After two-straight weeks of good Sam Darnold, the bad Darnold finally showed back up Saturday night. He threw his obligatory interception and also had his obligatory interception-that-was-dropped-by-the-defense.
USC’s signal caller even put the ball on the ground again, though he was lucky his knee was ruled down after a review. Darnold also had his third game in which he did not throw a touchdown pass, but did throw an interception.
The redshirt-sophomore was off on his deep shots all night, and his play may have gone largely unnoticed had he been facing just another quarterback. However, the juxtaposition of Darnold missing Deontay Burnett and Daniel Imatorbhebhe deep while Josh Rosen was on the other side constantly connecting with Lasley, made it seem worse.
His lack of awareness at the end of the first half also kept USC from having an opportunity to get points and extend their lead.
While the defense did hold up long enough for the Men of Troy to come away with a win, they had some of their worst moments since the Notre Dame game. They gave up 204 receiving yards to one man, and had blown coverages in the red zone, allowing Lasley to have a wide-open and easy touchdown catches. The Trojans also were constantly giving up 3rd-and-forever, including a 3rd-and-18.
UCLA wasn’t always burning them for big plays down the field. Most of the time it was a throw underneath and a big run after the catch.
If USC is going to have a chance against whomever they play in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the defense is going to have to play a lot better. Whether it’s the secondary staying disciplined in coverage, or the defensive line being able to get pressure without having to blitz, they need to improve.
The good news is at least they’ll get a bye week, and they got an opportunity to learn these lessons while still getting a win over UCLA.
More from Reign of Troy
- Markese Stepp enters transfer portal intending to leave USC football
- USC football’s Alijah Vera-Tucker declares for NFL Draft
- USC football adds Xavion Alford as transfer from Texas
- USC Podcast: RoT Radio Ep. 396 on the Football Season’s Fallout
- Talanoa Hufanga named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, USC football with five first-teamers
The offensive line and no creativity in the run game
UCLA was clearly focused on stacking up against Jones, choosing to live with Darnold beating them on the outside. It raises one question: why are there all the vanilla plays called for Jones, while Stephen Carr and the other backs get a bit of window dressing for theirs?
This is repeatedly one of the larger grievances with the USC offensive play calling. Vavae Malapeai and Aca’Cedric Ware get a formation with them both in the backfield, with Ware getting a carry off Malapeai’s motion, then vice versa.
But where is that for Jones? All he gets are runs out of the pistol, that are either poorly designed or so poorly executed the middle linebacker is coming free each time.
It’s one thing to be able to line up in the fourth quarter and run the ball when the other team is expecting it. It is another when your tailback has to make a man miss in the backfield each time.
USC needs to do better with their window dressing of the plays, or offensive line needs to do better. Either way, it needs be figured out in the next two weeks before the Pac-12 Championship Game.