Winners/Losers From USC Football’s Game Against San Jose State

The USC Trojans Host The San Jose State Spartans At The Coliseum. Photo Credit: Ahmad Akkaoui | LAFB Network
The USC Trojans Host The San Jose State Spartans At The Coliseum. Photo Credit: Ahmad Akkaoui | LAFB Network

USC football beat the San Jose State Spartans 30-7 on Saturday, and by the score, you’d think it was an easy win for the Trojans –– but you’d be wrong.

USC could’ve beat them by 40 if they didn’t make so many little mistakes.

The ones in the red zone were the biggest of the bunch. But they also did some things correctly.

Let’s break down the Biggest Winners and Losers of the game.

Winner: Clay Helton, Graham Harrell, and the Offensive Coaching Staff

The running game improved immensely from last season, and that’s probably a credit to the offensive line and coach Clay McGuire. It can also be a credit to the addition of Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram –– who finished the game with 86 yards on 15 carries.

The veteran presence of Vavae Malepeai was also important. He had 65 yards on 14 carries. 

Head coach Clay Helton said postgame he’s glad offensive coordinator Graham Harrell had faith in the run.

“When we were getting some two-high coverage, and they were actually clouding [Drake London], I remember a 3rd-and-7 and a 3rd-and-10 where he hands it to Vavae and hands it to Keaontay,” he said. “When you see that, you know your coordinator’s really got faith in that line –– faith in the runners –– and I think that’s created a lot more balance and a more efficient offense on the day.”

Loser: Clay Helton, Graham Harrell, and the Offensive Coaching Staff

Just like there were positives about the offensive effort, there were some faults too –– specifically their mistakes in the red zone.

USC had four chances to score, and three of them ended up being field goals.

Those missed opportunities would have been a big statement to the other members of the Pac-12 conference, and the people doubting that they can win the South division.

USC punted five times and also gave the ball up once on a fumble.

Quarterback Kedon Slovis finished the game with 263 yards and two touchdowns on 69% throwing –– and his favorite wide receiver London had a career day with 144 yards on 13 catches.

Memphis transfer Tahj Washington also contributed a ton, finishing with 56 yards on four catches, and a touchdown.

The Air Raid is in full effect, but it needs some tweaks.

Winner: DC Todd Orlando and his Defensive Staff

This defense is exciting, from top to bottom. Nick Figueroa, Tuli Tuipulotu, and company on the line, Drake Jackson and company at linebackers, and the duos of Chris Steele and Isaac Taylor-Stuart plus Isaiah Pola-Mao, Greg Johnson, and Chase Williams in the secondary –– on a normal day.

On top of that, the next ones up are just as good –– and we saw it with freshman safety Calen Bullock stepping in for Pola-Mao as he entered the health and safety protocols for testing positive for COVID-19.

The defense was strong against San Jose State –– finishing with two interceptions and a forced fumble as a team. Jackson and Johnson had a takeaway a piece.

Individually, Bullock led the way with seven total tackles and Williams was right behind him with six.

Loser: Defensive Health

They are a little banged up. Overlooking the season-ending injuries, and keeping in mind the minor injuries experienced in practice, the list of players going through something is getting longer.

Figueroa sustained an AC sprain in his right shoulder and didn’t finish the game. He was seen walking around on the sideline with a sling.

Jackson didn’t look 100% going through the game after he came out of the game limping fairly early on, but he continued to play and did what he could to help his team. It may not be as serious as it looked, and we certainly hope for this to be the case.

Steele was another person who came out of the game at some point but continued to play. It’s surely something to note and monitor.

Nonetheless, the defense is stacked. 

Winner: Pac-12 Opposition

The teams in the Pac-12 are only winners because they have tape on USC now, and it’s not necessarily the best tape to produce going into conference play next week.

USC struggled in ways that teams are taking notes on and will be taking advantage of. Most teams wait in the shadows for USC to fail.

Loser: USC Trojans Playoff Push

The Trojans have to find a way to win all of their games, and it’s not going to be easy if they continue to play like this.

It’s hard to be confident that they’re going to win enough games to win the division and possibly beat their opponent to win the Pac-12 title.

Only time will tell.

There are one question in particular that has to be on the minds of USC fans: Their bad play today –– more about them, or about how good San Jose State actually is?

The question won’t be answered in one week. USC’s next test is next week when Stanford comes to town in the first game of Pac-12 conference play.