Saturday, November 9, 2013
USC 62, Cal 28: Three up, three down
By Johnny Curren
LOS ANGELES -- A look at the positives and negatives from USC’s 62-28 win over California on Saturday, the Trojans’ fourth victory in five games since Ed Orgeron took over as interim coach.
1. Javorius Allen
Following a breakout performance against Oregon State last week, Allen was simply unstoppable on Saturday, running through and around Golden Bears defenders at will. Averaging a staggering 22.5 yards per rush, he compiled 135 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while adding another score on a 57-yard reception. Allen has now run for 268 yards and five touchdowns combined in his last two outings.
2. USC punt return unit
It was a big day for special teams coach John Baxter’s group as the Trojans tied an NCAA record in returning three punts for touchdowns. Two of those scores came from Nelson Agholor, equaling a USC mark set by Mike Garrett against California in 1965. Amassing a total of 168 yards on those plays, the speedy sophomore also broke Garrett’s single-game yardage record (162 yards). The Trojans scored on another punt return when Soma Vainuku came in and blocked a Cole Leininger punt, and Josh Shaw returned it 14 yards into the end zone.
3. USC team morale
Already riding a wave of positive energy that seemed to take shape right from the second that Orgeron took over as interim coach, it’s safe to say that, following Saturday’s win, the morale of the team is now at an all-time high. It isn’t just the fact that the Trojans came away with a victory, but it’s the dominating fashion in which they did it. With a comfortable lead early, the USC players could be seen having what appeared to be the time of their lives, hooting and hollering as Orgeron emptied the bench and allowed a number of lesser-known Trojans to make an impact. The strong contribution of a promising freshman like Ty Isaac -- who rushed for 87 yards -- as well as players commonly relegated to the sideline like Charles Burks, Cyrus Hobbi and Max Wittek could do wonders in terms of the camaraderie and mood on the team with an eye towards the rest of the season.
1. USC pass coverage
While the 288 passing yards accumulated by the Golden Bears was well below the 351.1 yards per game that the team’s offense averaged coming into the contest, the Trojans still allowed California quarterback Jared Goff to complete too many passes (34 on 48 attempts) and the secondary had some difficulties in coverage at times. In particular, the cornerbacks, and especially Kevon Seymour, struggled to play the ball in the air. Seymour and Shaw both gave up touchdowns in such situations.
2. USC place kicking
After starting out the season shaky, junior Andre Heidari won a midseason position battle and appeared to have regained the confidence and consistency showcased during his stellar freshman campaign, connecting on five of his last six field goal attempts heading into USC’s battle with Cal. Against the Golden Bears, however, Heidari was less-than-reliable, missing a PAT attempt as well as a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter. He’s now 11-of-18 on his field goal tries on the season, and just 3-of-8 from 40 yards or longer.
3. Silas Redd injury
With Redd appearing to have a blast as he cheered his teammates on throughout the second half, the knee injury that forced him out of the game early doesn’t appear to be anything serious. Still, with a physical Stanford defensive front seven on tap, the status of his health will definitely be worth watching this week. Even with the emergence of Allen and Isaac, USC will need as many healthy backs at their disposal as possible, and Redd brings not only his capable talents to the fold, but also his leadership.