Last week USC came away with a 28-23 win over crosstown rival UCLA in their last game before the Pac-12 Championship. With the win, USC has swept the Pac-12 south and completed back to back 10 win seasons since 2007 and 2008. Before we turn the page to the Pac-12 Championship game, let’s look back at the UCLA game to see what we learned.
Penalties Strike Again: USC is one of the most penalized teams and it showed Saturday. The Trojans committed 11 penalties for 115 yards in their win over UCLA. While the Bruins committed 12 penalties on the night, it shows USC discipline is still an issue and with the Pac-12 Championship on the horizon, the Trojans need to patch up its penalty issues and fast.
USC Defense Must Improve: USC’s defense was lit up by Josh Rosen through the air. The UCLA quarterback threw for 421 without his key receivers in Darren Andrews and tight end Caleb Wilson. Jordan Lashley got behind the Trojans secondary most of the night and made them pay. UCLA’s running game also saw some success and the offensive line managed to keep Rosen comfortable.
The USC defense has been very inconsistent this season and there are two ways of looking at it. Some is due to the injuries on the defensive side of the ball while some is due to the scheme that Clancy Pendergast uses which is known to create pressure. The issue is that Pendergast doesn’t rotate fresh bodies in and don’t use different zones to disguise coverage’s.
With the Trojans on a bye they can get some of those healthy bodies back and take time to evaluate what needs to be done before the Pac-12 Championship against either an improved Stanford team or Washington State.
Sam Darnold Off-Night: After three solid weeks, Sam Darnold took a step back against the Bruins. Darnold couldn’t connect with his receivers on the deep routes and forced his throws in dangerous spots, one that led to an interception. He was also held to 0 touchdown passes on the night and showed bad clock awareness where he scrambled and was tackled in bounds with the clock running down in the 2nd quarter. If anyone was looking for a case of “Rosen is better than Darnold right now” then that game gave you all the ammunition to prove that point.
USC Finally Has A Bye Week: USC finally gets a bye week that they’ve needed. The Trojans have played 12 straight games and it has taken a physical toll on the team. Head coach Clay Helton has mentioned that the team could have used a bye week after their Friday night game against Washington State, noting that the team had a few key injuries. Now USC get their bye week and time to get some players back at just the right time. All the Trojans get to do is sit back and find out who their opponent will be for the Pac-12 Championship game.