USC managed to bounce back and win a much needed game against No. 10 Utah on Friday night. Leading up to the game questions started flying about the status of USC head coach Clay Helton and the team morale. Those were quieted for the week following the victory over the Utes. Before we move forward towards their matchup with the Washington Huskies, here are a few takeaways from Friday night’s game.
Defense making Key Plays
The defense wasn’t the best on Friday night, however when plays needed to be made they steeped up. USC needed players to step up and play a key role if they wanted to defeat Utah and they got it from. Talanoa Hufanga, Jay Tufele, and Drake Jackson. Tufele and Jackson gave Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley fits all game while Hufanga made tackles all over the place, totaling 14 on the night. The key play of the night came when Drake Jackson pressured Huntley in the end zone to the point where he tried to throw the ball away and was called for intentional grounding, giving USC the safety. The following drive, USC scored to put them up 30-23.
Another Quarterback Steps Up
USC was forced to turn to redshirt junior Matt Fink after Kedon Slovis was knocked out the game with a head injury. Down to their last healthy scholarship quarterback, it seemed USC was doomed against the Utes. The complete opposite happened as Fink led the Trojans down the field and completed it with a 29 yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns. One of the biggest plays was a 77 yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Micheal Pittman. If anything it showed that Graham Harrell’s offense is indeed quarterback friendly. Fink stayed ready for his opportunity, especially after opting to return to the program after entering the transfer portal following spring camp.
Penalties are still a problem
If the team was supposed to be more disciplined then Friday night sure didn’t show it. Some weren’t really penalties that you could fault the Trojans as the Pac-12 officiating just got flag happy all night, but there were some that extended the Utah drives, especially on third down. USC committed 11 penalties for 117 yards which is very unacceptable for this team moving forward. Utah did managed to commit 16 penalties for 120 yards which also hurt their offensive momentum. Clay Helton must clean up the Trojans discipline like he mentioned before the season, because this could truly cost them games.
Defense and containing the edge
USC and defending the interior run has not been a problem for them. However, containing the edges on outside jet sweeps and reverses is still a difficult task for this defense. It seems as if the secondary and linebackers don’t take the proper angles to contain it. Utah had gains pf 14, 17, and 30 yards off jet sweeps. The 30 yard gain game off a second and 24 which reached the boiling point of fans. Teams now has taken note that USC can’t defend the edges properly and will have a lot of misdirections and jet sweeps to gain yardage on the outside. If you can’t beat them going up the middle then go around them.
Yes it’s going to get mentioned here! The talk of the week outside of the game itself was the return of Reggie Bush to the L.A. Coliseum for a USC game. Bush came as a member of the Fox College Football crew that was doing the game and still isn’t officially welcomed back to USC due to the NCAA Sanctions. The USC legend and former heisman trophy winner was met with a lot of fanfare from both the fans and players. The highlight of the night came when USC running back Markese Stepp celebrated with Bush after scoring a touchdown to put the Trojans up 30-20. It was kind of short-lived as the referee quickly broke it up and threw the flag, but it was a well worth the penalty. After the game players acknowledged and pointed to Bush as they walked up the tunnel. It goes to show you the impact that Reggie Bush still have on USC and College Football as a whole.