COLUMN: Trojans rebound with win in Tempe

first_imgI thought USC was going to lose Saturday night. For the first time in my life as a Trojan fan, I came into a game expecting the football team to lose. No matter who the Trojans were facing off against, I have always thought USC would win. After last week’s Stanford loss, my confidence in the program’s direction, like many fans, was severely shaken. After last night’s victory, I am happy to have been wrong.Now this is not to say all is right with the USC program and that the Stanford loss was a blip. I think Saturday’s victory over the Sun Devils was partially attributable to the fact that USC faced a vastly overrated squad. At the end of the day, though, a win is a win, and a much-needed one for USC. It was pretty early to have a must-win game on the schedule, but Saturday night’s tilt against the Sun Devils definitely qualified.The Trojans won in convincing fashion against Arizona State, going up 35-0 at halftime and maintaining a significant margin throughout the entire contest. Though the offense looked stagnant at times in the second half, it’s hard to maintain focus when you are blowing the other team out. The win wasn’t beautiful as the Trojans looked sloppy at times, but the sheer amount of talent on USC’s roster was evident as the game wore on.Hopefully as the season progresses, the coaching staff can harness this talent, reduce the penalties and turn the Trojans into the team everyone was expecting this preseason.On offense, Adoree’ Jackson has to get the ball every game. He might be the most explosive player in college football, even as LSU tailback Leonard Fournette breaks new records every Saturday. Jackson’s balance and instincts are incredible on their own. Couple that with his    world-class speed, and it is no wonder he seemingly makes a big play every time he touches the ball. His long touchdown catch was a great play, but the two more impressive moves by him were his complete change of direction on the punt return and shedding four or five tackles on the screen pass.In addition to Jackson, receiver Juju Smith-Schuster continues to impress. The Arizona State game started with another long connection from Cody Kessler to Smith-Schuster, and it seems he has developed into a bonafide deep threat this year. Smith-Schuster offers the complete package as he has always been physical after short catches, churning away for extra yards. Now that defenders have to respect the deep ball, it gives him more space to work with underneath. The long drag routes across the middle of the field have been impossible to cover for defensive backs this year, and, hopefully, the Trojans continue to press this advantage.Jackson and Smith-Schuster were not the only skill position players to impress, as senior quarterback Cody Kessler turned in another stellar performance. His ability to avoid hits in the pocket and keep plays alive paid major dividends against the Sun Devils as it extended multiple drives. Additionally, it was nice to see Kessler flash the athleticism that made him a standout high school point guard, as his mobility is often underutilized.Additionally, the defense responded well after the shellacking at the hands of Stanford last week. They attacked the ball and made plays happen. While the line was gashed up the middle on plenty of runs, overall the defense had a much better game plan in place. It’s amazing what happens when the Trojans blitz and put pressure on the opposing quarterback; they either throw it away or into a defender’s hands.All of these signs are positive, but it is way too early to tell if Arizona State is a truly quality opponent this season. Outside of ASU quarterback Michael Bercovici’s incredible performance in the last five minutes of last year’s game against USC, he has been barely above average as a                             Pac-12 quarterback. Add on the 14-point swing as a result of Arizona State’s goal line fumble, as well as the ensuing turnover on the kickoff, and it’s hard to know how much of the game was due to the Trojans’ talent or the Sun Devils’ ineptitude.Regardless, it is a victory and a much-needed one. As the Trojans take some time to rest during the bye, it must be a welcome relief to be 3-1 and not 2-2. It was only a few years ago that a shaky Trojans team went into a must-win game against Notre Dame, and as it looked like the Irish were starting to gain momentum, former safety Jawanza Starling took a bad snap to Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. After that game, the Trojans pulled off an upset against Oregon and beat UCLA 50-0. Here’s hoping that Chris Hawkins’s fumble recovery can bring about a similar mojo for this year’s squad.last_img

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