USC’s receiving corps
USC lost its two leading receivers Darreus Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster to the NFL, so there was little surprise when the Trojan passing game looked a little shaky into the first quarter.
However, by midway through the second it was clear that drops were going to be an issue.
Fortunately, the two veteran receivers Steven Mitchell and Deontay Burnett stepped up in the second half and made plays to help out Sam Darnold.
The USC run defense
Watching Western Michigan continually find success running in between the tackles was not a welcome sight. While a lot of WMU’s success came while Smith was not in the game, there was no excuse for the poor tackling and big plays.
With Stanford on the horizon and an extra week off to get ready, you better believe that they will line up with eight offensive linemen and test out that USC run defense as well.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will have to get that sorted out.
The targeting penalty rule and the officials
For starters, it is completely ridiculous that a play in the last game of the season from 2016 should have an effect on 2017. Helmet-to-helmet collisions are serious and severe penalties are used as a major deterrent, but if a player gets booted in the final game of a season that should be penalty enough.
Beyond that, Pac-12 officials have a reputation around the conference. They did nothing to help that reputation on Saturday.
The interception late in the second quarter by Sam Beal was a terrible call. Beal deserves all the credit for making the play, but it was painfully clear that when he had possession of the ball his foot was a mile out of bounds.
The play calling for USC against Western Michigan was not horrible, nor is this a shot at offensive coordinator Tee Martin.
However, when USC was struggling on offense there seemed to be a concerted effort to stick to the preordained rotational schedule. As a result, there were dropped passes and losses on running plays.
In the past USC has been about feeding the hot hand and riding them to success. With Jones and Burnett being the biggest playmakers it would have been nice to see Martin do a little more to keep them involved earlier because they were relied on late.
Sam Darnold. Darnold finished the game with 289 passing yards and 2 interceptions. While he did run for a touchdown, Darnold struggled during the game. However, like a great signal caller should, he bounced back and made plays down the stretch.