USC football's win against Fresno State was an important one. Sure--Fresno State isn't the best opponent, but they're one of the better Group of Five teams in the country, and they're a scrappy team that likes to keep it close against the Trojans. They have a star quarterback in Jake Haener who was playing with a massive chip on his shoulder.
USC, however, held that star quarterback and a solid offense led by respectable Head Coach Jeff Tedford to just 17 points. They forced a couple of turnovers, and wreaked havoc for five sacks. None of those 'big plays' were what stood out to USC Head Coach Lincoln Riley, though.
His favorite part was actually the last minute goal line stand USC went on to keep the Bulldogs to 17 points, and secure a 28-point win. He admitted as much after the game, according to USC Football Team Reporter Keely Eure:
It was not just Lincoln Riley going crazy on the sideline after USC football's goal line stand, too.
The entire sideline was going nuts after that goal line stand for USC football, and not just Lincoln Riley. It goes to show that USC is improving in its culture. That play would not have mattered anywhere near as much as it did on Saturday during the tenures of Clay Helton, Steve Sarkisian, and Lane Kiffin. All 60 minutes truly were meaningful to Riley and the team on Saturday.
They made a statement on that last drive. Sure, even if they gave up a touchdown and extra point there, they still would have won 45-24. It was important for USC to prove themselves on defense, and show that they can indeed make clutch plays to finish drives against opposing offenses.
They proved that even in contests where they give up a lot of yards (in this case 421 yards), they're still not going to let them score enough to keep up with this offense. While USC is giving up 380.7 yards per game this year (82nd in the country), they're holding teams to just 19.7 points per game (46th in the country).
While neither number is great, the defense has been good enough to where they can bend but not break, and at least give the offense a good shot to win a shootout. Compared to what this defense was last year, which was one of the worst in USC history, that's a strong improvement in just the first year under new DC Alex Grinch. He doesn't even have his type of personnel yet.
He has USC tied for second in sacks nationally, and tied for fourth in turnovers nationally. Garnering attention for multiple head coaching openings right now, it's safe to say the rest of the country has taken notice of the trajectory he has this defense going in.