USC vs. Western Michigan: Studs and duds from the season opener

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images /
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Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images /

USC vs. Western Michigan was tighter than Trojan fans might have like, producing notable duds. But the studs were on display as well.

USC wrapped up the first game of the 2017 season with a victory over the Western Michigan Broncos.

The Trojans got everything they could handle but eventually found their footing and pulled out a 49-31 victory.

In a game full of highs and lows during the USC vs. Western Michigan game, let’s take a look at who were the studs and who were the duds:

The Studs

Ronald Jones II

The junior tailback was the beacon of hope throughout a nervous game with the Broncos. Gaining tough yardage in between the tackles, and ripping off huge runs on the outside, Jones finished the game with 18 carries for 159 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught one pass for 19 yards.

Jones was exactly what USC needed on Saturday afternoon, as young and veteran receivers alike struggled to catch the ball. The Texans’ electrifying plays kept USC in the game.

Cameron Smith:

The 2016 leading tackler for the Trojans had to sit out the first half of the game against WMU due to a targeting penalty. If there were any Trojan fans who questioned Smith’s importance to the USC defense they should no longer.

Smith entered the game in the second half and immediately helped a struggling USC rush defense. His ability fill gaps and get off blocks and make plays were an extremely important part of USC turning things around in the second half.

WMU’s coaching staff:

Western Michigan was up against a giant in USC, but you have to give credit to their coaching staff. The Broncos were not afraid of the moment and were not intimidated by a talent USC squad.

The offensive game plan was phenomenal as well. WMU constantly shifted formations and ran motion to take advantage of Cameron Smith’s absence in the first half. Then as USC adjusted to its rarely used three-man front with Malik Dorton on the field, WMU started attacking the edge with the zone read.

They even mixed in a gadget play, which barely worked, but it did and they scored. A great game plan that was executed well.

Darius Phillips:

Head coach Clay Helton referred to Philips as the Adoree’ Jackson of WMU. That comparison turned out to not be hyperbole when at a critical juncture he made a big play.

With USC going up 28-21 and looking like they were about to get rolling, Phillips took a kickoff and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown.

Helton also called Phillips a legitimate NFL prospect, that potential was on full display during the return.

Jake Olson:

The long snapper who lost his eyesight to cancer provided the best moment of the game.

After a Marvell Tell interception return for a score put the game to rest, Olson, who is blind, realized a dream by coming onto the field and perfectly snapping the ball for the point after attempt.

It was a special moment that will not be forgotten by anyone who witnessed it or involved in it for a long time. Also, kudos for WMU for being good sports about it too.

Honorable Mention:

Stephen Carr, the true freshmen finished with seven carries for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns. The explosiveness that had been talked about all camp was on full display on his fourth quarter 52-yard touchdown run.

It wasn’t all sunshine and Rojo highlights in the Coliseum on Saturday either. Let’s take a look at the duds from the USC season opener.