Well, a win is a win. That’s about all I can say about the Trojan’s performance against the Wildcats Saturday night in the first cold game we’ve had this year at the Coliseum. The Trojans took notice and came out the gates cold as ice. That might even be generous. Luckily, Coach Helton prides his team on making adjustments and that is just what the Trojans did to win the game. A couple big plays sparked the Trojan rally and they didn’t give the momentum back. In retrospect this is great, but we need to be coming out of the gates firing. If we play like we did in the first quarter against the likes of UCLA or Oregon then we might be left in the dust. There were some fantastic individual performances Saturday night to carry the Trojans to victory. It is great to see players stepping up and winning games instead of trying not to lose them.
- Sadly, C is not for Cody. He had yet another shaky performance on Saturday against a defense that he frankly should be shredding. The Wildcats didn’t even have the reigning defensive player of the year in Scooby Wright III. Kessler was timid and held on to the ball too long on a consistent basis. He showed amazing touch on a deep ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster, but he lacked the sharpness that we need from him. Smith-Schuster appears to be his security blanket, and while that is a great option for a security blanket, he needs to use the other talent we have out there. Yes, our tight ends do exist. He threw it to them a whole two times.
Running Backs: A
- The Texas Tesla, or as USC Radio Play-by-Play announcer Pete Arbogast calls him “The Breeze”, showed up and lit the Coliseum on fire. Ronald Jones II showed everybody why he is going to be a superstar for years to come. His explosiveness is unparalleled in the backfield and defenses are left wondering what hit them, or went by them for that matter. He singlehandedly drove the Trojans 80 yards down the field, capping the drive off with a sensational 70 yard touchdown run. Justin Davis also had probably his best game of the year. Davis showed quick decisiveness and found holes to get to the end zone. With Tre Madden in the doghouse after his fumble, it seems Davis and Jones II are the Trojans most potent duo.
Wide Receivers: B+
- Is there anything JuJu can’t do? He played Saturday less than a week after undergoing surgery for a broken hand. He said the pain was unbearable at times, and he even claims he lied to Coach Helton so that he could stay in the game. That’s the kind of grittiness we need at USC. Smith-Schuster shows up on a consistent basis and is becoming the Trojans most reliable weapon. Darreus Rogers had a drop, but Steven Mitchell had a tremendous game with several key blocks. Even De’Quan Hampton got in on the action with a key first down conversion. As long as Kessler figures out how to spread the ball around, this group has nothing to worry about.
Offensive Line: B
- The makeshift offensive line is starting to show some improvements. But they are still letting the rush get to Kessler far too often. But that is also on Kessler for holding on to the ball for too long. There weren’t as many penalties which was a nice surprise, and the offensive line seemed to get in their groove after a slow start running the football. The holes that Davis and Jones II ran through were sizeable, going unnoticed by many fans who just see Jones II burst into the open field. Whether the sacks were on the game plan, the line, or Kessler, the protection needs to be sorted out.
Defensive Line: A-
- What an inspired performance from this big group. Antwaun Woods had his best game as a Trojan coming up with six tackles and two sacks. Claude Pelon got in on the action and stuffed a key fourth down attempt by the Wildcats that gave the momentum permanently to USC. The relentless aggression was evident and Anu Solomon was running around constantly trying to evade the rush. I really liked the way Porter Gustin played this game. It seemed like he was using technique rather than just his power and speed. It is also noteworthy to point out that the Trojans stopped a powerful running attack and limited them to 60 yards. We had a game plan and executed it wonderfully. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it is definitely a step in the right direction as we head into some key games.
- Largely an uninspired performance from this group aside from the spectacular play of Su’a Cravens. That was honestly one of the best defensive performances I have witnessed in all my years of attending USC games. He was all over the field and his tackling was sure. He hit people hard and was tossing Wildcats around all night. His rush on Anu Solomon causing a fumble and an alley-oop body slam by Claude Pelon was a thing of beauty. I sure hope he stays next year because this is one of the greatest Trojans I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of them. Also, Cameron Smith is set to have an MRI on his shoulder on Monday, so we will see if it is anything too serious.
- Great interception by John Plattenburg. That gave us momentum and turned the game around from potentially going down 21-3. Unfortunately, that is where the compliments stop. Solomon absolutely torched our secondary. There were holes in the zone and constant man-to-man lapses. Chris Hawkins, who has performed admirably so far this season, had his worst performance of the season. He seemed to constantly be lost and the wide receivers were running circles around him. We have a very young secondary, but that is no excuse to get burned by a dink-and-dunk type quarterback. This group needs to step it up as we are facing a potent quarterback-wideout duo of Sefo Liufau and Nelson Spruce next week.
Special Teams: D
- We can’t make short field goals. Our punting is still unspectacular. Our return game is completely awful. There is really nothing to say, other than that our special teams unit is the weak link of this team. I’m not sure if it is coaching, lack of talent, or just lack of execution, but we need to figure this out as soon as possible. Many a game has been decided on a special team play, and I think the Trojans want to be on the good side of that.
Coach Clay Helton might not be winning the prettiest way, but he is winning. That is all you can ask for from an interim Head Coach. The ridiculous play or Ronald Jones really sparked the Trojans, but without solid play from Cody Kessler I don’t see the Trojans beating great teams. There needs to be a change in play calling and a shift in mindset for some of the players. These constant individual performances show that the Trojans are one of the most talented teams in the country. However, consistency needs to be built and the Trojans need to ride this momentum the rest of the way.
Prediction: USC 31 – Colorado 34
- I can’t keep doing this, it hurts too much. But we are on a winning streak and as long as that streak continues I will pick against my beloved Trojans. USC is the heavy favorite and if everything goes according to planned the Trojans should come out of Boulder, Colorado with another Pac-12 win.