USC Football beats Cal, but puts awful defense on full display

Mekhi Blackmon, USC Football, USC Trojans
Mekhi Blackmon, USC Football, USC Trojans / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football beat Cal on Saturday night by a score of 41-35, and it looked exactly how that score sounded. Great offense was played by USC, but terrible defense was played by USC. It was just that. Trojan QB1 Caleb Williams completed 26 passes out of 41 attempts, tossing for 360 passing yards and four passing touchdowns.

The offense didn't turn the ball over once, and Williams even chipped in 38 rushing yards on seven carries and a rushing touchdown. This was all done without USC's top two receivers with Jordan Addison and Mario Williams missing the contest due to injury. Michael Jackson III and Tahj Washington stepped up big time in their absences yet again this week.

Jackson racked up five catches for 115 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. Washington posted seven catches for 112 receiving yards and a touchdown himself. Jackson also had a carry for 19 rushing yards on the ground, and Terrell Bynum even came through with seven catches for 68 receiving yards.

Travis Dye was sensational at running back, toting the rock for 98 yards on 15 carries. He also had two catches for 18 receiving yards. So many guys played well on offense, but so few players played well on defense. SC's defense as a whole surrendered 469 total yards.

Sure, they only allowed 63 rushing yards on 24 carries, but they were absolutely horrendous in defending the pass. They gave up 406 passing yards to Cal QB Jack Plummer, and three passing touchdowns from him.

They did force him to throw an interception, but that was their only takeaway of the contest. Also giving up two rushing touchdowns, they allowed the Golden Bears to score 35 points. Tuli Tuipulotu had two sacks, but only one other Trojan picked up another sack for USC all night (Tyrone Taleni). Nine tackles for loss was awesome, but again, the pass defense really struggled.

USC Football let Jeremiah Hunter go for 102 receiving yards for Cal.

USC Football also gave up a touchdown catch to him, and Mavin Anderson had 87 receiving yards and a touchdown catch himself for the Golden Bears. RB Jaydn Ott averaged just 3.6 rushing yards per carry for 50 yards, but SC also surrendered 70 yards to him through the air. WR Monroe Young had a touchdown catch to go along with his 66 receiving yards.

It was a lousy performance, and one that many were worried about happening. USC entered the contest allowing 24 points per game (tied for just 51st in America) and allowing 401.8 total yards per game (88th in America).

Sure enough, they performed even worse than both those marks, and it goes to show that SC desperately needs Eric Gentry and Ralen Goforth back before as soon as humanly possible. Those would be MASSIVE gains for this defense; as they are two of the three primary rotational linebackers that SC has. Right now, they're just going with Shane Lee and not much depth behind him.

It would especially be big to get Gentry back, who suffered an ankle injury against Utah in Week 7. In the seven games he's played in, he's put together 52 tackles and two PD's. He also has 2.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and a forced fumble. His 7-1 wingspan in the middle of the field disrupts so much of the opponent's passing game.

So, while it's nice that Bryson Shaw had 11 tackles and a PD, and Tuipulotu had those two sacks and two tackles for loss, it's evident that this defense has A LOT to clean up if they really want to finish this season strong.

Next. Predictions for rest of USC Football season. dark

They can get away with this type of performance next week against Colorado, but there are no guarantees for the UCLA game the week after, or in the last week of the season against Notre Dame. USC likely controls their own destiny when it comes to making the College Football Playoff, but so much that they seem to have no control over when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.