It was an interesting day for the Trojans at Metlife field, one filled with sluggish offense, convincing defense and a 70-minute lightning delay with no lightning, but when the final seconds ran off the clock USC bested Syracuse 42-29.
If the Trojans meant to convince the nation that they are the team to beat this season, they did not do so against Syracuse. The play-calling was uninspiring, at times Matt Barkley did not look his best, and it took the offense entirely too long to get anything going. They gave Syracuse opportunity after opportunity to stay in the game, but fortunately for USC, the defense picked up the offense’s slack.
Barkley completed 22 of 29 passes for 183 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Woods was really USC’s star this week, having two huge reverses that resulted in scores for the Trojans. In the third quarter, he dashed across the field for 77 yards to set up a Barkley-to-Lee 4-yard floater for a touchdown on the following play.
But perhaps the most impressive touchdown came from Xavier Grimble when he caught a short pass from Barkley, broke a few tackles, and then dragged a gang of other tacklers into the endzone with him for the score.
The Trojan ground game actually was a factor this week after the first quarter, with Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd really getting their wheels turning. Redd recorded his first 100-yard game as a Trojan, including a 40-yard sprint that set the Trojans up for Barkley’s 6th touchdown pass, tying Barkley’s single game record for TD passes.
In two career games against Syracuse, Matt Barkley has thrown for 510 yards, 11 TDs and 1 INT.
While the offense ebbed and flowed, the Trojan defense was on it the entire game. Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib was able to pass for 274 yards, but his receivers were often quickly greeted by Trojan defenders. Linebacker Dion Bailey picked Nassib off twice, and DE Morgan Breslin continued to impress as he had a hand in pressuring Nassib into both of those picks, and recorded a sack. True freshman Leonard Williams also brought down Nassib, in the second half. To their credit, the Orange put up a tremendous effort against USC, putting up 100 more yards of offense in the third quarter alone.
As composed as the defense was, all cornerbacks not named Nickell Robey fell flat on Saturday. Torin Harris repeated got lost in coverage, something he did often last season. Anthony Brown too got burned on deep balls, allows Nassib and the Orange to move down the field. The Trojans will need to find a solution to that problem as the season presses on.
In the end, USc’s experienced offense and many impressive stands by the defense would allow the Trojans to come away with the win. USC will enter week three 2-0, and will have plenty to work on before they face Stanford on Sept. 15.