Cotton Bowl: Studs and duds in USC’s loss to Ohio State

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tom Pennington/Getty Images /
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Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tom Pennington/Getty Images /


The USC Offense

If you watched USC in 2017 with any regularity, you knew turnovers were an issue. And if you watched with any sort of investment, you prayed the turnovers weren’t back-breaking. Friday night in the Cotton Bowl, the turnovers were an issue and each one felt like more of a back-breaker than the last.

Whether it was Deontay Burnett fumbling when USC looked like it was moving out of the gate, Sam Darnold not seeing a Buckeye defender in the throwing lane on a run-pass option play, or the constant fumbles when USC looked poised to score, the turnovers never stopped.

Overall, the offense was the most frustrating part of the team’s losing performance, and for once it did not feel like coaching.

Yes, USC had a bad matchup with the OSU defensive line. But it felt like offensive coordinator Tee Martin had done enough to try and buy Darnold some extra time. He also mixed in enough of the running game to try and keep them honest. In fact, it was the first time in his career USC lost when Ronald Jones II had more than 14 carries.

USC did struggle moving the ball, but thats going to happen at points against top opposition. Friday night felt that if they just executed better, they could have won.

USC’s special teams

Special teams have been a nightmare for USC all season, and that continued Friday night. Besides the punt return against UCLA, the return and coverage teams haven’t excelled.

Against Ohio State,  Velus Jones wasn’t getting an opportunity to return kicks. By the time he was catching the ball and getting into his stride, there were two or three Buckeyes screaming right at him.

Then, kicker Chase McGrath had the most deflating doink off the field goal posts in recent memory, as probably the clearest sign it just was not going to be USC’s night.

One thing is for sure, if USC is going to compete with the Ohio States of the world, they will have to address their special teams in the offseason.

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Blowing this loss out of porportion

Coming into the Cotton Bowl, one of the major points of interest was to see how USC stacked up with Ohio State physically. The last time the Trojans were in AT&T Stadium, Alabama made them look undersized and over-matched at almost every position.

Despite what the announcers on the ESPN broadcast would have you believe, USC did not look out matched tonight. They stood toe-to-toe in the trenches on defense with Ohio State, and for the most part, matched up well enough with them on the outside.

The Buckeyes did have an advantage on the defensive line, but USC held its own as much as they could have.

The main thing to take away from the game is that USC is finally getting back to where it needs to be from an athlete standpoint.

They weren’t run over. They constantly shot themselves in the foot and need to execute better.

Where this coaching staff and program is going to sink or swim moving forward is how well they cleanup errors. The schemes and play design have evolved as the season moved along, the focus for Helton and his staff going into 2018 needs to be execution.