Troy Talk: USC vs. Cal grades

Mariya Dondonyan | Daily Trojan

Mariya Dondonyan | Daily Trojan

The first and last weekender of my college career can be considered a success! Despite the numbing drive up and down California, it will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable experiences of my college career. It sure helps that we came away with a gritty win against a tough opponent on the road. We caught Cal when they were in a slump and we were on a roll. Cal was nice enough to give me a ticket about as far away from the field as possible and right behind the end zone. But hey, it was part of the experience and I loved every minute of it. There were numerous injuries, notably to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Su’a Cravens, and Cam Smith, that could have disheartened the Trojans. But the team is showing a newfound resiliency behind Coach Clay Helton. He is doing his best to make a case for him being the next coach, but it is still too soon to tell. The upcoming games against Arizona and Colorado are winnable games for the Trojans. Let’s just hope they don’t provide the unnecessary suspense that Cal provided. I think we are developing as a team and playing the kind of tough football that USC used to be known for back in the glory days.


Quarterback: B+

  • Cody Kessler did what Cody Kessler needed to do to win the game. He completed the short passes and game-managed the Trojans to a key win. It seems we have abandoned the deep ball, unless it’s a trick play by Jalen Greene. This is slightly alarming because I feel like the ability to stretch the field is key to scoring against top defenses. Cal is one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers and Kessler committed zero while going 18/22 for just under 200 yards. If Kessler is okay with adopting the game manager role then I think USC can adapt around that. But when the time comes for a big play to be made, our quarterback needs to step up.

Running Backs: B+

  • This wasn’t a great game from the running backs, but definitely good enough. Ronald Jones showed flashes of brilliance that warrants a heavier workload. He probably would have got more touches if he didn’t bang up his knee in the first half. Justin Davis continued to put in a decent performance and Tre Madden made the two plays of the game with a tough two yard touchdown run and a miraculous third down conversion to all but seal the game for the Trojans. He singlehandedly earned the plus to this grade. That run was Tre Madden taking control and making a veteran play for his team.

Wide Receivers: A-

  • It was great to see Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell back out there. It was also great to see Jalen Greene showing once again how versatile he can be. He is one of the biggest threats on the Trojans at the moment. Oh, I hate to say I told you so, but…I told you so! Deontay Burnett is a playmaker. Coach Helton compares his I.Q to that of USC legend Robert Woods. Let’s keep getting him the ball anyway we can. Burnett and the rest of the corps will have to step up if JuJu Smith Schuster can’t recover quickly enough from a hand fracture. I think it may be best to give him time to heal.

Offensive Line: B-

  • Nothing too out of the ordinary for this group. We had some good run blocks and most of our passes were short so the pass protection wasn’t tested too heavily. I think there were a couple penalties that need to be cleaned up, but this makeshift offensive line has done an admiral job so far. However, our short yardage running is just awful. The line is getting pushed back and our two failed third down conversions in the fourth almost gave Cal a shot at winning the game. Our offensive line is just too talented to have the opposing defensive line constantly push them back.

Defensive Line: B

  • There was substantial pressure to Jared Goff, and that was the key to a successful game on Saturday. The sacks were few and far between, but the pressure was there. The goal was to make Goff uncomfortable and I’d say mission accomplished. Delvon Simmons seems to be the leader of the defensive line so it was a good sign when he came back into the game after getting injured in the second half. The young guns, Noah Jefferson and Rasheem Green, are developing quite nicely. I think this group has the potential to be spectacular in the coming years. The coaching has been under critique so hopefully Coach Wilson can step it up and make this group a terror in the second half of the season.

Linebackers: B

  • This group provided too much drama for me in this game. Cameron Smith was experiencing some hamstring tightness, which is never good. Su’a Cravens was down on the field for quite some time, which collectively stopped the hearts of Trojan fans. Luckily both players seem to be okay and are expected to play next game. Uchenna Nwosu, arguably the fastest linebacker with exception to Cravens, played a considerable amount against the spread offense of Cal. I think this shows great adaptability by Coach Wilcox. We have a lot of young guys and everybody needs to be ready to step up when their name is called. Also, Lamar Dawson is continuing to have a very steady season and had a very good game against Cal.

Secondary: B+

  • Seems like Goff isn’t the golden child after all huh? Our secondary showed up to play on Saturday and made some great plays against a great quarterback. Kevon Seymour had a clutch pick late in the game. Adoree’ Jackson had his first pick of his career on an errant thrown by Goff. Oh yeah and of course Jackson takes it back to the house in typical Adoree’ fashion. I thought the overall coverage and tackling of this group was awesome and it really seems like they are finding a groove. Biggie Marshall is this year’s Adoree in the sense that teams just really aren’t throwing to him. With the exception of a couple of pass interferences, Marshall has been great this year.

Special Teams: B+

  • Our kickoff coverage is amazing. That’s about the only above average aspect of our special teams at the moment. We seem to constantly tackle the opposing player at around the 20 yard line. Alex Wood stepped up and nailed a crucial 43 yard field goal. Albarado had a couple of good punts. Once again, our return game is sub-par at best. With the talent that we have, there really isn’t an excuse not to dominate that phase of the game.

Overall: B+

  • It was a tremendous three quarters of football for USC. The fourth quarter was a little shaky as far as play calling. We seem to be using our timeouts rather liberally, but at least Helton is using them at important junctures in the game. Third and fourth down conversions are key to winning a game and if Helton thinks that timeouts are necessary who am I to tell him what to do. The boys showed resiliency and came out of Strawberry Canyon with a victory. If we can keep the streak going heading into the Oregon and UCLA games, I think we have our best chance in years of beating them.

Prediction: USC 35 – Arizona 38

  • You know the drill. I’m picking us to lose because we seem to win when I do so. I’m not breaking the good luck charm, so sorry fellow Trojans. I think you know how I truly feel this weekend’s game is going to go. Arizona got demolished by Washington last weekend and the Trojans are looking to roll over the Wildcats while they are struggling.


Fight On!

1 reply
  1. Varadarajan Ravindran
    Varadarajan Ravindran says:

    Nothing is too short to tell. Clay Helton is far superior to Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian as a coach. The previous head coaches of USC appeared to be lackign in technique and training ability.

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