Three turnovers, a missed field goal, a blocked field goal and a blocked punt contributed to the USC Trojans falling to the UCLA Bruins by a final score of 38-28.
Matt Barkley threw for three touchdown passes and two interceptions before being knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter. Offensively, Curtis McNeal rushed for 153 yards while trying to lead the Trojans comeback. Defensively, the Trojans struggled to stop the rushing attack of Johnathan Franklin and the mix of rushes and passes by quarterback Brett Hundley.
Let's take a look at the Trojans' final postgame grades and evaluations.
Overall Game Grade: B-
Matt Barkley both struggled and looked great at times for the Trojans, although his overall performance was not enough to help the team complete their comeback against the Bruins.
Barkley started off the game with an interception on the first play of the game, and struggled throughout the first quarter to settle into the pocket. Barkley did not complete his first pass until he hit Marqise Lee on his last pass attempt of the first quarter.
The second drive of the second quarter saw Barkley finally find his rhythm, as he hit Robert Woods for a deep pass before finding Nelson Agholor on back-to-back passes later in the drive, the latter of which was for the Trojans first touchdown. Barkley also hit Randall Telfer late in the quarter for another score.
Unfortunately, Barkley started the second-half much the same way as he started the first, going 0-for-6 to start the third quarter and trying to force throws into coverage. Barkley was eventually able to lead the Trojans from their own 25-yard line to the UCLA 27-yard line before the team had to settle for a field goal attempt.
Barkley was then intercepted to start the fourth quarter, found Lee for a touchdown on the team’s second drive and was knocked out of the game late in the quarter. Barkley managed to complete 20 passes for 301 yards, but was not able to lead the team back from an early 24-point deficit. He has now been intercepted 15 times this season, the most of his career at USC.
Overall Game Grade: A
Curtis McNeal did everything he could to try and lead the Trojans back into contention against the Bruins, and finished with his second straight game of 160 or more rushing yards.
McNeal rushed for 161 yards on 21 carries, good enough for a 7.7 average.
McNeal’s performance helped the Trojans running backs finish with a high grade, but the offense received little support from any other back.
Silas Redd, whose status for the game was questionable, finished with eight yards on three carries. D.J. Morgan had six yards on two more carries.
The Trojans as a team finished with 172 total rushing yards, the same total as the Bruins. However, the Trojans used 20 less carries to reach the amount.
Marqise Lee tried to help in the running department but fumbled the ball, leading to a fumble recovery and touchdown for the Bruins.
The run game likely could have had more yardage if the Trojans had called more rushing plays in the third quarter. Instead, McNeal had three rushes in the quarter. Matt Barkley started the third quarter 0-for-6 passing.
Overall Game Grade: A-
The Trojans wide receivers struggled to get open in the first quarter when Matt Barkley completed just one pass. However, the receivers soon returned to the form seen for most of this season and put their tremendous athleticism on display.
Marqise Lee finished with nine catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came midway through the fourth quarter on a drive in which he had two catches for a combined 53 yards.
Robert Woods caught five passes for 68 yards, while Nelson Agholor caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.
The Trojans racked up over 100 more yards passing than the Bruins, and six different players caught passes.
The third quarter saw a dip in receiving numbers as Barkley struggled to complete passes and the team stayed away from the run game, leading to an unbalanced mix of play calling. The receivers were able to eventually find holes in coverage and break for big gains.
Three players also had catches of 30 yards or more. Lee’s longest reception came for 39 yards, while Woods and Agholor had catches of 31 and 33 yards, respectively.
Overall Game Grade: B
Two tight ends caught passes for the Trojans.
Randall Telfer caught three passes for 26 yards and a touchdown. This total was Telfer’s most receiving yards in a game this season.
Sophomore Xavier Grimble also caught a pass for 15 yards, ending his streak of five straight games with 20 or more receiving yards this season.
Overall Game Grade: A
The offensive line did not allow their first sack of the game until 8:15 remained in the fourth quarter. Matt Barkley remained on his feet for the majority of the game and was forced to rush just a few throws on occasion.
The offensive line did a tremendous job of opening lanes for Curtis McNeal as he rushed for 161 yards. In total the offense was able to gain 513 yards.
Overall Game Grade: B+
The defensive line had plays where it looked as if the defense was about to help the Trojans complete their comeback, such as George Uko’s fumble recovery in the end zone to start the second half.
Wes Horton and Leonard Williams also combined to have solid games and get to the quarterback at crucial times.
Morgan Breslin had an outstanding game and increased his sack total to keep him among the Pac-12’s best.
However, the Trojan defense allowed Bruins running back Johnathan Franklin to rack up 171 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground. The line also had trouble containing Brett Hundley at times, although Hundley has proved how difficult it is to keep him in the pocket for much of this season.
The Trojan defense managed to record five sacks against the Bruins inexperienced line.
Overall Game Grade: C+
The Trojans did a very poor job of tackling numerous times throughout the game, especially against Bruins running back Johnathan Franklin.
Franklin managed to pick up a third-down conversion after catching a pass from Hundley near the line of scrimmage and breaking tackles for 14 yards in the second quarter. Franklin later capped the drive by catching a 16-yard pass although, once again, he picked up most of the yards after making the catch.
The Trojans also struggled at times to contain Hundley, as he too was able to avoid tackles.
Despite the poor tackling, players such as Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey were able to make plays for the Trojans.
Anthony Sarao also had a great game for the Trojans, making his presence felt on both defense and special teams.
Overall Game Grade: B+
Despite allowing Brett Hundley to complete 22 of 30 passes for 234 yards and a score, the Trojans secondary featured numerous players who made big plays on defense.
Josh Shaw had an outstanding game and was in on multiple crucial tackles and pass deflections.
T.J. McDonald also helped in leading the secondary in allowing only one pass of 20 yards or more.
Jawanza Starling also contributed in pass defense, while Nickell Robey returned from an early injury to help in the secondary.
The Trojans defensive backs also had a few missed tackles, but they were also often the last line of defense after Bruins running back Johnathan Franklin had gotten through the line of scrimmage and past the linebackers. The Trojans were able to force the Bruins into going 0-4 on third-down conversions to start the second-half, although the secondary was not able to force a turnover.
Overall Game Grade: C-
The Trojans special teams were quiet during the first-half with few opportunities to make big plays. However, they did not make things easier for the team through their play in the second-half.
Kicker Andre Heidari missed an extra point early in the third quarter before Kyle Negrete had a punt blocked. The Bruins got the ball in great field position and were eventually able to pick up a touchdown.
Heidari had a fourth quarter field goal blocked that would have put the Trojans to within a touchdown late in the game. The team still would have had to recover an onside kick to have any chance at completing the comeback, but the blocked field goal essentially ended the comeback bid.
Overall Game Grade: D+
Head coach Lane Kiffin’s seat is getting hotter now that the Trojans have lost four games against the Pac-12 and have missed out on the Pac-12 Championship Game.
The play calling on both sides of the ball in the first quarter led to the Trojans falling behind early and having to wait until the second quarter to get anything going. The Trojans improved defensively as the game went on, but never found a way to stop Johnathan Franklin. The Trojans also had difficulty stopping Brett Hundley throughout the game.
The coaching staff’s most questionable decision was to stay away from the run game in the third quarter. Rather than relying on Curtis McNeal to help lead the Trojans back into contention, the play calling kept the ball in Matt Barkley’s hands despite his starting the quarter 0-for-6 passing. The Trojans were able to get the offense going eventually, but struggled on defense throughout the game, especially when it came to tackling.