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!