USC football: Studs and duds from the Trojans’ upset loss to BYU

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /
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Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC football went on the road for the first time in 2019 and fell 30-27 to the BYU Cougars in overtime. Let’s take a look at the studs and duds from the loss.

MORE. USC Humbled in OT

On a beautiful day in Utah, USC was poised to banish the demons of yesteryear to set out on an impressive high powered 2019 campaign. At least that was what most USC fans thought after watching the Trojans dismantle Stanford in Week 2.

Sadly, Saturday afternoon USC found themselves listening to Harry Nilsson’s “Gotta get up” as a familiar nightmare scenario played out on the field again. Another quick-start followed by an incredible amount of inconsistency and poor decision-making, leading to USC losing 30-27 in overtime to an opponent that USC should have been able to beat.

Here are the studs and the duds from USC’s overtime loss.


Zach Wilson

When we made early season predictions for the 2019 season, I had some concerns about Zach Wilson against the USC defense. Even though he’s young, he is a mobile quarterback, which to some degree neutralizes USC’s strength on defense: their defensive line. He also has a strong arm and doesn’t have anyone to fear in this Trojan secondary. Saturday it did not take long to see exactly why there were concerns going into this game. Wilson did a fantastic job making plays in the backfield to get away from USC’s defensive line while also producing plays down the field. He finished with 280 yards and a touchdown through the air and touchdown on the ground.

Wilson was also able to attack the edges and assist BYU’s running game. Watching Wilson make plays against this USC defense should only put a knot in the chest of the Trojan fans knowing Tyler Huntley is coming to the Coliseum Friday, on a short week. It’s amazing how many teams have beat USC with just a dynamic player at quarterback over the years. You would think USC would try to do some of that themselves.

Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns

Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns seemed like the only two USC wide receivers who were ready to go Saturday afternoon in Provo.

Vaughns, who was singled out Week 1 for drops and inconsistent play has now bounced back the last two weeks quite nicely. He finished with seven catches for 65 yards.

Then there was Pittman, who finished with nine catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Pittman once again looked like the best USC player on the field and made some huge catches for the Trojans.

Pittman almost made the difference in the game Saturday, but a close call that didn’t go his way in the fourth. For the record, his third-down catch looked inbounds on TV but the refs ruled him out of bounds.

Pittman and Vaughns were the lone bright spots on a Saturday when Amon-Ra St. Brown was virtually unheard from, tallying only one catch for four yards.

Watching USC, you can’t help but wonder if the offense would have benefited from having Devon Williams’ help on the outside.

Khyiris Tonga

Lord knows I love defensive line play and Saturday afternoon you would’ve been hard-pressed to find a more impactful lineman that Khyiris Tonga for BYU.

The 6-foot-4, 321-pound monster absolutely terrorized USC inside and was the key to BYU’s defense.  When you can drop eight men into a zone and still get a push up the middle and make the quarterback uncomfortable, it’s hard for an offense to do anything.

Kedon Slovis had nowhere to throw and Tonga did a good job of collapsing in on him and batting balls when he could not sack Slovis himself.

Tonga also did a fantastic job eating blocks so when USC tried to run its outside zone plays, the Cougar linebackers, who should have been easily blocked, were free to make plays.

Normally, you would try to pin a dominant defensive tackle to one side of the center and run right at the linebacker he is supposed to be attacking, so hats off to Tonga who was so dominant, Harrell didn’t even try to challenge him consistently.