USC vs Utah State: Inside the Box Score


Sep 21, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage as Southern California Trojans center Marcus Martin (66) snaps the ball against the Utah State Aggies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Utah State 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans survived the final game of their three game home stand, beating Utah State 17-14 with a stout defensive effort and just enough offense to get by. The tale of the box score reflects the low-scoring, defense-heavy affair:

The Trojans finished the game ahead in rushing but behind in total yards. The key number was leading in first downs as both teams found it difficult to break down the defense to continue drives. Third-down conversion percentages of 21% for the Trojans and 29% for the Aggies reveal just how much trouble the offenses had. Ultimately, two big fourth down stops for the Trojans made the difference.

Cody Kessler attempted his largest pass total of the season, though his completion percentage rating took a hit as he finished the game with six straight incompletions. His 30-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Grimble was his longest of the season while his 33-yard completion to Marqise Lee was his longest pass of the year. The three sacks he sustained match the total he had taken in the first three games and while he avoided throwing an interception, he did lose a fumble.

Chuckie Keeton had his worst game of the season statistically in nearly every category. Despite his two touchdowns, his passing yards and completion percentage were well below his average and the four sacks he took were the most this year. D.J. Tialavea’s unfortunate stat line came courtesy of a failed fake punt.

Tre Madden failed to hit the 100-yard mark for this first time this season as the Trojan rushing attack slowed to a halt in the second half. Nelson Agholor and Lee both had successful carries, Agholor on a reverse and Lee on a sweep.

The numbers for Utah State suggest a fairly productive rushing attack but a closer look reveals the mirage. Two long gains account for the bulk of the Aggie production on the ground. Joey DeMartino took on carry 55 yards and Joe Hill had nearly half of his yards on the one 24 yard run. That means nearly three-fourths of Utah State’s rushing yards came on two plays.

Lee increased his catches from last week but has yet to find the level of production that won him a host of awards last season. Though his 33-yard catch was a highlight, he once again dropped a very catchable pass. Madden got into the passing game as he has all season and Xavier Grimble showed the value of using the tight end in the passing game as he came away with a touchdown.

Travi Reynolds caught his big 42-yarder on a third and 20, which was the result of single coverage and a great catch. He joined Brand Swindall in hauling in a midrange touchdown pass.

While it is not the greatest thing to have you punter put in a Player of the Game performance, Kris Albarado made a case for himself as he booted five of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line to put Keeton and the Utah State offense in terrible field position. Albarado’s accurate kicking from midfield was especially valuable in the second half.

The box score is kind to Jaron Bentrude whose shanked punt in the third quarter set up USC’s go-ahead field goal.

Andre Heidari hasn’t quite recovered his freshman form. He missed a 46-yarder but made up for it with the aforementioned game-winning field goal.

No one knew at the time, but Nick Diaz’s 37-yard miss in the first quarter was the difference in the game.

Leonard Williams led the Trojans with eight tackles, including three tackles for loss, but nearly every defender got on the board with a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Morgan Breslin stood out with two sacks and two quarterback hurries. Hayes Pullard was a beast in pass coverage with two pass break ups, one of which was a mega-hit that nearly resulted in an interception.

Utah State found similar success with six tackles for loss of their own and three sacks. Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil logged 12 tackles each while Fackrell’s one of Fackrell’s two sacks resulted in the lone turnover of the game.