Shorthanded USC Defense Shines In 66-14 Drubbing Over Nevada

Yesterday’s USC Trojans game against the Nevada Wolfpack started just about how we all expected. Caleb Williams and the offense started with the ball and went 79 yards in just four plays en route to a Williams to Zachariah Branch touchdown completion. You couldn’t have scripted it better.

And then the USC defense took the field.

We know that the offense has the potential to be one of the greatest. Ever. But over these first couple of games, we really need to see massive improvement from the overhauled USC defense. The first possession, however, demonstrated the opposite result.

On Nevada’s second offensive play, quarterback Brendon Lewis connected with receiver Spencer Curtis for 73 yards down the sideline. USC CB Domani Jackson was in perfect position but didn’t make a play on the ball, and Curtis was able to haul it in and escape all the way down to the seven-yard line. Nevada punched it in the end zone two plays later, and the game was tied after the PAT.

Stunned, yet unsurprised, you could feel the sentiment of “here we go again” wreak throughout the 100-year-old Memorial Coliseum. But the story shifts and doesn’t follow that seen-before outline.

“It’s just one play,” Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch tells his unit on the sideline.

USC’s next offensive possession stalled at mid-field after Caleb Williams was sacked on 3rd down and recovered his own fumble. Would Nevada do the unthinkable and take the lead over the supposed 6th-ranked team in America?

USC Defense Finds It’s Anchor Point

Ego and Pride can be negative qualities in most walks of life. But in football, you have to have a bit of an ego to give yourself the edge. You have to take pride in your kraft and the ability to be leaned on. It was time for this new-look USC defense to step up. Nevada was coming into this game with a double-digit losing streak and it was time for SC to prove they are a legitimate college football juggernaut.

After another deep pass attempt from Brendon Lewis that fell just short on 2nd down, the Wolfpack faced a 3rd and 9. This was a critical junction in the game, albeit being only the 3rd total possession.

USC Defense
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Lewis took the snap, danced around the pocket, and then was flushed out to the right. Jamil Muhammad chased him down and completed his first sack as a Trojan. The Coli erupted, and SC never looked back.

The offense scored touchdowns on four straight possessions, and the USC defense would not relinquish another point until the 4th quarter when most of the starters were watching from the sidelines.

For SC to be taken seriously as a national contender, this is what they should have done. This is the standard moving forward. Not just beating an inferior opponent, but dominating that opponent in all three phases of the game. Outside of one 73-yard completion from Lews to Curtis, the Trojans did just that.

Now how do we gauge this win and performance in comparison to what will inevitably be much stiffer competition in the future? I’m not sure if we can, to be honest. But, regardless, this was certainly a step in the right direction for the USC defense. We needed to see improvement from Week 1, and we saw just that.

USC is 2-0, and in reality, that is all that truly matters. To keep stacking wins.

Game Notes

  • Caleb Williams finished the game 18-24 with 318 yards and 5 touchdown passes
    • He also had 42 yards rushing
  • 14 different receivers had receptions
  • Mario Williams led the way in terms of catches with 4
    • Tahj Washington led the way with 75 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Zachariah Branch secured a 22-yard touchdown on the first possession.
  • Marshawn Lloyd had his breakout game exploding on the ground and through the air
    • He finished with 7 rushes good for 76 yards and a touchdown, and 2 catches for 59 yards
  • Freshman Quintin Joyner had 65 yards on the ground and a touchdown
  • The USC defense finished with 5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. They forced one fumble which was recovered by Stanley Ta’ufo’ou and returned for a touchdown
  • USC outgained Nevada 668 to 330