The USC Trojans nearly collapsed in the fourth quarter, but were able to get out with the win. There were plenty of positives from this game, but the negatives are too big to be ignored.
USC’s Run Game
The USC Trojans were finally able to get the run game going, which is what fans have been waiting to see all season long. Led by Aca’Cedric Ware, the Trojans rushed for 253 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday night at Arizona. Ware had a career night, rushing for 173 yards and two touchdown’s. Stephen Carr added 80 yards on 14 carries. It was odd that Vavae Malepeai only had three touches after having a big game last week, but that was most likely due to the fact that Ware and Carr were having their way with the Wildcats defense. All in all, it was a great day on the ground for the USC rushing attack, thanks to the offensive line for finally opening up big holes.
USC safety Marvell Tell came to play on Saturday night in Tucson. He notched an interception, which was USC’s first interception of the season, and also blocked a field goal right before halftime. Tell was the leader that this defense needed this game and he came through with big hits and big plays.
Tell has been a starter on this USC secondary for the last couple of seasons and although he decided to return for his senior season, his performance has be a tad bit underwhelming. Fans were ecstatic to see him make the game changing plays he made against Arizona.
Tell is tied for the lead in the Trojans secondary for the most tackles on the season with 21 total tackles.
This was arguably the best defensive performance by USC this season. Despite giving up the two big passing touchdowns, those plays were really the only highlights the Arizona offense had. Coming into this game, Arizona averaged 247 yards per game on the ground, which was ranked 19th in the country. But in this game, the Trojans held the Wildcats to just 98 yards rushing and only 2.6 yards per rush. They also held Khalil Tate to a 25.3 quarterback rating, although Tate was basically playing on one leg.
The Trojans also had some bright flashes from a few of their freshman. Talanoa Hufanga made a couple mistakes, but he showed he has the potential to be the next Darnell Bing or Taylor Mays at USC. Hunter Echols and Kana’i Mauga also made a couple of big plays, along with others. This USC defense will be a force to be reckoned with if they can continue to develop these young players.
The USC Trojans are one of the most penalized teams in the entire nation. After Saturday night the Trojans have 46 total penalties on the year with 18 of those coming against Arizona. Yes, you read that right, 18 penalties in one game. Where is the discipline? No one really knows. Whether the coaches or the players are to blame, this is a problem they’ll need to fix if they are to compete in the Pac-12 South.
USC's 18 penalties against Arizona are the most for an FBS team in a single game since Week 3 of 2016 when Arkansas State also committed 18 vs. Utah State.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) September 30, 2018
In the last 15 years, only 7 teams have committed more in a single game. https://t.co/Q6SEBIz1TW
On the first day of USC’s training camp, Toa Lobendahn had some glaring snapping problems.
When asked about these problems, Clay Helton said, “He’s just rusty, it’s the first day back, we’ll get it cleaned up.”
The snapping problems have not been cleaned up and we’re five games into the season. Between snapping the ball over JT Daniels’ head, snapping it when Daniels isn’t calling for it, and snapping it every different direction imaginable, this was one of the reasons why Arizona was allowed back into the game.
Even though Lobendahn has his snapping problems, he also had his best game blocking of the whole season on Saturday night. Should the Trojans move Lobendahn back to tackle? Or should they have him practice snapping a lot more in practice? Either way, this is an unnecessary problem that needs to be figured out.
Playing Four Quarters of Football
The Trojans have scored in all four quarters of a game just once this season and that was in their win against Washington State. In the 20 quarters of football that USC has played thus far, they’ve been held scoreless in eight of those quarters. That means USC only scores in 40 percent of the quarters they play in, which is awful.
It’s almost as if they only go 100 percent for two or three quarters and hope its enough to win the game. For example, in this game against Arizona, the Trojans had a 24-0 lead early in the third quarter and then a switch flipped and Arizona scored 20 unanswered points. Against Texas, USC started out with a quick 14-3 lead then didn’t score the rest of the game. It’s unknown as to why the Trojans are like this but a big indicator is their practicing. Fans have been angry at the way the coaches run practices, especially when it comes to strength and conditioning.
USC has a really tough schedule to finish out the year. With games against Colorado, Utah, Arizona State, Cal, and Notre Dame, the Trojans will absolutely need to play four quarters of football if they are to have a chance in these games.