Instead of watching this game with my drunk friends, I got a gig as a spotter up in the radio booth. That's right -- movin' on up in the world. But while this job required me to follow the ball rather than do more off-ball watching like I normally enjoy doing, I still feel like I absorbed a decent amount of what happened.
Here's my USC/Cal radio booth observations:
- USC's defense looked very prepared for this matchup, which was reassuring to see from Justin Wilcox's unit. It looked like they had an automatic check into a blitz off the edge when Cal called a quarterback rollout, which was a sign of good film study and preparation. They also threw a bunch of different looks at Cal quarterback Jared Goff, who seemed confused and did not perform well.
- On the flip side, the USC defense still showed some holes. Even though this game ended up within one score, it really wasn't that close. USC's prevent defense let up a lot of those points and that still needs to be worked on. A lot.
The area right behind the linebackers was exploited at times. The view from the press box is amazingly clear, and it looked like USC was in a standard cover-2 zone-under, instead of a Tampa-2 call where a linebacker would be getting more depth in the middle of the field to better defend that area behind the linebackers.
I think it would be good for the defense to put Su'a Cravens in this role, as he is athletic enough to play both the deep middle and also to change direction to come back up and make tackles underneath.
- I saw Leonard Williams play outside the tackles on the defensive right side during this game instead of on the defensive left side, where he usually plays in that role. Kept the offense guessing. Loved it.
- Kevon Seymour is still good. I love how well-rounded he is. Such a technician at the cornerback position.
- Of course, this game was made offensively by Nelson Agholor, who recorded 16 catches for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns. His ball skills are still inconsistent at times, but this was one of those games where he was at his peak. He caught the ball in traffic and through contact, and made a ton of dudes miss after the catch. Cal's secondary had no shot at keeping up with him.
There was a sequence in this game where USC had a run/pass option, where Cody Kessler could either hand it off to the running back or make a quick pass to the wide receiver if the cornerback was playing soft coverage. Kessler threw it to Agholor three straight times, and Agholor made his defender miss every time. I don't know if he's a first-round talent, but he'll definitely carve out a niche for himself on Sundays.
- Even though Buck Allen had his least-productive game of the year on the ground, he still managed to make an impact through the air with 49 yards on four catches. This included a key catch on a third down late in the game on a wheel route out of the backfield, which was actually a play I saw them run during the spring many times
- Cal tried a lot of disguised coverages against the USC offense. For instance, they crowded their safeties at the line of scrimmage to show blitz, then dropped back into a cover-2 multiple times in this game. But Cody Kessler appeared well-prepared for this and finding the open guy (mostly Nelson Agholor).