Who would have thought? The one time we don’t get crushed in the first quarter we get crushed in the game. Maybe we should purposely tank the first quarter. Or maybe we should just win the game. The Trojans came into Eugene with a lot of momentum and left after getting punched in the gut, repeatedly. They played a great Oregon team on Saturday, but the game was winnable. We looked lost on some plays in the first half and gave Vernon Adams a wide-open receiver on almost every big play. I’m pretty sure I could have thrown the ball to those receivers. We couldn’t generate pressure early on and let Adams have a field day with our secondary. Don’t worry Trojans! There is good news. I actually have multiple pieces of good news. We beat UCLA, we go to the Pac-12 Championship. If we don’t beat UCLA, odds are we go to the Royal Purple Bowl and that gives us a perfect excuse to head to Las Vegas over the holidays.
I’m not going to lie, I expected Cody Kessler to come out sloppy and timid as he always does in big games. But that wasn’t the Cody Kessler I saw, well at least in the first half. He came out confident and made some big-time plays. That throw to Darreus Rogers was a thing of beauty and he had a couple of well-thrown balls to JuJu Smith-Schuster who surprisingly couldn’t reign them in. In the second half however, Kessler went back to throwing 4 yard passes on third and seven. We need the first quarter Kessler, not the second half Kessler. A lot of that depends on whether or not the offensive line can provide a lick of protection, and that seems doubtful.
Running Backs: B
What a game from Justin Davis! His performance was probably his best since he arrived at USC and it was in a big game. Unfortunately we had to play catch-up and could not abuse the dominance we had running the football with Davis. Ronald Jones II was very quiet for the second straight game, apart from a nice touchdown run. I’m not sure if it is the pressure or the lack of running holes, but hopefully Jones II can have the game of a lifetime against the Bruins this weekend in the Coliseum.
Wide Receivers: B
Darreus Rogers played his best game as a Trojan as well. Instead of being the blocker of the wide receiver corps, he showed that he has great hands and the capability to make big plays. Credit has to be given to JuJu Smith-Schuster as well. He was playing with a broken hand and a bum ankle, and I’m sure many other injuries. He showed undeniable determination to get back onto the field and that got a nod of approval from me. Tyler Petite also a caught a touchdown pass, but he did drop a great pass from Kessler where Petite got absolutely rocked. If you want the ball thrown your way, you have to prove you can catch the tough ones!
Offensive Line: F
For all the flak Cody Kessler gets on a daily basis, a lot of it should be directed to the offensive line. This group is not at 100% and are missing several key starters, but that doesn’t excuse the consistent lack of protection. Don’t even get me started on the constant penalties that seem to kill our momentum at every turn. The snaps were also very mediocre, but that is also understandable in the harsh environment that is Autzen Stadium. This group has one last chance at redemption against the Bruins. It is evident that change is necessary, and Bob Connelly is the first person to be looked at.
Defensive Line: C+
We needed a dominant performance from this group and we didn’t get it. The Oregon offensive line did a great job all afternoon and Vernon Adams proved to be elusive all game. The line did a reasonably good job at stopping the run, but for the most part they were a non-factor. Pressure on Josh Rosen is the only way we win the game against the Bruins so that needs to be a point of emphasis. The talent is there, but the scheming will be ever crucial to ensure we can dominate at the point of attack and assert our will against the Bruins.
All things considered, the makeshift group did a great job after losing their two starting middle linebackers. I hoped the emphasis on speed with the new linebackers could have been a difference maker in the game, but that was not the case. It wasn’t until the end of the game where we figured out how to use that speed to blitz and get pressure on Vernon Adams. Buddah Tucker showed some promise, but I was really hoping for a breakout performance from Osa Masina, who evidently tweaked his hamstring on a pass route. We are hanging by a thread and need a masterful performance against Paul Perkins and Josh Rosen on Saturday.
This grade is pretty ironic considering we started the game with an interception. There simply is no excuse for how poor the secondary played on Saturday. There were countless blown assignments. I’m not sure if that’s on the players or coaching, but either way that is unacceptable. Adams didn’t even beat us with his arm. The majority of his throws were to WIDE OPEN receivers. It is known that Oregon likes to stretch the field with their gaudy yards per play average. Why we weren’t prepared is beyond me. If there aren’t some serious adjustments, expect Josh Rosen to have a similar game to Vernon Adams.
Special Teams: B+
Adoree’ became the first player to record an offensive, defensive, and special teams’ touchdown this year. While I don’t think he stands a chance to win the Hornung Award (best all-around player) because of Christian McCaffrey’s Heisman-worthy season, I think Trojan fans should be more than grateful we have such a dynamic player on our team. Alex Wood was sidelined with a concussion that I was not aware of until the start of the game. I thought Matthew Boermeester did an admirable job as a backup in moderately windy conditions. Even some of the punts were pinning the Ducks deep in their own territory. Not a bad day considering.
It could have been a lot worse. We made a valiant comeback in the second half, but it just wasn’t enough. The odds were against the Trojans facing a hot Oregon team. The penalties killed us countless times and we just didn’t have what it took to beat a great team. When you get put into a hole that severe at halftime against a team like Oregon, you are asking for trouble. It seems like Coach Clay Helton’s audition for the job went sour. Odds are we will be looking elsewhere for our new coach next year. I’m looking at you John Harbaugh.
Prediction: USC 28- UCLA 26
I think the Trojans finally end the streak of losing to the Bruins. The main reason I believe that is because nothing that has happened in the Pac-12 this year has made any sense at all. I think UCLA scores late and goes for two to tie. Su’a Cravens makes the game winning stop at the goal line.