The Trojans (3-1) got ahead early, pounded the rock late and found a way to escape the Coliseum with a 17-14 victory over Utah State. Finishing up the three-game home stand with a confidence building performance on defense, USC held Chuckie Keeton to only 164 yards of total offense standing nearly 200 yards below his regular-season totals.
USC scored their first touchdown of the game, striking on a one-yard touchdown rush from Tre Madden which was set up beautifully by a 19-yard connection from Cody Kessler to Nelson Agholor. The Aggies responded on their next drive going right down the field before missing a 34-yard field goal off the post, that being said the crowd wanted much more.
Really Do LOVE Trojan Fans !— Hayes Pullard lll ✌ (@FightOn10) September 22, 2013
Fans were rather disgruntled with the overall offensive performance from that point in the contest, as the Trojans only scored 10 points in the final three quarters finishing the game with 285 total yards. For Cody Kessler, who finished the game in major pain in his wrist, the passing performance was less than ideal following his near-perfect start last week.
What made the performance extremely frustrating was the incredible field positions the Trojans were slated with to open numerous possessions in the second half. Forcing unheralded pressure from the very start, Leonard Williams, Devon Kennard and Morgan Breslin recorded numerous tackles for loss, helping the entire defense force an incredible 10 tackles for loss on the afternoon.
The Trojans defensive line also came to play in the pressure department, limiting Keeton's mobility in the pocket while also recording four sacks in the backfield. While the offense struggled to move the football, the defense could certainly not be blamed after putting Kessler and company in fantastic field position all afternoon long.
At the end of the day, USC controlled the time of possession battle nestling away 32-minutes of play before the Aggies made their major push in the fourth quarter. Thanks to solid contributions from punter Kris Albarado (five punts inside the 20) the defense was able to play ahead of the chains all afternoon long, stacking the odds firmly against USU.
While the offense failed to convert on tremendous field position, Tre Madden pounded his legs to the tune of 93 yards on the ground falling just seven short of becoming the first Trojan to start the season with four-straight 100-yard games.
The biggest rush of the game however came on a reverse to Nelson Agholor moving the chains on a crucial first-down reverse to move the chains in the fourth quarter. This play call came one drive after the Trojans stalled in Aggies territory with three-straight incomplete passes from redshirt sophomore QB Cody Kessler.
The biggest sign of concern came with a 3-for-14 clip on third down, stifling multiple drives that began in Utah State field position. Most notably, the Trojans failed to capitalize on third down in their final drive but pushed the chains forward on a fourth-and-short QB sneak from Cody Kessler setting up the wonderful victory formation.
The Trojans now set their sights on Arizona State in a crucial game for Pac-12 South competition. The winner will regain an even mark in conference play, while the loser's chances look rather bleak to reach the title game. Following another sluggish performance on offense, the rock-solid defense will once again be called upon to lead USC towards victory.