USC vs. BC Report Card: Grading the Trojans’ Running Backs


USC lost to Boston College on Saturday night while turning in their worst rushing performance since the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl, when they gained a single yard on the ground. Saturday night, they had 20 yards when you account for sacks.

Even still, somehow weirdly, the awfulness of the Trojans’ running game wasn’t a result of the running backs. USC’s offensive line struggled so severely up front that the backfield led by Buck Allen never had a chance to gain yardage.

Head coach and play caller Steve Sarkisian repeatedly dialed up runs, but there weren’t lanes to be found.

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The result was that the Trojans’ running backs netted 52 yards on Saturday night, averaging a minuscule 2.36 yards per carry.

Allen led the way with 31 yards on 15 carries, which is enhanced by a 16-yard run that more than doubled his average. Justin Davis struggled to gain yardage for the third straight game, finishing with 10 yards on six carries, while Soma Vainuku ran the ball just once for 11 yards.

In the passing game however, Allen had a big impact, catching nine passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.

The score came on a jailbreak screen on third down, in which Cody Kessler baited BC’s pass rush. Allen ran a quick one-yard curl and had a full on convoy in front of him led by Viane Talamaivao, resulting in a 51-yard touchdown to put the Trojans up 17-6 in the second quarter.

With production lacking majorly on runs, Allen’s usage in the flats through the air gave the running backs a wrinkle that we haven’t necessarily seen in USC for a while. Sure, there’s been occasional halfback screens and Allen scored a touchdown on that same jailbreak screen last year against Cal, but nine catches is significant involvement out of the backfield.

Was it Sarkisian’s way of substituting the atrocious run game? Or will Allen’s inclusion in the passing game be a mainstay moving forward? We’ll have to find out.

Either way, grading the backs’ performance is difficult. In a lot of ways, it was worthy of an ‘incomplete’ given the circumstances they found themselves in, with shoddy play calling and a turnstile offensive line. Statistically, they deserve a fail.

But Allen’s 149 all-purpose yards wind up being the determining factor for what as an overall average performance.

Grade: C

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