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Hits and Misses: USC vs. Stanford

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The USC Trojans took their show on the road for the first time this season, notching their first loss of the season to the Stanford Cardinal 17-3. Here is what went right, and the multitude of things that went wrong.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Last week against the UNLV Rebels it was the USC defense that was unable to find its footing. This week the roles switched, with the USC offense struggling to develop any sort of rhythm. The Trojans failed to find the end zone and came up with a single field goal over the course of the game, resulting in a 17-3 lost to the Stanford Cardinal. Here’s the good and the bad of the game.

Hits

Defense

NCAA Football: Southern California at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Although Bryce Love rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, the Trojans were able to contain Stanford’s explosive running attack for most of the game. The USC secondary also played strong, allowing K.J. Costello to throw for just 183 yards and a touchdown. Despite giving up a few big plays, this USC defense showed a lot of heart while allowing just 17 points when it easily could’ve been 31. The Trojans held the Cardinal offense to 342 total yards and forced them to punt 8 times.

Given the way the Trojan offense played, the defense played exceptionally well and is not one of the things to complain about after this loss.

The JT Daniels to Tyler Vaughn’s Connection

NCAA Football: Southern California at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone who watched this game knows that JT Daniels played poorly, displaying problems in accuracy as well as preparedness. Daniels completed 16 of 34 passes for 215 yards and two interceptions. He had a contemptible QBR of 20.3 and also lost a fumble. The silver lining in this is the chemistry that was shown between Daniels and Tyler Vaughn's, arguably USC’s best wide receiver. The two connected on seven passes for 84 yards. Whenever Daniels needed to get the ball out it was obvious he felt most confident throwing it to Vaughn’s, at least in this game.

Something USC fans should be excited about is watching this connection continue to develop as the season goes on.

Misses

The Offensive Line

NCAA Football: Southern California at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The Stanford Cardinal lost Harrison Phillips, a key piece to their defense, to the NFL draft this year but their defensive line still didn’t miss a beat. Stanford made Daniels feel uncomfortable and uneasy, sacking him four times along with four hurries. This USC offensive line wasn’t 100% healthy as they have been battling injuries throughout the off-season until now, but they couldn’t provide a lot of time in the pocket for Daniels.

The run blocking for USC started out the game strong with opening big holes and lanes for the running backs to get through but as the night went on those lanes got smaller and smaller. USC’s rushing attacked averaged a low 3.1 yards per carry and the longest run of the night was just 14 yards.

Finishing Drives

NCAA Football: Southern California at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

USC struggled with finishing drives throughout all of last season. Unfortunately, those struggles have continued for the Trojans. They kicked 5 field goals last week against UNLV and kicked two fields goals against Stanford, missing one of them. The Trojans were able to put a few solid drives together throughout the game but struggled whenever they crossed into the opponents territory. Whether the problem is play-calling, execution, questionable decisions to go for it on fourth down, or all of the above; the Trojans certainly need to figure this out if they are to compete in the Pac-12.