USC football's offense put up 35 points in the first half in their strong 41-28 win against the Stanford Cardinal. They scored touchdowns in all of their first five drives. They had another "drive" after that for a sixth where they didn't score, but it was just USC getting the ball back with 1:08 left in the half (while deep in their own territory) after the defense forced the Cardinal to punt.
The offense was firing on all cylinders, led by FOUR first half touchdown passes from QB Caleb Williams, and four catches for 109 receiving yards and two touchdowns for WR1 Jordan Addison. Their connection continues to be absurd, and nothing short of amazing. After that, the entire second half felt like garbage time.
That's because it essentially was. SC was up 35-14, not only putting up a ton of points, but also forcing THREE turnovers. Two interceptions off of Stanford's NFL Draft prospect QB Tanner McKee, and a fumble lost by who's likely Stanford's best skill position playmaker in E.J. Smith (son of Florida and NFL legend Emmitt Smith).
USC football then took their foot off the gas in the second half against Stanford.
Should USC football have taken their feet off the gas pedal after the half? Well, no, but it's important to also understand the context. It was 35-14, and Stanford kept turning the ball over, even when they were in the red zone.
SC was in complete control of the game, and as long as they kicked even just one field goal in the second half, were going to win comfortably even if Stanford scored the same amount of second half points as they did in the first half.
Sure enough, the Cardinal did score that many, and got up to 28 points. And sure enough, USC still won comfortably even while just kicking two field goals all second half and not finding the end zone at all. USC ran the ball quite a bit in the second half, to make sure they sat on their lead. That's what the best teams do when they jump out to commanding advantages like SC did this week.
So, while USC only scored six points in the second half, it's important not to be discouraged. When USC needed to score and get off to a hot enough start to put the game away by halftime, they did. While teams with built up, strong cultures don't ever let up, the offense looked great on the day and isn't worth expressing any concern about.
The Trojans racked up 505 total yards of offense, and capitalized off of every turnover (even in the second half). SC forced four turnovers, and the offense turned it into 24 points. And that's even with two of those turnovers leading USC to start with the ball at the 17-yard line, and the 2-yard line. USC found the end zone both times.
Look, everyone who follows Pac-12 football knows that Stanford Head Coach David Shaw loves to control the clock. He loves to run the ball, and try to set the physicality level early and often. He tries to wear down the defense early, even if the returns aren't seen until the end of the game. He knows he'll get his shot to win as long as he continues to control the clock and tempo of the game.
Teams routinely wear down in the second half, when playing against Stanford teams that are big and physical up front on both sides. Of course the offense wasn't going to put up 35 in the second half as they did in the first half. The main takeaway should be that it took until 5:03 left in the game for Stanford to pull within 13 of the Trojans.
If Stanford was really containing the USC offense, it wouldn't have taken them that long to be able to pull within a couple of scores. Shaw's focus on trench play on defense, and his tempo-setting on offense would have had stronger effects on the Trojans--leading to offensive lapses much earlier in the contest.
In reality, however, the game was out of reach for Stanford all day. USC's offense got off to such a fast start that the W felt like it was in the books very early on. Shaw's effort to keep the game close enough and pull out a win at the end when USC would hopefully be exhausted in the trenches failed, because USC's offense was too good to keep it close at all.