Saturday night’s USC vs. Stanford game in Palo Alto was one to forget for the Trojans. But there’s always high and lowlight performances.
It wouldn’t be a USC vs. Stanford rivalry game without a hard-fought, close battle. Yet the Trojans weren’t nearly as close they wanted to be, failing to score a touchdown for the second time in the Clay Helton era.
Let’s get to the Week 2 studs and duds…
After catching just four passes on 12 targets a week ago, Tyler Vaughns was the Trojans’ leading receiver on the farm. He hauled in seven passes for 84 yards, including a pair of third-down conversions.
Talanoa Hufanga and CJ Pollard:
USC safeties are dropping like flies. Not only is Bubba Bolden mysteriously ‘unavailable’ and Ykili Ross no longer on the team, but Isaiah Pola-Mao left Saturday’s game due to injury. In his place, true freshman Talanoa Hufanga and redshirt-sophomore CJ Pollard stepped in and performed admirably, given the circumstances. They combined for 1.5 tackles for loss, including Pollard’s wrangling of Bryce Love at the edge early in the second quarter.
USC’s run blocking for Carr & Malepeai:
While the offensive line will get the focus in the Trojans’ first loss of the season, it’s important to mention how strong they were with run blocking. In a drastic contrast to pass protection, USC had more than enough success running the football to register a scoring output greater than three points. They didn’t gash Stanford, but they routinely did enough to give the backs a chance, especially Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai. The former had a respectable 40 percent opportunity rate, and together they combined to rush for a strong 70 yards on just 13 carries. It was eerily the opposite of last week’s performance, when those two struggled to get running lanes, while the line punched open holes for Aca’Cedric Ware. On Saturday night, Ware’s 18-carry, 59-yard performance saw him given a low opportunity rate of 27.8 percent, just about on par with Carr and Malepeai’s collective 25 percent against UNLV. He still managed to make his impact felt with a pair of 10-plus-yard bursts in the third quarter.
USC’s kick coverage:
The Trojans’ special teams have been critiqued plenty in the last couple seasons and rightfully so, given their inconsistency and repeated miscues. However, Saturday was one of their finest performances, particularly in the kick coverage game. Stanford returned just two kicks, averaging 13 yards per return and starting at the 17 and 9-yard lines, respectively. That should’ve been huge for the field position battle in a defensive slugfest. Although, the Cardinal got 10 points on those two drives, while gaining 162 yards of total offense.