The USC Trojans were able to put together a 75-yard drive down the field for a touchdown in just over a minute to win their game against Arizona, 34-30, on Saturday.
It isn’t convincing that they should still be undefeated seeing that it’s the second week in a row that the Trojans had to come from behind to win.
In this game, there were three things that stuck out more than the rest.
Despite concerns around his ability to throw accurately, Trojans’ quarterback Kedon Slovis is pretty special.
Slovis finished the game with 325 yards and a touchdown completing about 70 percent of his passes, and he went 5-for-5 on 68 yards on the final drive from the USC 25-yard line.
The running game was struggling a little bit with consistency on Saturday, though they had 173 yards and three touchdowns as a group on 32 carries, Slovis made up for it with his ability to get the ball to his receivers, with Amon-Ra St. Brown finishing the game with 113 yards on seven catches.
Head coach Clay Helton did say the reason for Slovis’ wobbly throws are the new balls and the weather that made them more slippery than usual.
Slovis said postgame that his arm feels fine and at times his mechanics get sloppy, but he’ll get it fixed for next week’s game.
The Trojans are a throwing offense by nature and will continue to blossom if the running game builds on its early success. The trio of Markese Stepp, Stephen Carr, and Vavae Malepeai could easily beat any team by themselves and they haven’t been performing to their maximum potential thus far. The tables will turn once they are able to get into a rhythm.
Helton echoed that notion and said a good running game complements an elite passing game, comparing their offense with that of LSU and Alabama who are known to average just shy of 200 rushing yards a game.
“That extra 50 yards that they had per game [rushing] — that helps a quarterback maybe five or six drives in a game to take some pressure off,” he said. “So I appreciate [offensive coordinator] Graham [Harrell], and you’ve already seen, in the most critical situation with 33 seconds left on the 8-yard line, he calls the run versus an advantage drop-8 look that splits and creates a touchdown.”
He praised Harrell for his willingness to call plays in any situation no matter how much pressure they were under.
The team averages 4.8 yards per carry this season, which is an improvement from last year’s 3.9 yards per carry.
This season, No. 1 Alabama averages 175 rushing yards a game, No. 2 Notre Dame averages 234 yards, No. 3 Ohio State averages 209 yards, No. 4 Clemson averages 150 yards, and No. 5 Texas A&M averages 189 yards a game.
USC averages 174 rushing yards a game thus far.
The defense gave up 30 points, but they still held it down to give their team a chance to win.
The Trojans defense gave up 286 yards in the air and 158 yards on the ground and three passing touchdowns, but their performance all game long should be highlighted. Arizona quarterback Grant Gunnell had 286 passing yards, 40 rushing yards, all three touchdowns, and an interception with a 67 completion percentage.
Safety Talanoa Hufanga said postgame that Arizona’s offense is good and they like to spread the ball out and take shots down the field. He said he likes that they won the game, but they have to continue to work hard and bring the intensity next week to get another win.
Hufanga finished the game with 14 total tackles, and he had the interception at the start of the game to set up a Trojans’ touchdown on their first drive.
USC got torched by the quarterback and a little bit by the running backs, but the Trojans also got stops. They finished the game with four sacks, two pass deflections, and limited the Wildcats to four field-goal attempts.
The defense only allowed one quality completion for 22 yards on the final drive of the game with less than 30 seconds left in the game, but they sacked the quarterback for a loss on the next play, and they just had to run the clock out to seal it.
In the second half as a whole, the defense held Arizona to three punts and a field goal to go with the two touchdowns. Two of those punts, late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter were three-and-outs to bring the offense back on, but the offense was unable to capitalize.
USC works best with a solid scouting report in hand.
The Trojans went into their second game of the season without any idea on how Arizona is going to play the game on both sides of the ball, and they will be going into their third game without a scouting report if Saturday’s game against Utah is played.
USC assumed the Wildcats were going to play one way, and they assumed Gunnell would be mostly in the pocket during the game, but they were mistaken and almost paid the price.
Arizona was also 6-for-15 on third-down conversions and 1-for-1 on fourth-down conversions while Arizona State was 6-for-14 on third down in the week prior.
USC also committed 11 penalties for 110 yards in this game and committed five penalties for 59 yards in the week prior. The Trojans have lost more yards on penalties this season than any other team in the conference.
Helton said they have to clean it up and they’ll try to fix it during their film sessions leading up to their next game.
No. 20 USC will be traveling to Salt Lake City to face the Utes on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
There have been reports that the game could be postponed if Utah is unable to get the minimal amount of scholarship players on the active roster, or the game could be moved to the LA Memorial Coliseum.
The Trojans are a 3-point favorite against the Utes.