Saturday’s USC vs. Stanford score looked to be a welcome to sight to those who took the over, with both teams partaking in a first half offensive explosion at the Coliseum.
The lowdown: Despite a rivalry full of tight, low-scoring contests, Saturday’s USC vs. Stanford game saw plenty of early action. USC scored 14 points in each of the first two quarters, averaging a whopping 9.9 yards per play on their way to a 28-17 lead. Sam Darnold —with help from his favorite target Deontay Burnett— led the charge with 225 passing yards and three touchdowns before halftime, while Stanford’s offense primarily funneled through featured back Bryce Love. His 75-yard romp opened the scoring for the Cardinal in the first quarter.
The second half was a much different story, with both defenses clogging the field and slowing the rip-roaring pace from early on. USC’s 12-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to start the fourth quarter was capped off by Steven Mitchell’s second score of the game. It put the Trojans up 35-17, and essentially sealed the game despite a Stanford answer minutes later.
The takeaway: After an up and down showing in the Trojans’ season-opening win against Western Michigan, Week 2 was much kinder, particularly on offense. USC scored touchdowns on four of its first five drives, making for an eight-in-nine drive stretch dating back to last week. Their 623 yards of total offense was the most against Stanford since Oregon’s 626 in 2010.
The Trojans did it with natural, unforced run-pass balance that accentuated the strengths of Sam Darnold, Ronald Jones and Stephen Carr, rather than heavy handed force feeding to try and make something out of nothing. The result? An almost too-perfect balance of 316 passing yards to 307 on the ground.
Defensively, USC was a mixed bag. While the rush defense struggled at times to keep Bryce Love at bay, the defensive line —and outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu in particularly— were in the backfield regularly to disrupt Keller Chryst and force long third down plays. It was also the second-straight week the Trojans dominated the second half, limiting Stanford to just 25 rushing yards in the final 30 minutes. The biggest issue on defense? Committing third down penalties, even with questionable calls along the way. The Trojans must be cleaner on defense going forward.
Player of the game: Sam Darnold had one of his best games in a USC jersey, dazzling at times while completing 21-of-26 passes for 316 yards, with four touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. His last touchdown drive of the second quarter featured a pair of filthy throws, both on a deep ball to Steven Mitchell and a feathered touchdown pass Deontany Burnett.
Stat of the game: The win is USC’s first over Stanford at the Coliseum in the month of September, and the only the second time in six years that the Trojans began the Pac-12 slate with a victory.
Next on tap: Texas, winners of a 56-0 shellacking of San Jose State on Saturday, will come to the Coliseum next week for the first time since 1967. They’re 1-1 on the season, including a Week 1 upset at the hands of Maryland.