Stud: Soma Vainuku
It seems like forever ago that Soma Vainuku was a disappointment. Unable to hold onto a catch to save his life, the redshirt sophomore had a forgettable freshman season.
This season has been anything but forgettable for Vainuku. He did it again Saturday in Boulder with a blocked punt –his third of the season — two catches for 11 yards, five carries for 70 yards. Oh, and a 52-yard touchdown run.
With an impact in nearly every facet of the game for USC on offense and special teams, Vainuku has become a weapon in the mold of former #31 Stanley Havili. While he can’t quite claim Havili’s status as a playmaker yet. His performance against Colorado and through out this season is setting him up to get there.
Dud: Run Blocking
Against the worst rush defense in the Pac-12, the Trojan offensive line struggled early on to get push and open up holes for Buck Allen and Ty Isaac. Allen in particular had to do far too much work to avoid defenders who burst into the backfield with ease.
By the end of the night, USC had racked up 243 yards rushing. However, most of those yards came late in the game and more than half of those yards came on three rushing plays — Vainuku’s 52-yard score, Allen’s 46-yard run and 23-yard touchdown.
Stud: Buck Allen
Despite the poor run blocking, Buck Allen was a sight to behold. He finished the night with 145 yards and three touchdowns, but the aforementioned work in the backfield showed his real value. Making the most of short carries, Allen kept USC from getting into deeper holes than they might have been in on second and third down.
Then there were the touchdowns. From 12 yards out he leapt his way into the endzone for the first. Then he powered his way in from less than a yard out for the second. His third featured an ankle-breaking juke.
One of the goals of the evening for USC was getting out of Boulder without losing anyone to injury. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way. Starting cornerback Kevon Seymour was hit early in the game and didn’t return. That threw Torin Harris into the game and while he made some nice plays to disrupt catches, he also got burned on a touchdown.
Seymour wasn’t the only key player hurt either. Allen tweaked his arm or his shoulder as he fell to the ground on his first touchdown and while he was able to return, the fumble he surrendered as the second half opened may have been influenced by the injury.
Demetrius Wright and Aundrey Walker also missed some time.
Stud: Cody Kessler’s Touch
In the offseason the knock against Kessler was a lack of arm strength, at least compared to Max Wittek’s rocket. As shown against Colorado, Kessler makes up for that lack of power with perfect touch on his deep passes.
Early on, Kessler dropped one in for Darreus Rogers on a 29-yard gain. Later, he hit Nelson Agholor in the endzone with another beauty, this one for 20 yards.
For most of the first half, Trojan fans had their attention split. Back in Los Angeles, UCLA was playing for a chance to give this week’s crosstown rivalry game extra stakes. Had they beaten Arizona State, the Pac-12 South title might have come down to the winner at the Coliseum.
Instead, the Bruins bungled it. The Sun Devils jumped out to a big lead at the half and a late UCLA comeback fell short.