USC football’s studs and duds from a wild rivalry win over UCLA

USC football receiver Tyler Vaughns. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
USC football receiver Tyler Vaughns. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /
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USC football head coach Clay Helton. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
USC football head coach Clay Helton. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

The duds for USC football vs. UCLA

USC’s first-half energy

Sure, the Trojans clinched the Pac-12 South before the game even kicked off because of Colorado’s loss to Utah, but that doesn’t excuse the complete lack of energy for USC early. Whether there’s everything or nothing to play for, the annual rivalry game is reason enough for a team to be amped up.

USC didn’t look up for the game at all. Maybe it was the short rest (which will be a factor again this week) or just an off day. Whatever it was, the malaise put the Trojans in a dangerous place trailing their rivals by as much as 18 points.

Todd Orlando

USC’s defensive coordinator didn’t have an answer for Dorian Thompson-Robinson and UCLA’s attack for much of the game. Credit Thompson-Robinson for what was clearly his best game against USC. Also, credit the Trojan players for coming up with huge plays in the biggest moments, but the Bruins still put up 38 points. Far too many of those touchdowns were extraordinarily easy too.

The defense has been much improved week after week this season, but this was a setback.

Graham Harrell

As vulnerable as USC’s defense looked at times, it was the offense that should generate the most worry. USC ultimately put up 43 points in this game and came away with the win. It took individual efforts to get there though. The offense looked particularly out of whack in the first half with Kedon Slovis struggling to get things going. Graham Harrell is lucky the likes of Tyler Vaughns, Drake London, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Slovis bailed USC out.

Clay Helton

USC’s head coach is also lucky his decisions didn’t sink the Trojans. Clay Helton burned two timeouts in the second half, leaving USC at a disadvantage when the game came down to the final minute. He also chased points on a two-point conversion in the third quarter. When that failed, USC had to go for two again in the fourth. Those lost two points allowed UCLA to take the lead late, instead of just tying it with their field goal.

UCLA’s late-game management

If you put your “UCLA fan” hat on for the briefest of moments, you’d come away believing the Bruins threw the game away. Consecutive offsides set up a USC touchdown. The decision to attempt a fourth-down conversion with a backup running back on the field was a headscratcher. Special teams allowed a 56-yard return on USC’s final possession.

Pronunciation guides

Dear ESPN, it’s Tyler, not “Tayler.” It’s Amon-Ra, not “Amen.” Thanks.

Lowdown And Takeaway vs. UCLA. Next