USC Football: Studs and duds from the Pac-12 Championship Game

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images /
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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images /

USC and Stanford faced off at Levi Stadium for the Pac-12 Championship game. Here are the Studs and Duds from USC 31-28 victory.

USC and Stanford played an incredible back-and-forth game for the Pac-12 title. The Cardinal continued their excellent run of form pushing the Trojans to the very limit, with a few chances to knock them out. But in classic 2017 style, USC looked both like the No. 1 team in the country, and an unranked MAC team in over its head.

However, when the chips were down and things got serious, USC rose to the challenge. Here are the studs and duds from the game…


Uchenna Nwosu

Uchenna Nwosu has hands down been the defensive MVP for USC all season long. Friday night, he made the biggest play of the season.

So many times in the last few years, a back-breaking turnover crushed USC’s spirit, turning a close game into a blowout. It looked like it was destined to happen again when Stephen Carr fumbled late in the third quarter. Instead, Nwosu and the rest of the USC defense stopped Stanford on the quick change defense.

Then, just when USC fans thought they had a moment of respite, the defense was in another all-too-familiar position: a bad drive by the offense, a terrible punt, and Stanford was once again looking to deliver a staggering blow to the Trojans’ titles hopes.

But Nwosu’s fourth down stop was indicative of the type of plays he has made all year. When in big games, your captains and your best players need to step up. He has been there all season for USC and was again Friday night.

Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold played what was his arguably his best game since the 2017 Rose Bowl. The redshirt sophomore quarterback made good decisions with the football all night and finished the game going 17-of-24 for 325 yards and two touchdowns.

While Darnold did have his obligatory almost interception, this time it wasn’t a poor decision. Instead, it was the right read, and the deep ball just got hung up a little bit in the heavy Santa Clara air.

What was more impressive was when USC went back to the deep ball, Darnold was unfazed by his earlier underthrow. He instead ripped it again, this time down the left sideline, and Steven Mitchell Jr. came up with it.

No turnovers and clutch decision making all night earns Darnold a spot on this list. It was a great display of why the New York Giants are tanking their season for him.

Michael Pittman Jr.

Michael Pittman didn’t get a chance to play against Stanford in September because of a high ankle sprain. It’s a shame for the Cardinal, because they had to get their first look at the 6-foot-4 215-pound receiver in the Pac-12 title game. Tthey were not ready for a combination of size and speed like that.

The freshman had an incredible game, snagging seven catches for an eye-watering 146 yards and a touchdown.

Stanford tried to play off him and he caught slants and other underneath routes. Then they tried to get up close and physical with him, and he made one of the bigger plays on offense, running through press coverage and catching Darnold’s pass out of their own end zone for a gain of 54 yards during a 99-yard drive.

You could see the light was on for Pittman way back against Arizona State, but Friday night

was a superb championship performance.

Ronald Jones II

One of the wrinkles for the championship game was to dance with who brought you here. Ronald Jones II has been there all season for USC, whether they have taken advantage of him or not. Friday night, after realizing the game might be too big for the true freshman Stephen Carr, the Trojans went to Jones a lot.

A career-high 30 carries for 140 yards, two touchdowns, and one Pac-12 conference championship was the result.

Now if the silly rotations all season were so USC could ride the Texas Tesla tonight, then all is forgiven. Because they needed his power, speed, and vision tonight, especially with another offensive line injury from Andrew Vorhees.