The USC Trojans marched into the Coliseum amidst thousands of screaming fans, the best hype video in college football, and riding a wave of newfound confidence after a highly productive offseason. They were supposed to easily handle the Minnesota Golden Gophers, winning by three touchdowns or more. They were supposed to go out there and remind us all who they are.
They were supposed to, but it didn’t happen.
Matt Barkley had a good day for 'SC, but the offense was shut out in the 2nd half.
The Trojans barely edged out Minnesota 19-17 but by how the game started, this finally score is puzzling. Matt Barkley came out fiery, zipping the ball confidently to his favorite target Robert Woods. In fact, they set new school records—Woods had 17 receptions for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns and Barkley completed 34-of-45 passes, threw three touchdowns and no interceptions.
D.J. Morgan got the surprise start for the running game, and he showed that he is more than capable of handling the job. Morgan rushed for 80 yards off 17 carries, but he was unable to show what he can really do because of Coach Kiffin’s penchant to rely on our passing game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans’ D-Line showed that they will be a force this season, and middle linebacker Chris Galippo reminded us all why he is the starter. The D-Line put Minnesota quarterback Marqueis Gray on his back repeatedly, and Galippo delivered the big hits and had a few crucial deflections. Still though, the defense gave up 371 yards, which unfortunately has been a consistent trend for the Trojans in recent years.
As exciting and inspiring as some performances were, the ebb and flow of the game was…off. After the Trojans lit up the scoreboard in the first half, it was almost as if they had no desire to in the second half. Eight of Barkley’s passes were dropped, bringing his completion down from 93% to 77%. Coach Lane Kiffin accurately described the offense as “a debacle”, which it was with its inability to put points on the board.
Kiffin absolutely refused to open up the playbook—more Bubble Screens, anyone?—and it showed in the repetitive, conservative nature of the plays. Only one deep ball was thrown, 43 yards to Woods for a touchdown, while all the rest were for about eight yards or less. Not only that, but after the first two touchdowns, Kiffin decided to go for two instead of kicking the extra point, both of which attempts failed miserably. And just to show him how much the fans hated those decisions, when kicker Andre Heidari came onto the field to kick the extra point after our third touchdown, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
As mentioned earlier, we never really established a running presence, which could’ve been easily managed against the Gophers. And though the defense did hold Minnesota off relatively well, cornerback Torin Harris botched a play that resulted in Minnesota bringing the game within two points. To his credit, he would later redeem himself by catching the game-winning interception in the 4th quarter.
But alas, a win is a win. No matter how ugly it was—and it surely was hideous—the Trojans won their 14th consecutive season opener. If they continue to play—and if Lane Kiffin continues to coach—like they did against the Gophers, the Trojans will undoubtedly struggle against better opponents. To be clear, there is no question that they have all of the components to have a dominant season; they just have to get all of the puzzle pieces in the right place at the right time.
Let’s all hope that in this week before facing the Utah Utes in the Pac-12 season opener, the Trojans figure it out.