USC Blowout of UCLA Fueled By Pete Carroll Style Run

Nov 19, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver De
Nov 19, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver De /
facebooktwitterreddit

Saturday night’s 36-14 shellacking of UCLA at the hands of Clay Helton’s USC football team was a win that encapsulated the theme of the 2016 season.

If you’re a USC fan, the Trojans’ second-straight win over the Bruins under Clay Helton felt right.

Not just because they beat their rival with tremendous balance, 266 rushing yards and star performances from the likes of Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones.

But Saturday night was like a highlight reel for the 2016 Trojans. Lackadaisical early while punched in the mouth, USC regained composure and flipped the switch for a dominant run.

Like their stumble out of the gate that led to a 1-3 start on the year, they fell behind quickly when UCLA’s Mike Fafaul found receiver Jordan Lasley for a 56-yard touchdown pass on the fourth play of the game.

Lasley shook a pair of defenders, Adoree’ Jackson and Ajene Harris, before waltzing into the end zone in an image so familiar of USC’s 2014 loss at the Rose Bowl.

Then there was a Darnold interception snared by Fabian Moreau to start the second quarter, setting up a second score.

Again, Fafaul to Lasley over Jackson.

Fresh off an upset win over previously No. 4 Washington, Trojans were quickly down 14-7 to a UCLA team they were expected to beat, with their best player getting had by his former Serra High School teammate.

Nov 19, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Mike Fafaul (12) gets gets by USC Trojans linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) and defensive end Porter Gustin (45) as he looks for an open receiver in the second half of the game at the Rose Bowl. USC won 36-14. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Mike Fafaul (12) gets gets by USC Trojans linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) and defensive end Porter Gustin (45) as he looks for an open receiver in the second half of the game at the Rose Bowl. USC won 36-14. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

But like they did after losing to Utah following a Jackson misplay in the end zone, USC got up off the mat to put together a performance so reminiscent of the Pete Carroll era.

“It really shows the maturity of this team,” Helton said. “I did not see any panic with any of the guys. You saw on the next drive, we came right back and down.”

That they did.

Over the course of the next 30 minutes immediately following UCLA’s second touchdown –a stretch from 13:28 remaining in the second quarter to 13:33 left in the fourth– USC hit their highest note of the season.

“Having that adversity that we had in the past, we know when things like this hit, we don’t get rocky,” Jackson said. “We just keep going.”

Over the course of the next 30 minutes immediately following UCLA’s second touchdown, USC hit their highest note of the season.

They not only outscored the Bruins 26-0, but the Trojans did it emphatically, with a 338 to 32 advantage in total yards, and holding them to negative one yard rushing.

It was all about ball control, as they had success playing their game at the tempo they set. UCLA only had 4:50 of possession during that stretch on 15 plays, compared to USC’s 59 plays in 24:28.

“I don’t think we made any specific adjustments,” Darnold said. “The coaches always do a great job game-planning, so we just stuck with it and eventually we knew it was going to work out.”

All told, it was the Trojans’ best 30-minute stretch in years, featuring five scoring drives of 50 yards or more, while allowing just one first down.

Consider that the Bruins only had two three-and-outs during the infamous 50-0 game in 2011, both in the first quarter.

SEE MORE: 10 Best USC Performances vs. UCLA

You have to go all the way back to November 2008 to find a similar stretch in which USC dominated a game.

On their way to a 56-0 win over winless Washington, the Trojans held the Huskies just 22 yards on 19 plays over their first six drives of the game, while scoring on the first six possessions of their own.

Say what you will about a UCLA offense without Josh Rosen and a running game that has struggled all season, but the Bruins’21st-ranked defense in S&P+ was more than formidable.

And the Trojans still turned back the clock. It’s fitting, because for the last month, USC’s drawn several comparisons to the 2008 team.

Their suddenly impenetrable defense has put up the closest numbers to that Rey Maualuga-led unit, and the now seven-game winning streak is USC’s longest since.

But they will be hoping for yet another parallel.

The 2008 Trojans were the last to make it the Rose Bowl.

And considering USC has made the Granddaddy of Them All during every presidential administration since Herbert Hoover’s in 1930, there’s just one final shot to do it under Barack Obama.

This 2016 team, having shutdown Oregon, Washington and UCLA in successive weeks, might just be the team to do it.

They’re peaking at the right time, are shooting up the polls and sit just a Utah win over Colorado away from going to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

More from Reign of Troy

For a program left for dead less than two months ago, it’s been a remarkable turnaround for the Trojans.

In late September, prospects of a sharp 2001-esque finish for respectability looked improbable.

That’s because it was. Helton’s Trojans aren’t a reincarnation of the Pete Carroll’s first. They’re hodgepodge of everything that has gone right for Troy since 2001.

With a dominant defense, an exciting offense led by a freshman, a stunning comeback in the conference standings and an extended winning streak, you can’t just say this season resembles singular seasons like 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008 or 2011 anymore.

Despite their nostalgic vibe and a familiar style to beat UCLA, they’re a different kind of beast on a different kind of wild run.