The USC Trojans won big last Saturday, 48-17 on the road against a hot ASU Devils team. It’s important to not get ahead of ourselves, but here are some things we can take away from this matchup:
Sam Darnold is still Sam Darnold
Sam Darnold has had a very up and down season to say the least. While he’s struggled with turnover problems all season, he performed lights out on Saturday. He delivered dimes all over the field, and his decisions were quick and precise. That read option run for 30 plus yards? That run-pass option where he threw a dart to Petite’s chest? Both things of beauty. His performance was especially impressive given the recent play of the Devil’s defense, specifically their secondary, that had completely shut down both Washington and Utah the last two weeks.
Wide Receivers have become an Asset not a Liability
Remember when we were terrified of this unit? Young guys dropping passes left and right, struggling to make up for the production gone out the door with JuJu Smith-Schuster and company. Well, this position has begun to excel. Deontay Burnett has remained the steady, clutch receiver the Trojans have needed all year. Tyler Vaughns has shown his explosiveness and become an absolute menace to defensive backs in open space. And how about a healthy Michael Pittman Jr? He only had a couple catches on the night, but had a great diving catch out of bounds and would’ve had a big touchdown had it not gotten called back on a suspect holding penalty. Mix in a couple solid catches from Tyler Petite and Steven Mitchell Jr, and this passing game now has a dangerous arsenal.
Porter Gustin provides needed defensive boost
Porter Gustin returned to significant action for the first time this season, and it showed. While he only logged one tackle on the night, it’s clear his presence on the field was felt, providing much needed depth, leadership and energy. Nose tackle Josh Fatu’s return also made a huge impact, it is clear this defense is more than serviceable when given some type of depth. Unfortunately, Gustin has recently been ruled out for Arizona’s game with the same toe injury. While his boost will be missed this week, it will be vital for the Trojans coming down the stretch of this exhausting season.
Pac-12 Title just got that much closer
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the Pac-12 South division is still up in the air for anyone to grab. USC now sits firm in the driver’s seat, but that can vanish with a loss against Arizona this week. What was really encouraging to me was the performance on the field. Following their worst performance of the season, the Trojans responded with their best outing, a testament to the character of this team. We’ve seen glimpses in other games of their potential, but we never saw it for four quarters. That is, until last Saturday. If the Trojans can build off that performance, they should be able to win the three final games of the season, two relatively easily. Before this game, the title seemed like a long shot, but this performance goes a long way in both the standings and the Trojans confidence.