The USC Trojans once again defeated the UCLA Bruins with a 28-23 victory to keep. We scoured the entire internet for everything we could find about this game. Here now is a collection of recaps, highlights, notes and more from the Trojans’ offensive performance.
While fans and media might have expected a duel between two elite quarterbacks torching defenses and lighting up scoreboards, it was actually a sloppy grinder of a game plagued by missed opportunities, penalties, and turnovers from both sides. With UCLA entering the game with one of the worst run defenses in college football Ronald Jones II predictably led the USC offense. Just as predictable, the Bruins went all out to contain Jones and the rushing attack.
According to USC Center Nico Falah:
"They were playing a new defense that we didn't study on film, [. . .] They were really loading the box, and we were a man short in the run game from an offensive line standpoint."
This is largely the same strategy opposing defenses have used every week starting with Texas. Crash the box, force Darnold to throw, and over the course of 60 minutes hope the inconsistent Trojan passing attack is not enough to beat you. Yet somehow this ‘new’ defense came as a surprise to the Trojans’ offensive coaching staff? Ten weeks in a row and they still do not have a handle on it?
In the past Tee Martin has been quick to point out that poor execution from the players is the problem. To be sure there are execution problems. Sam Darnold reverting to his old problems missing passes downfield to force defenders out of the box and open up the running game once again hurt. The painfully obvious telegraphing every time Rojo was going to run, however, made things a lot worse. So too did missing the obvious in the game plan.
UCLA was allowing about rushing 300 yards per game on average. The Trojans rushed for just 153 on the night. For comparison, Utah, currently 97th (out of 130) in rushing yards per game, managed 272 rushing yards on the Bruins, Hawai’i had 281 and even Memphis picked up 161. All three teams ran roughly the same amount of run plays as the Trojans on Saturday night. A huge credit to Ronald Jones for grinding down and outlasting the UCLA defense. It is easy to see why Jones is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award and why he only needs 9 yards to surpass O.J. Simpson for 5th all time leading rushers at USC. Stephen Carr also was clutch on a much smaller scale with only one carry but two critical receptions.
Sam Darnold did not look as bad as he has at times during the season but also did not look nearly as good as he did the last two weeks. Darnold did not have any touchdown passes, struggled to connect on the deep routes, bewildering clock mismanagement, one interception which could have easily been two, and 264 passing yards and a rushing touchdown.
It is easy to say that the offense did just enough to get the job done Saturday, having never trailed in the game, and for the most part getting points when they needed to. It is also easy to see that the Trojans were bailed out by special teams, critical defensive plays, and a sloppy UCLA performance by just about everyone other than Josh Rosen and Jordan Lasley. Doing just enough to beat an imploding team that just fired their coach, however, does not seem fitting for a rivalry game, nor does it inspire a ton of confidence headed into the Pac-12 Championship even if players are happy to get the win.
The Trojans once again were miserable on third down conversions converting just two on ten tries. The Trojans underperformed statistically against a woeful UCLA defense and the offense committed plenty of penalties including a delay of game, false start, holding, pass interference, and personal foul. Many of those penalties killed drives by putting the offense too far behind the chains to compensate.
If USC is going to continue playing close games against teams they should handle, then these drive killing penalties are going to continue to function more like turnovers and should be treated as such by the coaching staff.
Follow us on social media!