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USC vs. Cal: Hits and Misses

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If you didn’t stay up late with the Trojans, we’ve got you covered.

NCAA Football: California at Southern California Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

With the Trojan offense putting on a late night show in the Coliseum, there are plenty of hits to look back on. However, SC had a few misses too (eh, hem...turnovers), and on another night they could have easily derailed an otherwise strong performance. Here’s the best and worst from USC’s 45-24 victory.

Hit: Sam Darnold

NCAA Football: California at Southern California
Sam Darnold had a huge night, putting up 231 yards and 5 touchdowns on Cal.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

There was a moment in Thursday night’s broadcast in which the ESPN commentators were comparing Sam Darnold’s maturity to that of a 35-year-old. And perhaps that’s what’s even more impressive than his deadly accurate arm or ability to dodge blitzing linebackers and scramble for a first down when you need it most. Darnold’s presence of mind in the pocket, his creative distribution of the ball, and his calm demeanor are all characteristics rarely seen at any level. There’s no question about it now. This is Sam’s team.

Hit: Ronald Jones II

NCAA Football: California at Southern California
Ronald Jones had a career night...and almost stole the show.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

With Justin Davis sidelined by a bum ankle, it was up to Jones to carry the load. And he gladly took more than his share. SC’s offensive line blasted holes in a fragile Cal defense all night long and Ronald ran wild, amassing a career-high 223 yards on the ground. His 37-yard touchdown run in the second half came on the heels of a Cal score, and snuffed out any momentum they might have gained.

Miss: Turnovers

As good as Darnold was on the night, his three turnovers (2 fumbles and an interception), gave Cal hope when they had none, and threatened an otherwise stellar performance. USC escaped mostly unharmed, but on another night, in a tighter game, it might be a different story.

Hit: Defense

NCAA Football: California at Southern California
USC’s D came up big against yet another high-scoring opponent.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

In a contest loaded with touchdown passes and long runs, it’s easy to overlook the critical role of the defense. USC played another outstanding game in this regard, and if it weren’t for the turnovers, it’s likely they would have held Cal to a touchdown or two. Most impressive was their dominance in the first quarter. A string of three and outs took the Bears out of the game early and allowed the Trojan offense to take control.

Miss: LA Fans

I know Thursday night isn’t the best for everyone, but come on Trojan fans! This is the best show in town! It’s never a good thing when a nationally televised broadcast describes the action as ‘in front of a sparse Coliseum crowd.’ Prior to the game, tickets were available on StubHub for as little as $11.

Hit: Clay Helton

NCAA Football: California at Southern California
Helton has steadied the ship once again.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

When the team started the season 1-3, there were plenty of Clay-haters out there. You know who you are. Helton’s greatest attribute as a coach is his ability to steer the ship through the storm. We’ve seen him do it two years in a row now, and once again, he has his team playing meaningful games in November.

Any hits and misses of your own? Leave them here with your comments.

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