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Instant Analysis: USC 30 - Cal 9

10/14/2011

How the game was won - Turnovers

The Trojans forced five turnovers, grabbing three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. The five turnovers match the previous total for the USC defense through the first five games combined. Special credit goes to the linebackers, as Dion Bailey had two interceptions and a recovered fumble, while Chris Galippo had an interception and a recovered fumble. Those turnovers helped provide the cushion, which led to a USC victory on a night when the offense was less than sharp.

Turning Point - Marqise Lee touchdown

The Trojans went up 10-0 in the second quarter thanks to a 39-yard touchdown throw from Matt Barkley to Lee. It was another acrobatic play by Lee and the first real offensive spark of the night for USC. Unfortunately, Lee left the game after that play with an injury (appeared to be a shoulder) and did not return. The USC offense missed his presence the rest of the game, primarily with the deep ball, as he had been the deep option for Barkley to that point.

Unsung hero of the game - Curtis McNeal

The Trojans were able to control the clock just enough in the second half to prevent any realistic chance of a Cal comeback. The reason was the impressive running of McNeal. The junior had 86 yards on 17 carries for the game but 14 of those carries came in the second half for 59 yards, including a late score.

Second guessing - Fake field goal on opening drive

The Trojans recovered a fumble by Cal quarterback Zach Maynard on the opening drive and quickly hit Lee with a long pass near the goal line. The drive stalled, though, and the Trojans lined up for a field goal attempt. They elected instead to try a fake with a direct snap to Rhett Ellison. The ball was fumbled and USC missed a chance to hop out to an early lead. With the way the offense performed the rest of the night, it could have been a critical play.

What it means - That the USC defense can win a game for the Trojans

The offense had a record-setting day against Arizona and was credited with leading the Trojans to victory, while the defense gave up a lot of yards and points to the Wildcats. Tonight, the situation was reversed as the defense came to the aid of the struggling offense. It has to be a positive step for the mindset of the defense heading into the meat of the schedule to know they can have that kind of an impact on a game.