Sam Darnold, Dynamic Backfield Lead USC to Convincing Win vs. Stanford

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2017

Southern California running back Ronald Jones II, right, is congratulated by quarterback Sam Darnold after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Stanford, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Behind 623 yards of total offense, USC rolled to a 42-24 victory over Pac-12 rival Stanford at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.

Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold led a balanced attack with 316 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He received some help from running backs Stephen Carr and Ronald Jones II, who both went for over 100 yards on the ground.

After Stanford was forced to punt on the opening drive of the game, both offenses would go to work over the rest of the first half. The two teams scored touchdowns on their next five combined possessions, with the Trojans finding the end zone on four of their five first-half possessions.

Darnold was electric right out of the gate. The Heisman contender completed each of his first 10 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns during that scoring barrage. He also got some help from his teammates, like wide receiver Deontay Burnett on this touchdown reception, via the team's official Twitter account:

After making a mistake late in the second quarter by trying to lob a pass into a narrow window that Stanford safety Justin Reid picked off, Darnold responded on USC's next drive with back-to-back completions that gained 74 yards and ended with Burnett going into the end zone a second time, via Fox College Football:

The Trojans earned their share of praise from ESPN's Jorge Sedano and baseball writer Molly Knight for this offensive performance against a usually-stout Stanford defense:

College Football Talk's Bryan Fischer noted USC's running back tandem compares favorably to the Reggie Bush-LenDale White duo that dominated college football from 2003-05:

With USC's offense firing on all cylinders, Stanford turned to its most dynamic playmaker to keep the game close. Running back Bryce Love, who came into his junior season with the unenviable task of replacing Christian McCaffrey, has acclimated himself nicely through two games.

Love finished with 160 rushing yards and one touchdown on 17 carries, including 141 yards in the first half. He got the scoring started for Stanford with this 75-yard scamper in the first quarter, via Fox:

Despite Love's impressive showing, USC was able to take a 28-17 lead into halftime. The tempo of the game completely changed in the second half, with the defenses remembering they were allowed to stop the opposition.

After a scoreless third quarter for both teams, USC put together a terrific drive at the start of the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Darnold engineered a 12-play, 90-yard possession that was capped off by Steven Mitchell Jr.'s 11-yard touchdown catch.

Stanford did respond with a quick score when quarterback Keller Chryst hit JJ Arcega-Whiteside for a three-yard touchdown to close the gap to 35-24. It was the Cardinal's only sustained drive of the second half.

Chryst struggled to find a consistent rhythm against USC's quick-strike offense. The senior signal-caller finished 15-of-28 for 172 yards and two touchdowns.

USC wasted no time getting those seven points back. Its ensuing drive went 75 yards on just seven plays with Jones and Carr doing all of the work. Jones finished things off with a 23-yard touchdown run.

The Trojans have now won their last 11 games dating back to last season, and they have scored at least 40 points eight times during that span.

The Pac-12 looked to be loaded when this season started, with Washington as the defending conference champion, and contenders such as USC, Stanford and UCLA not far behind.

Through two games thus far, USC is starting to look like a team that will be competing for a national championship before the season comes to an end.