dame and UCLA

If you need examples outside of USC:

  • Kirk Ferentz at Iowa got a big contract extension after a 12-2 season and Rose Bowl appearance. Now 6-4 (4-3 in Big Ten), but they’re stuck with him and a huge buyout for like a decade
  • Charlie Strong had two 11+ win seasons at Louisville, but is now having trouble putting together a winning season in his third year at Texas

Sustained success is one of the most difficult things to achieve in football. Think of all the flash in the pan coaching jobs that everyone wanted to anoint. This major step is one that had to be taken by Helton, but unless you’re into gambling, you probably shouldn’t be touting him as the next Pete Carroll or anything like that. Helton has many more steps to take and that’s okay. He’s clearly grown a lot since he started and hopefully will grow a lot more. Be patient and let it play out because Helton isn’t going to be fired, hired away, or get a contract extension after his first full season as head coach.

CommBro Breaker 3.14

Useless Stat of the Week: Since Pete Carroll has left USC plays well against teams ranked between #4 for some reason…

  • 26-13 win against 2016 Washington #4 (AP, Coaches Playoff)
  • 20-17 win against 2013 Stanford #4 (BCS)
  • 38-35 win against 2011 Oregon #4 (AP, Coaches, BCS)
  • 48-56 3OT loss against 2011 Stanford #4 (AP, BCS)

Yet, they get beat by almost everyone else in the top ten

Misleading Stat of the Week: The Trojans are ranked #15 and #25 in the AP Poll

The USC Trojans shot up from unranked to #15. The Troy Trojans dragged themselves up from unranked to #25. Troy University is a school out in Alabama. Currently, they have only lost to Clemson.

USC vs. Cal: Thursday Night Lights

USC vs. California
October 27, 2016 at 7:36pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 61,725 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 27 minutes

USC climbs another step above .500 and sits at 5-3 (4-2 in Pac-12). Currently, that Pac-12 record ties with Utah. However, if Utah and USC were to win out, the Trojans would still be second place since the Utes own the tie-breaker. USC would need both Utah and Colorado to drop at least one more in order to win the South. The good thing is that the Utes and Buffs have yet to play each other, so one loss will be picked up there. The winner of that game has to lose somewhere else. Things get complicated when you lose to the good teams within your division. You know what else is complicated? Thursday night games. Besides the fact that Thursday Night Lights really doesn’t have the same ring to it, it should really stop being a thing.

A few drops of rain was the final threshold. A large number of people took that as a sign to leave. It sure seems like the most Southern California thing to do, but given the context, it’s hard to blame them. Rain just slows down LA traffic to a crawl. And not one of those quick cockroach crawls either. No man, it’s more like a snail in a wheelchair sinking into quicksand. The Thursday night idea was already terrible. LA is congested enough without adding 93,607 61,725 people. And 7:30PM? When I got into bed post-game, it was already past 1:00AM. Thanks Larry Scott.

The Pac-12’s reasoning is that the game gets more exposure since there isn’t as much football happening. You know…except for this little thing called Thursday Night Football. And also since it started at 10:30PM Eastern. When your primary reason gets mostly invalidated, why are you still doing this crap?

Lots of people are poking fun at Sonny Dykes’ post-game complaint, but put your fandom trash talking aside for a moment. He really has a point. And if nobody with a modicum of clout voices their displeasure, the already tone-deaf Pac-12 would definitely not make any changes. So maybe he didn’t do it the right way. He’s almost using it as an excuse for his team, but he’s not wrong. Here’s Sonny Dykes’ quote:

“We looked like a tired, beat-up football team and we were. I think it’s a travesty for whoever scheduled this football game to schedule us in back-to-back weekday games on six days rest to play a team on the road on an open date. I hope the Pac-12 doesn’t do that again to any other school. It’s not right for the kids. It’s not right for the players. They’ve had to miss a bunch of class. Everyone talks about student-athlete welfare, and they didn’t put their money where their mouth is on that one.”

It’s kind of strange that so many people are telling Cal to “stop whining.” When all the Pac-12 South opponents had a bye week to prepare for USC, lots of Trojans lamented that. Why turn around and call someone out for the same thing? This isn’t the pain Olympics. It’s dumb scheduling by the Pac-12—and it shouldn’t happen to any team. Maybe the next time Scott (or maybe the next Commissioner) and his team negotiate a TV deal in 2023 or whatever, he’ll actually try to fight some of these stupid weekday games (like a Friday conference championship? What the hell, man).

If you want to point out some actual questionable decision by Dykes, I’ll give you some. Most coaches have learned to kick away from Adoree’ Jackson on punts and kickoffs—either from film or firsthand experience. Dykes chose the firsthand experience. Afterwards, his kicker tried putting it short, which got closer and closer to midfield. At that point—especially considering how the Trojans almost moved the ball at will—you might as well onside kick it every time. At least you have a chance to deny the Trojans some possessions. Not that I’m complaining…

I also can’t complain about 398 rushing yards and a 21 point margin of victory. Getting to 400 would’ve looked better, but I’m not even sure that’s one of those first world problems memes. It’s beyond that.

You may be inclined to knock on Ronald Jones’ 223 rushing yards. Accumulated off a Cal defense bad against the run! I don’t know man, but it’s the most since Allen Bradford’s 223-yard performance against Washington…6 years ago. You’re telling me that we haven’t played a team with a worse defense in 6 years? Hard to believe. A good running back could pick up 100-something against a subpar defense easily, but 200 something is definitely worth something. Aca’Cedric Ware actually had more carries this game, but only managed 130 yards. You can only downplay it so much.

Going off of that, all the negativity from Trojan fans is, frankly, kind of ridiculous. USC can only play against whatever is presented to them each week. Yes, they’ve been stomping on teams that aren’t quite complete for the past 4 games. However, they’ve definitely improved and you can’t cast too many judgments until they face the real test on November 12. At this point, losses would reveal more about the team than wins, but luckily for all of us, they haven’t been doing that. As for the things we can see right now…

It seems Helton got enough timeout reps throughout the season to make the quick call when he needed it. The holder’s botched handling of snap on third down was saved by Helton’s elite timeout call. I’m glad the holder didn’t try to run it this time. He really needs to step it up considering this is one of those “you only had one job” situations.He’s been causing some kicking woes for Boermeester.

In other news, penalties hit a season-high 13. A two year high, actually. Coincidentally the last time was also a home game against Cal. Three weeks ago, I was praising this team for having a 4-year low penalty count against Colorado. The 2016 sample seems indicative of the Colorado game being an anomaly rather than showing improvement. Some of them were the Pac-12 being the Pac-12, but that’s too many to dismiss. Blatant facemask tackles (back-to-back, as well) almost led to a Cal scoring drive. Marvell Tell definitely made up for it with the interception though. That certainly helped offset USC’s three turnovers.

(CommBro Breaker)

For a game that featured five total fumbles (three lost) and two interceptions, you would think there would be a turnover off of a turnover somewhere, but unfortunately, I cannot increase the count this week.

(/CommBro Breaker)

Turnovers rear their ugly head again and the Trojans finished the game with a negative turnover margin. What will it take to fix this problem? The fumbles can be argued as having been freak plays, but the interception falls squarely on Darnold’s shoulders. The interceptor was watching the quarterback the entire play and aptly got into position to make the play. The safety, Luke Rubenzer, was a former quarterback, so he probably had a pretty good read on the situation. In fact, Luke Rubenzer is still listed as a QB on Cal’s website.

And because I didn’t know where to fit this…

It’s hard to tell where the USC pass rush is at right now. Definitely a weak point starting out in the season that got worse after Noah Jefferson went out with injury. However, with Davis Webb getting the ball out so quickly, it really wouldn’t be a fair evaluation. Cal came into the game scoring 43 points per game and you can’t hold a good offense down forever. They were going to be able to pass the ball and score points. However, with USC favoring a nickel package on almost every play, Cal was able to get decent yardage running the ball. I hope Clancy decides to get out of that every once in a while against Washington, or the Trojans may allow Myles Gaskin to run wild. It sounds like Noah Jefferson will be returning in time for the Washington game, so really, that game in Seattle will reveal a lot about the team.

Will the real CommBro Breaker please stand up

I already used up all my content so I’m just going to give you a bunch of bogus stats.

Useless Stat of the Week:  USC’s average points per game allowed is still 24 after Thursday; the 24 points Cal scored against USC left it in equilibrium.

Misleading Stat of the Week: USC is undefeated…against teams that start with the letter C (Colorado and Cal).

Misleading Stat of the Week #2: 100% of Porter Gustin’s tackles were for a loss.

He was credited with one assisted tackle and 0.5 TFL. Haha!

USC vs. Arizona: THTR 122

Arizona vs. USC
October 15, 2016 at 12:35pm
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ: 55,463 (55,675)
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

The Trojans won for the first time in their new road jerseys and the first in Helton’s tenure as permanent head coach. USC moves up to a winning record overall (4-3) and in the Pac-12 (3-2) for the first time this season. That’s a start. A good way to head into the bye week. Now the Trojans can focus on recovering from injuries. It’s a good time for a bye with injuries to key personnel. Off the top of my head, there guys like Justin Davis, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Steven Mitchell. But before looking forward, let’s look back.

Update: Steven Mitchell has torn his ACL and will be out for the season. Best wishes to him on his recovery.

After playing a solid first half, they could afford to go into cruise control mode for the second half. Not a bad way to go. The last USC drive of the half was really a microcosm of the entire game. Two minute drill, even though the Trojans don’t really have one at this point. After making a sweet first down grab, JuJu gets flagged for taunting. Come on man. Now a bunch of time runs off the clock for no reason. I thought that penalty would prevent USC from making that last score before the half.

USC was driving down the field, quickly running out of time. If only Helton had, y’know, saved his timeouts. I’ve been harping on this crap all season and here’s a point when having them would really help. But wait, Arizona takes a timeout with 34 seconds left on the clock. Despite spending all of USC’s timeouts, Helton somehow managed to get a favorable timeout call. Why save your timeouts when you can dip into your opponents’ too? Sorry I doubted you Helton. I didn’t know you were such a master manipulator like that.

Right out of the timeout, JuJu makes an unreal catch and run for the touchdown. Looks like I was wrong for doubting him too. Luck > logic.

In reality, Arizona’s players and coaching staff made repeated errors that allowed the Trojans to dominate them. Combined with Darnold’s elite improvisation and a zero turnover game, the Trojans had all but put the game away by halftime.

The only times that the Wildcats showed anything worthwhile was on their first touchdown drive. Even then, most of the yardage was subsidized. The Trojans punted from their own 19 for an underwhelming 34 yards. It was immediately followed up by a personal foul penalty, nullifying half the punt. Two plays later, a pass interference penalty took off another 16 yards. Two penalties and the punt was effectively useless.The Wildcats had to drive a mere 16 yards on their own for their only touchdown that mattered.

The Arizona quarterback finished the first half with a -9.5 passer rating. Granted, he is apparently 17 years old and starting the first game of his college career. Still, stellar job by the defense to shut him down that hard.

(CommBro Breaker Conspiracy)

You know what else was -9.5? The opening spread for USC-Arizona. Must be Illuminati or something.


It hasn’t even been a year! I’ll keep finding ways to recycle this image. You just watch.

(/CommBro Breaker Conspiracy)

Like I was saying, the offensive gameplan for USC didn’t inspire much confidence. Most of it was Sam Darnold’s ability to extend plays and scramble for first downs. He’s the fairy godmother and USC is Cinderella. Midnight will come eventually if you don’t get a real horse, bro.

Zach Banner returned to the starting lineup and the offensive line played okay. The usually penalty-accumulating Banner had zero this game, which is always good. In fact, the entire offensive line only received one penalty (I do have to note that one was offset by an Arizona penalty. Again, they helped USC out quite a bit this game). Wish I could say the same about the rest of the team though. After hitting a low last week, they’re back to normal with 8 penalties this game.

To finish up on offense, the receivers and the running backs all performed well. A lot of the running backs’ yards were picked up in garbage time in large chunks. Dom Davis got 85 yards and Aca’cedric Ware had runs of 37 and 21 yards. It really seemed like USC could’ve dropped 60 points on Arizona easily. The receivers also adjusted well to some spotty passes. However, adjustments can only get you so far. Some were so far out of reach there was no shot. Darnold has a tendency to underthrow deep balls, but seems to have overcorrected this game, overthrowing quite a few times. Since Jalen Greene overthrew as well, maybe that Arizona Stadium altitude (~700m or ~2300 ft) could have affected deep balls like it does with kicks. Either way, the receivers saved Darnold from a few picks this game, as they did last game. It feels good to have a zero turnover game.

Defensively, you can’t really say many bad things about holding a team to 14 points (7 in garbage time), forcing four turnovers and making a goal line 4th down stop. Iman Marshall bounced back this week with the interception after dropping two potential ones last week.

Lastly, special teams. Man, kind of a lackluster week for them. A fumble during a punt return, some negative returns, and almost turning a PAT into a two point conversion of Arizona. That was just an all-time bad decision by holder. He should just fell on the ball. Did you really think you could’ve Darnold’d botched snap into two points? Arizona equally matched the bad decision with an unnecessary hit to draw a penalty. Lucky us.

CommBro Breaker

Going back to conspiracy theories, Dane Cruikshank was the #9 opposite of JuJu Smith-Schuster. As the cornerback, he had the unfortunate position of covering JuJu. He was most notable for being the one that JuJu stepped over, drawing a penalty. You know who else caused trouble like that? Crookshanks. Who is this Cruikshank character. Is he a Wildcat?—or is he Hermione’s cat?

Hm...there might be something to this

Hm…there might be something to this

Misleading Stat of the Week: Despite the failed PAT, USC remains #1 in the nation PAT conversion percentage!! (The failed handling of the snap doesn’t count as an attempt)

USC and 67 other teams also hold “first place.” It’s only slightly better than winning a participation award.

Uplifting Stat of the Week: USC is 16th in the nation with 67.5% of their kickoffs going for touchbacks. It’s been a while since we’ve had a kicker that could consistently kick that far. Guess I can’t hate on the special teams too much.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, THTR 122 is the class code for “Improvisation and Theatre Games” at USC—a 2-unit class I dropped immediately after the first class. Anyway, I just thought it was fitting because of what Darnold did on the field.

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.