Nov 23, 2013; Boulder, CO, USA; Southern California Trojans fullback Soma Vainuku (31) rushes for a long touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. The Trojans defeated the Buffaloes 47-29. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

USC vs. Colorado: Studs and Duds

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.

Nov 23, 2013; Boulder, CO, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) prepares to pass in the first quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 23, 2013; Boulder, CO, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) prepares to pass in the first quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Dud: Injuries

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.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Buck Allen Cody Kessler Soma Vainuku USC Football USC Trojans

  • Ben Factor

    We disagree again about Kessler. I replayed both passes you mentioned four or five times. In the NFL, those would have been interceptions, or at best, broken-up incompletions.

    On the first pass, the WR and DB were running neck and neck. The pass should have been a back shoulder pass, thrown to the left side of the target, and a little short.

    The TD to Agholor should have been longer and further to the outside, with a higher trajectory.

    The TD to the TE was thrown a little late, and a USC safety might have broken it up, or picked it off.

    Kessler can’t throw the ball 35+ yards with enough accuracy to compensate for his low velocity. USC can work around that, and benefits from typically weak opposing coverage.

    On the other hand, I think Kessler’s movement and play in the pocket and his target-decision speed has definitely improved. In addition, I was glad to see Helton rolling him out quite a bit.

    Fortunately, this is not the NFL, his targets are more talented than 90% of the DBs they face, and USC has developed a better running game (although you’re correct to question what happened in the first half, and what needs to change).

    I hope I turn out to be wrong. However, at this time, that’s how I see it. Please replay those passes yourself four or five times, and then reply to tell me what I missed in my analysis. I like learning.