USC overpowers Colorado in 55-17 win

Senior running back Austin Jones rushed 11 times for 74 yards Saturday, adding a touchdown reception. (Peter Gastis | Daily Trojan)

USC started their Friday night matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes slow, but bounced back in the second quarter and put Colorado out of reach in the third with a decisive 55-17 victory.

Heading into a matchup that seemed all but destined to be a USC blowout, ending the first quarter down 2-3 is not what many Trojan fans or bettors would likely have expected. A three-and-out start to the game marked the beginning of USC’s first quarter woes. USC could not push the ball downfield as sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams recorded just 1 completion out of 6 attempts and also threw his second interception of the year. 

One bright spot of the first quarter was the play of junior defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu, who recorded a solo sack and a combined sack that resulted in a safety. In one of the strangest quarters of USC’s season, the Trojans ended the first down 2-3.

But the Trojans proved their resilience and managed to put the first quarter behind them. Williams started the second quarter on fire, converting on 3rd and 19 and 3rd and 23, ending the possession with a 2 yard rushing touchdown. After a fumble from Colorado on the 8-yard line, Williams scored again with ease, recording his second rushing touchdown on a 4-yard run. 

In tandem with the offense, the defense looked energized in the second quarter, keeping Colorado’s offense from building any kind of momentum. In the second quarter, the defense allowed only 17 yards of total offense. USC’s front seven looked unstoppable against Colorado’s offensive line as quarterback J.T. Shrout completed only 4 passes for 26 yards. Altogether the defense’s efforts allowed the offense to dominate time of possession at 10:33 and pick up 24 unanswered points to take a commanding 26-3 lead. 

Redshirt senior center Brett Neilon attributed the team’s ability to rebound in the second quarter to a change in energy and game time reads.

“I think… we just made adjustments playwise, and….every one [did] a great job stepping in when needed,” Neilon said. “[Colorado] threw some looks that we haven’t seen on tape. At the end, you know, I think all three phases played really well in the second half and in that second quarter too.”

Towards the end of the second quarter, redshirt senior running back Travis Dye was carted off the field with a leg injury. As the cart prepared to drive Dye away, the entire Trojan team surrounded one of their emotional and on-the-field leaders. Entering the game, Dye had a team high 858 yards and 9 scores.

Concerning his physical status, Head Coach Lincoln Riley does not believe that Dye will be able to play for the Trojans moving forward, but is confident in his future after college football.

“Don’t expect that he’ll play again this year, but don’t expect it to be long term in terms of his future,” Riley said. “He’s going to be playing on an NFL team next year.”

Senior running back Austin Jones filled in for Dye, compiling 113 all-purpose yards and a receiving touchdown. Jones spoke on what his teammate means to the running back unit as well as his to him personally.

“For another team to come over there and show their gratitude to him, it just shows kind of who he is,” he said. “He’s a great leader and a great individual person. I love him.”

Although USC’s defense held Colorado to 259 yards of total offense and recorded 2 turnovers, their run defense was an area that the Buffaloes were able to exploit. This weakness was no better exemplified than a drive in the third quarter wherein Colorado ran 8 run plays and recorded a single pass attempt, capping it off with a 3-yard rushing touchdown from senior running back Alex Fontenot. 

Once again, USC struggled with preventing big plays. A 37-yard run halfway through the second quarter and a 27-yard run halfway through the third set Colorado up with redzone opportunities they capitalized on for 10 points. 

USC cruised to an insurmountable 41-10 lead in the second half. In the 4th quarter,  Williams was subbed out for redshirt freshman quarterback Miller Moss, who threw for a score of his own. 

Star junior wide receiver Jordan Addison was able to return from injury but was not much of a factor offensively, catching his only target for 2 yards on the first offensive play of the game. 

Junior wide receiver Brenden Rice had high praise for Addison. Rice recorded 70 yards and a touchdown for the game. 

“You see the abilities [Addison] can do,” he said. “I try to pick and choose what I could take from his game. I wish I could take that 23 miles per hour speed. I’m close, but I’m not that close.” 

The Trojans will look to ride the momentum from this win on their path to the Pac-12 championship and, with a little chaos, a spot in the College Football playoff as they face cross town rival UCLA away at the Rose Bowl Saturday.