The USC Trojans got off to a hot start on Saturday night against the Arizona State Sun Devils as they rolled to a 41-20 win. There was a lot of positive outtakes from this game as a number of key players stepped up to deliver a solid performance.
Hit: Sam Darnold
USC may have found its quarterback. The redshirt freshman threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns in his first home start. After showing promise last week against Utah, Darnold lit it up with a performance that makes the Trojan faithful happy for the future. Darnold made a number of confident throws in the pocket and was able to show his elusiveness as a runner as well. After a slow start with Max Browne, the change at quarterback has made a big difference for USC and there are no signs of it stopping anytime soon.
Hit: Juju Smith-Schuster
Arguably the best wide receiver in the nation, Smith-Schuster came alive after some early season struggles. The All-American caught seven passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns which were a career high. Arizona State could not contain Smith-Schuster as he ran all around the secondary. His noteworthy touchdown was a 67 yarder in which he caught a short pass, broke away from defender, and then cut across the field sprinting away from everyone. USC has struggled this season this season to get him the ball due to the struggles at quarterback and the constant attention he brings to defenses. Hopefully this game will provide the spark for Smith-Schuster to have more dominant games.
Arizona State came in the game averaging 48.8 points a game but were completely manhandled by the USC defense. It took the Sun Devils until the fourth quarter to score their first touchdown. The Trojans were very physical from the start as they ended up knocking out Arizona State starting quarterback Manny Wilkins who couldn’t finish the game. Seeming very motivated, this performance against a high powered offense should give them the confidence to compete for the rest of the year.
Miss: Can the Offensive Line continue to open up the run
Now with all the hype USC’s offensive line provided in the preseason, maybe it has just been all hype. Though the line was able to allow Justin Davis to run for over a hundred yards, the injuries and inconsistency throughout the early part of the season have hurt the Trojans. With Chad Wheeler being banged up, USC is hoping this game can start a good trend of running the football effectively. It will definitely help the third down situations as the Trojans were only 3 for 13 of third downs. With a number of strong opponents remaining on the schedule, running the football will be key factor late in the season.