Following consecutive victories against Pac-12 South opponents Arizona and Arizona State, the #11 USC Trojans clinched their second Pac-12 South title with a complete offensive team performance in their 38-24 victory over Colorado.
The skill position players had quite the showing as Ronald Jones II finished with 142 yards and one touchdown. Wide receivers Tyler Vaughns and Steven Mictchell Jr. led the way as the duo combined for 189 yards on nine catches while Michael Pittman Jr., four catches for 59 yards, and Deontay Burnett, six catches for 79 yards, each caught a touchdown.
The game had early telltale signs of yet another contest of busted offensive playcalling following a failed, short fourth-down conversion as the Trojans ran out of the shotgun on the eleventh-ranked rushing defense in the Pac-12. On the drive before, the Trojan kicking woes continued as Chase McGrath missed a 40-yard field goal.
The first quarter saw both teams scoreless with a bevy of scuffling after plays and unsportsmanlike penalties throughout. Early into the second quarter, the Trojans managed to string together a successful drive as Darnold repeatedly connected with sophomore wideout Michael Pittman Jr.
Pittman skied for a crucial third down conversion and used his long body to reach for the first down which was quickly followed by a 10-yard lob by Darnold to Pittman in Dez Bryant-esque fashion to give the Trojans an early 7-0 lead. Darnold finished the game with 329 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-34 passing and 31 rushing yards and a score.
On the following Trojan drive, Pittman seemingly tagged in redshirt freshman Tyler Vaughns as the primary target as Vaughns caught two consecutive passes for 53 yards to set up an 18-yard Deontay Burnett touchdown where he fought over the top and stiffed armed the defender on his way to the endzone.
The Buffaloes fought hard to make their way up the field with the second half coming to a close. Senior Colorado RB Phillip Lindsay was a main cog of the drive that ultimately settled for a field goal attempt with just over one minute left in the half. The 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked by freshman Pili Brandon and gave USC the ball in excellent field position—and of course USC had a three-and-out to punt it back to Colorado with less than a minute to go.
With the defense ascending over the past two weeks for USC, their aggressive play continued as Ajene Harris recorded his second pick-six of the season with 29 seconds left in the half giving the Trojans a 20-0 heading into the third quarter (yes, McGrath missed the extra point).
With their first drive of the second half, the Trojans worked quickly to get into the endzone as it only took them six plays to get a score on 24-yard run by Sam Darnold. This score was answered on Colorado’s ensuing drive as junior wide receiver Juwann Winfree went for a 79-yard touchdown reception on the Buffaloes’ second play of the drive.
Penalites stalled the Trojans next offensive drive which led to them punting after coming up short on a fourth and long. On the punt however, Colorado freshman linebacker Nate Landman blocked it and took it all the way down the Trojan’s one-yard line where Lindsay subsequently punched the ball in to cut into the Trojan’s lead 27-14 in the middle of the third quarter.
LOOK AT THE WHEELS ON DARNOLD pic.twitter.com/lcgQCKxTvA— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 11, 2017
The fourth quarter saw both teams figure some things out of offense with the Trojans scoring first in the final frame on an impressive 22-yard touchdown run by Ronald Jones II. On the following drive, Winfree struck again as he managed to beat cornerback Jack Jones on a 57-yard score.
A much-needed impressive showing for the Trojans all but locks up the Pac-12 South. Now for their final regular season game against the endlessly dreadful UCLA Bruins as the Trojans look to make their biggest statement of the season against their bitter arch-rival.