USC Football: Studs and duds from the Trojans’ loss to Washington

USC football QB coach Graham Harrell. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
USC football QB coach Graham Harrell. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /
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Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC went on the road and fell for the second time this season. Here are the studs and the duds from the 28-14 loss to the No. 17 Washington Huskies.

FINAL. USC Lose Familiar Struggle-Fest

One thing I have to say about this USC football team is that they have heart. Even though USC was down to their only scholarship quarterback, the Trojans did not look overwhelmed or overmatched. They battled every play, on both offense and defense. And, despite being given every opportunity to fold up shop, blame the injuries and go home, they didn’t.

When critiquing this team going forward, we can stop using cliches like “soft.” This team has proven on the field that they are anything but. If the play calling was different and the offensive staff had the ability to adjust on the fly, USC could’ve walked out of Husky Stadium with a win. Which naturally made the turnover-filled loss, even more, difficult to take.

Here are the studs and the duds from the loss.


USC Running Backs

USC didn’t have a great game offensively against Washington, though the running backs did the most with their limited opportunities.

Stephen Carr, who finished with only seven carries but had 94 yards, was phenomenal on the outside zone plays, picking up chunk yardage and trying to keep USC in the game.

Vavae Malepeai also did a good job when given the opportunity. He finished with 10 carries for 49 yards. There is one thing about Malepeai that is frustrating. He is such a good north-south runner, it’s extremely frustrating having to watch him try and find space on outside zone shotgun runs when he’s most effective making one cut while running downhill. That’s not his fault though, that’s on the offensive play calling.

Then there’s the true hammer of this USC running back stable, Markese Stepp. He finished the game with 10 carries for 62 yards and is really emerging has a downhill, smash-you-in-the-mouth back. I only hope USC finds more power and trap blocking schemes to get him the ball and get him downhill fast so that linebackers and safeties have to try and tackle him.

The USC defense

The defense was injured, undermanned and going against the best quarterback and offensive line that they have faced all season, and you know what? They did quite a good job.

Yes, they gave up an 89-yard touchdown run, and it was again a safety getting blocked in the box that allowed the big run. But this unit fought. They were put in multiple, terrible situations by their offense and, if the ball bounces a different way, would’ve only given up one touchdown off the turnovers.

The defensive line continued to keep the inside run in check because Tufele and Tuipulotu are two of the best in the conference. Palaie Gaoteote was playing like an absolute missile, flying in and blowing up plays. Then, in one of the most critical moments of the game, when Washington was going for the kill shot with a trick play, this USC defense made a play and came up with a turnover.

Despite being young and inexperienced this secondary has done a pretty good job as well.

Michael Pittman Jr.

Saturday was another workmanlike day for Pittman, racking up four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Pittman had a rough afternoon because it was clear that Washington was going to try and make someone besides Pittman beat them, as signified by the defender lined up over him, and a second defender lined up 15 yards behind that one. While facing the majority of the coverage, Pittman still did his thing, making catches and blocking downfield.