USC rebounded, sort of, against Cal on Saturday night, emerging the victors by a score of 27-9. Interestingly enough, the 2011 score in this series was USC 30, Cal 9.
This game came down to defense, and both teams stepped up this week to prevent runaway scoring. USC was held to under 30, unusual for this Trojan team. Cal managed a trio of field goals, redeeming their kicker for the three he missed at Ohio State last week.
The good news is both injured USC kicker Andre Heidari and center Khaled Holmes played versus Cal, giving USC the boost, and perhaps even confidence, they needed to manage this game and win it decisively.
The Trojans still looked sloppy and it was not a pretty victory. Though, as a friend said to me at the final buzzer: “It may not have been pretty to watch, but a win is a win.” True, however, when you’re fighting for a trip to Miami from a one-loss point of view, style counts, and this Trojan team still lacks style.
I’d like to leave you with this thought before getting onto the winners and losers from USC’s victory over Cal: 1-3 Colorado is tied with ASU for the lead in the Pac-12’s South Division. Chew on that thought for awhile, fellow Trojans.
In USC’s first three games, much was made of the Trojans’ lack of progress on the running front. Part of that was due to the sub-par play of the offensive line. Well, the O-Line answered this week, putting up enough blocks to allow the USC tailbacks to strut their stuff.
USC ran for 296 yards on the ground, with Silas Redd accounting for 158 yards and a score and Curtis McNeal racking up 115 yards on 10 carries.
After only putting up 26 yards rushing versus Stanford last week, the Trojans had 296 yards on the ground this week.
For the second week in a row, a defense was able to stifle USC’s elite receivers.
In fact, Marqise Lee had the best day of the bunch with 11 catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. TE Xavier Grimble had two grabs for 38 yards and Robert Woods had five for 30 yards, his longest reception on the day was 11 yards.
Historically, USC has has problems stopping small running backs. One only has to look to former UCLA RB Maurice Jones-Drew and former Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers to incite shudders in Trojan fans.
Not this year, Trojan fans. The USC defense stopped Isi Sofele, holding him to just 52 yards.
Barkley continues to, if not hurt, not exactly help his Heisman chances with performances that are less than impressive. He finished this game 22-for-34 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but expectations for this Trojan QB are sky high.
Those are not bad numbers by any means, but they are not what is expected of the “golden boy” from Southern California. Most Heisman pundits have Barkley trailing WVU’s Geno Smith in the early Heisman ballots. (Daily News, Inside USC)
Freshman LB Dion Bailey continued to shine with another fumble recovery on the Golden Bears’ first possession.
On the evening, Bailey’s stats included eight tackles and two interceptions, however it was his end-zone interception that knocked the wind out of the Golden Bears’ offense and gave a shot of life to the USC defense.
USC continues to rack up injuries on a team already suffering from too many to key players while also playing 10 men down due to NCAA scholarship restrictions.
USC freshman linebacker Scott Starr and offensive lineman David Garness will miss the rest of the 2012 season.
Starr will apply for a medical redshirt for neck problems he has been experiencing. He was listed as Lamar Dawson’s primary backup at middle linebacker, but had been seeing playing time on special teams so far this season.
Garness, a JUCO transfer from Alaska, redshirted the 2011 season as well. He has seen no playing time with the Trojans and will have back surgery this season.
The NCAA-mandated maximum for a medical redshirt is 30 percent of a team’s games. With three games being 25 percent, any more games Starr participates in would cost him a year of eligibility.
Of USC’s 75 scholarship players, five are expected to miss the entire 2012 season. Along with Starr and Garness, DEs Devon Kennard and DeVante Wilson are out along with LB Tre Madden.
USC has a bit of a break ahead. The Trojans have a bye this week, followed by a Thursday night game at Utah.
A game at Washington shouldn’t be too much of a problem and then the Trojans get Colorado at home on October 20.
Hopefully, by then injuries will heal, the team will gel and hit the late-season stride this program is famous for.