After getting blown out by Alabama things felt gloomy for the USC Trojans. With road trips to Stanford and Utah in the next two weeks today’s game felt like a must win for USC unless they wanted to start the season 0-4. Things headed into the game were not great and starting center Toa Lobendahn’s season ending injury, and reports of players fighting in practice left little confidence in the land of Troy.
The USC offense started off their second game almost as disastrous as their first. A short offensive possession ended with a boneheaded play by offensive tackle Chuma Edoga. Edoga after a play threw a punch to the face of a Utah State player and appeared to push an official during the ensuing scuffle. Edoga was ejected after less than two minutes into the game. Two games, two ejections. For a shocking amount of time early in the 2016 season USC had more ejections than touchdowns.
The offense started sluggish but were helped out with solid defense and an early a punt block that gave the Trojans the ball back on the Utah State 6 yard line. USC was able to score a touchdown which gave USC a lead that they never let go. Each side missed field goals and USC wasted opportunities but they were able to go into halftime up 21-0.
The defense played very well all game and were able to keep Utah State off the scoreboard until well into the 3rd quarter. Porter Gustin looked fantastic and brought plenty of pressure all game long. Cam Smith also led the team in tackles. Josh Fatu also recorded his first career sack.
In a curious move Helton opted to bring in Sam Darnold early in the game while USC was in the red zone despite Max Browne playing fairly well. It will be interesting to see what Helton’s explanation is for the switch. Browne and Darnold both scored touchdowns today.
The USC offensive line still needs plenty of work and the injuries are already beginning to take a toll but overall it was a massive, massive improvement for the unit. They will need to make another dramatic improvement this week in practice ahead of their contest with Stanford.
Ronald Jones bruised his ribs and probably could have returned to action but the coaching staff opted to keep him off the field since the game was out of contention. Juju Smith Schuster was also injured and the medical staff ran him through concussion protocol but he would return to action.
It was a good solid win for the Trojans who won 45-7. Next up, Stanford.
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