USC Football

USC vs Fresno St. Game Summary

August 31, 2019

First game of the season there’s going to be mental mistakes and physical beats.  To expect otherwise would be naive, and the Trojans were no exception to the rule.  

From the opening kick off the Trojans looked good...they looked bad...and they looked ugly.  

The game had the look of a great start when Velus Jones took the opening kick off 61-yards into Bulldog territory.  But wait!   We’re talking about the Trojans who spend at least 30-minutes per practice session working on special teams.  So what happens?  The play is nullified after USC sent two players onto the field wearing the same No.7 uniform.  

How does that happen?!!?    

Fortunately for the Trojans after the re-kick, JT Daniels, was able to lead the team on a 13-play, 89-yard drive that culminted with a 8-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Carr.

Offensively, USC, was able to do just about anything they wanted in the first quarter despite three penalties; The Oline literally owned the line of scrimmage in both phases of run blocking and pass protection.   

Carr who opened the game’s scoring with a touchdown reception from JT Daniels on the Trojan’s first offensive possession, decided he’d do it the old fashioned way on the team’s next possession with a violent 14-yard run for a TD.  The first quarter, the Trojans looked like a well-oiled machine taking a 14-3 lead into the second quarter.   The second quarter things started to get choppy and the Trojans lost their rhythm.    

They also lost their starting quarterback for the rest of the game.  Deep in Bulldog territory, JT Daniels was sacked, and on the play he got bent back torquing his right knee which will require a MRI.  X-rays came back negative.     The seveity of the injury will be disclosed tomorrow during the Sunday night conference call at 6:00PM.

Coming into tonight’s game, the running game was a concern, however, overall, the running game was very productive.    After the game Clay Helton mentioned both Vavae Maleapeai and Stephen Carr, “Both Vavae  and I thought Carr were exceptional tonight.”   

Ultimately it would be the run game that save the day on offense picking up yards and first downs to take some of the pressure off Kedon Slovis who was pressed into action following Daniels’ injury.  The Trojans finished the night with 175 rushing yards on 36 attempts.      Overall On the night, the Trojans finished with 272 passing yards and 447 yards of total offense.

Defensively it was a frustrating night for USC.   The Trojans helped the Bulldogs turn the ball over three times, however, they were also gashed for big plays by Bulldogs quarterback, Jorge Reyna.   After the game when asked about Reyna, Helton said, “We had seen some snaps on tape.  The one thing it didn’t show, which I thought he did a phenomenal job of was create as a runner.  At the end of the day he had 88 yards and kept plays alive for them.”    The Bulldogs were able to convert 5 of 16 3rd downs and were 2 for 2 on 4th down conversions.

There were bright spots on defense.  As mentioned the Trojans were able to recover two fumbles, and at the end of the game when Fresno State was driving to potentially tie the score, Isaiah Pola-Mao stepped up and made a huge interception in the end zone to secure the victory and erase any Bulldog hopes of an upset.   Unfortunately for the Trojans, they were only able to convert those three turnovers into seven points. 

Special Teams were kind of wonky, however, it was also the special teams who picked the team up when they needed it most.  From the double jersey snafu eliminating a big kick off Tyler Vaughns receiving a punt inside his own 10-yard Velus Jones returning a kick off 101 yards for a touchdown right after the Bulldogs had cut the Trojan lead to four at 17-13...special teams played a huge role in the victory

The injection of energy from Jones’ touchdown would also ignite the Trojan offense. Late in the third quarter, Slovis would hit Vaughns  for 41-yards deep into Bulldogs territory which led to Vavae’s touchdown run giving the Trojans what would seem like a strong 31-13 lead heading into the 4th quarter.   Vaughns would lead the team with 11 receptions for 150 yards.  I would describe Vaughns night as the worst best night ever.

While the team was able to fight through their mistakes which allowed them to take a 31-13 lead into the final quarter, the same issues which plagued the program last year started to rear it’s ugly head again...Penalties, turnovers, and bad discipline.   Fortunately for the Trojans and her fans Pola-Mao stepped up and made a play when the team needed it most. 

There are some positives to take away from the game with the most note worthy being the run game, and the two big plays at critical on special teams and the late interception by Pola Mao to secure the win.  Not sure we saw any of that in 2018.

The Trojans came away with the victory, however, they also left a lot of unanswered questions...probably more than Clay Helton and his staff were anticipating.


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