Coming into Week 6, predicting USC Football to give up just 14 points on defense while only allowing 316 total yards on the day would be reasonable. Predicting them to give up just 14 points on the day and only allow 316 total yards without starting Will Linebacker Shane Lee and starting Strong Safety Calen Bullock, however, would be a risky bet in many critics' eyes.
That is, however, exactly what happened as USC pulled out a 30-14 win to advance to 6-0 on the year. Shane Lee ended up not being able to go on Saturday, despite being expected to be "fully available" according to Lincoln Riley on Thursday. Bullock was healthy, but ended up getting ejected early on due to a wildly controversial targeting call:
USC looked a little lost on D for a little bit after that, but pitched a shutout in the second half. Their dominance in the third quarter continues, and so many guys on the defensive side of the ball really stepped up in the absence of important players. For instance, Ralen Goforth got the start for SC in place of Lee and led the team with eight tackles.
The secondary as a whole looked great, which was needed with Bullock out too. The Trojans only gave up 172 yards through the air, as Washington State Quarterback Cameron Ward only completed 19 of 32 passes (59.4%). It wasn't just the back seven that performed at an impressive level, though. The defensive line picked up five sacks on the day.
The attack was led by Tuli Tuipulotu and Nick Figueroa, who were both sensational on the day. Tuipulotu had five tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks. He even hurried the QB on another play as well. He was everywhere, and proved that he's indeed the best player on SC's defense. Figueroa proved that he can make an impact whenever he's healthy, collecting a pair of sacks himself.
Tuipulotu is now all the way up to seven sacks on the season for USC Football, which is a career-high.
USC Football Defensive Lineman Tuipulotu is also now all the way up to 12.5 tackles for loss, which is yet another career-high. It's safe to say he's having the best year of his career, after already being very good in his first two at USC. SC came into the game tied for fifth in the nation in sacks (19), and ended up picking up five more. It was a true masterclass of a performance from the line.
They also were tied for 20th with 36 tackles for loss. Adding nine to that total on Saturday night, they're sure to continue placing well there. There were a lot of concerns about this defense coming into the season, but they've given up 17 points or less in three of their last four games, and four of their six games this year.
This was a game where the defense was a bit better than the offense, and decided to bear down when the offense had possessions where they would stall (which certainly did happen at times). They can still clean up their run defense, as they allowed five yards a carry in the game.
They did more than enough other things right, though, which led to yet another convincing win to close out the first half of the season.