Remember those lofty expectations we were talking about last week headed into the Western Michigan matchup? The backlash of that is over reactions to what happens in a single game, even if the game results in a win. It may be unfair, too soon, or crazy, but here are the top three takes from the USC’s showing at face value, then debunking them or maybe seeing why they are true.
“Sam Darnold Looked Like A Freshman” -
This is only partially true, as he still managed to throw for 289 yards on 23 completions with only 33 attempts. It is not even terrible that he failed to throw a touchdown pass, as the running game was working, especially in the red zone. The real problem, the true stain, was the pair of picks he did throw. At times he looked like he never really did last year, frozen in that confused panic we have seen take over so many young quarterbacks. This may or may not have been a result of not being able to trust his pass catchers but really the only thing he is really “guilty” of is over performing as a freshman and now placing himself in the preseason Heisman running.
The other thing to keep in mind is his poor receiving corps that lacks multiple proven play makers. Now every game he has will be stacked up to against the likes UCLA’s Josh Rosen as a measuring stick and not much for help catching the ball. When we slow down and really look at his play, he really turned it up when it counted in the fourth quarter, throwing for 77 yards on six attempts with five completions. He is a great quarterback who had a little bit of a down game statistically.
The upside: he has a really good running game that got the job done and was the Broncos undoing. The downside: Now he has to face the Stanford Cardinal secondary, which did not show any holes last week and is returning stars at both corner spots as well as safety.
“Ronald Jones II Is A Heisman Contender” -
Jones looked fantastic in his 159 yard, three touchdown performance, rolling over the Broncos all game. The problem is Darnold is not going to throw just picks every week and while he finally has the starting roll all to himself, Darnold getting hot will take away not only touchdowns, but scores as well. The coaching staff also wants to keep a balanced offense, but that does not mean that Jones gets all the carries. Stephen Carr will continue to breath down his neck, continually eating into his carries and snaps, especially because he is an apt pass catching back. Still, if the worst thing you can say about RoJo’s performance is that the Trojans have too many weapons for him to get Heisman caliber stats then that is no cause for concern at all.
“Is This As Good As The Defense Gets?” -
No. They lost a lot of talent in the front seven to the draft and have a lot of sophomore and freshman linebackers, but this defense still played really well. Missed tackles was a problem, but a problem that the young players can grow out of over the course of the opening month. LeVante Bellamy did tear up the front seven with his 11.3 yards per carry average, but the secondary held quarterback Jon Wassink to 67 yards passing, which is where Trojans can find solace in: This nasty secondary. The Broncos needed to pull out all the stops, using a trick play with a pass from receiver Keishawn Watson to get the team their only score through the air, which was also their only real big play through the air. Iman Marshall, Ajene Harris and Jack Jones all played incredibly well in the secondary, combining for 10 tackles and a pair of defended passes. Theses guys were a big reason that the Broncos only had 67 passing yards and may make the secondary better than it was last season despite losing Adoree Jackson.