USC vs. Utah 2017: Studs and duds from the Trojans’ comeback win

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images /
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Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /


Tee Martin

After the Tee Martin firestorm the last couple of weeks, Studs and Duds has honed in on what it is that irks about Tee Martin’s play calling. It is the fact that he does not seem to have a feel for where the offense is in the context of the game. It is hard to argue with all of Tee Martin’s play calling if you look at each call in a vacuum. Though, they continually make you scratch your head when you look at them through the flow of the game.

An example would be in the first quarter. Martin was on absolute fire with the opening drive, dialing up everything that worked. Then Darnold’s fumble happened at the mesh point on the zone read. USC’s defense came up huge with a red zone turnover and what does Martin do? He goes right back to an awkward mesh point run, Darnold fumbles and Utah gets on the scoreboard.

Now is it fair to blame Martin for Darnold fumbling? No, absolutely not. But it is fair to be critical of Martin for not easing Darnold back in with a straight handoff instead of another read at the mesh point.

Martin’s playcalling also contributed to Utah’s second scoring drive. While USC was pinned deep, there were three-straight incomplete passes, helping to give Utah great field position.

Even on the drive when USC went up, 28-21, Martin started with back-to-back throws, which resulted again in third-and-long. Without an incredible scramble by Darnold, who knows how the fourth quarter could have ended up.

The point is that USC can both execute better, and also get more from Martin. He is also growing as an offensive coordinator, so this is in no way, shape or form a call for his job. It is more of a highlighting of what he needs to get a better feel for as the USC offense continues to evolve.

The only hope is that he can figure it out fast enough to avoid derailing the season first.

Iman Marshall

Iman Marshall is a stalwart of the USC defense, and most days of the week he could make his way into a spot on the studs list. However, if there is one major knock against Marshall it is that he is definitely handsy on the outside.

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USC almost exclusively plays man defense and when that happens there are going to be pass interference calls. But as a leader in the secondary, and with penalties for interference and holding commanding a point of emphasis for since fall camp, Marshall has to do better.

Ball Security

While we took our chunk of flesh from Tee Martin about his role in USC’s turnovers, the players have to take responsibility on their end too. Darnold and Jones II have to do a better job of keeping the ball safe on zone reads.

Jones II and the rest of the running backs and receivers have to do a better job on those quick screens. Ideally they would just catch the ball and possibly get up field. However, if a player does drop the ball, they need to be aware and jump on it quickly, just in case.

In general, USC needs to reinforce ball security among its skill positions.