USC vs Washington Report Card 2016: Grading the Trojan Offense

Nov 12, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) passes against the Washington Huskies during the third quarter at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 12, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) passes against the Washington Huskies during the third quarter at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

USC vs Washington offered a major test for the Trojan offense, which got the better of the Husky defense thanks to a big night from Sam Darnold.

If there were questions about just how “real” USC’s offense was before the Trojans upset of Washington on Saturday night, there should be none now.

Facing a strong UW defense on the road, Sam Darnold and the men of Troy maintained the high level of play they had managed in weeks past against inferior defenses.

With 24 points, 400 yards of offense and the victory, USC’s offense as a whole earned a passing grade.

SEE ALSO: Grading the Trojan Defense Versus Washington

Here’s how each offensive unit graded out against the Huskies:

A-. . Standout. Sam Darnold. QUARTERBACK

Statistically, Darnold’s performance against Washington was the best by a quarterback versus the Huskies all year. His 287 yards, 69.7 percent completion rating, 8.7 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and quarterback rating of 150.63 were season-highs for a UW opponent.

Beyond statistics, Darnold was even better than that, negating the Washington pass rush with his legs and firing strikes to receivers at every level of the field.

The minus? A bad interception in the first quarter was the only thing worth docking Darnold for. His second interception was the fault of an unfortunate slip by Deontay Burnett.

C+. . Standout. Ronald Jones II. RUNNING BACK

If a C is an average grade, then the Trojan running backs were just slightly above average. With 113 yards on 36 carries, USC’s rushing attack never got off the ground. And it’s not like Washington hasn’t conceded any decent running totals this year — the Trojans’ 3.14 yards per carry was the worst since Stanford was limited to .97.

The thing is, Ronald Jones II was reasonably successful, gaining 94 yards on 23 carries plus a touchdown. With just one negative play on a night, Jones did what USC needed him to do, taking what was available and getting just enough production on the ground to keep the Trojan offense from going completely imbalanced.

Justin Davis, on the other hand, was clearly limited as he returned from a sprained ankle. Without the explosion to hit the small gaps being created upfront, Davis managed just four yards on five carries. Despite that, Davis still stood as a capable pass blocker.

B+. . Standout. Darreus Rogers. RECEIVER

Darreus Rogers continues to occupy the role of unsung hero for USC’s offense in 2016, but maybe his performance against Washington will get him more of the recognition he deserves. The senior wideout led the Trojans with six catches for 84 yards and the first USC touchdown of the night.  Four of his six went for first downs. The two exceptions? A touchdown and a 17-yard reception on first and goal from the 24.

Besides Rogers, Darnold turned to a pair of other increasingly targets to unlock the Washington defense. Tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe had a career-high five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown of his own, once more showing off his impressive range. Slot receiver Deontay Burnett added four big catches for 67 yards.

And even though he only had three catches, JuJu Smith-Schuster was a critical figure early.

The only thing keeping this unit from the A was a slew of drops. Tyler Petite, Imatorbhbhe and Smith-Schuster each dropped first down conversions while Burnett’s slip led to a potentially critical interception and Taylor McNamara’s illegal man downfield penalty wiped out a long Burnett catch.

OFFENSIVE LINE. B. . Standout. Zach Banner

There’s three sides to every offensive line performance — run block, pass protection and discipline. USC’s offensive line was good enough, but not particularly great in each of those aspects.

On the discipline front, USC had four false start penalties and an illegal hands to the face penalty go against the offensive line. Damien Mama accounted for three of those fouls, including the most serious of them. Still, false starts are to be expected in hostile environments.

On run blocking, the Trojans didn’t exactly maul the Washington defensive front the way they managed against Cal and Oregon, but the Huskies came better prepared to shut down that side of USC’s game. Still, the line took what they could and opened just enough holes for Jones to have a reasonably productive night.

On pass protection, Darnold continues to make up for the line’s more porous moments, but the Trojans kept the Husky pass rush in check for the most part. When Darnold had time, which was more often than not, he had hours to throw.

Tee Martin. COACHING. B. . Standout

There has been a noticeable difference in the Trojan offense since the switch was made to Darnold at quarterback, but this was the first chance USC got to see just how far each unit has really come since that change. Moreover, the level of opposition made the performance against Washington count for extra.

So it was gratifying to see USC’s offensive attack function so well at all levels. Was it perfect all the time? No.

More from Reign of Troy

Play calling on USC’s first sequence of the second half could certainly be called into question. Just as the Trojans were having joy running the ball inside, Tee Martin dialed up a receiver sweep to Smith-Schuster. It was blown up, USC was behind on downs and ultimately punted.

The important part is that no unit looked unprepared against the Huskies, and it’s been that way for weeks.

The Trojans look like they know what they are doing. Early in the season a quote from Daniel Jeremiah rightly made the rounds: “Watching college football, one thing jumps out — some teams run an offense, other teams just call plays.”

In September, against similar opposition, it felt like USC was the latter. Now, the Trojans are undoubtedly the former.