The No. 13 ranked USC Trojans came out a bit sluggish against the California Golden Bears. The Trojans finally took control in the 4th quarter rolling over the Bears 27-9.
Matt Barkley came off a disappointing performance against Stanford with an equally bizarre statistical game. Barkley threw for 192 yards on 22 completions while throwing two interceptions.
One of Barkley’s picks came at the most inopportune moment, in the red zone on an underthrown jump ball to Robert Woods. Barkley looked panicked in the pocket all game long, and did not handle the constant pressure applied by Golden Bears.
If you watched the game live, it was evident Barkley wasn't quite in sync with his receivers; he never found a constant groove like he did against Hawaii and for some parts of the Syracuse game. The issues with Barkley are not physical but more mental. He needs some sort of sensational play or come-to-jesus moment to get him out of whatever mini rut he's in.
Although the Trojan passing attack came out slow, the running game was strong off the bat. The tandem of Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal combined for 273 yards on the ground, as part of the Trojans monster 296-yard effort.
Overall, the Trojans offense played below expectations but did an excellent job of defining the line of scrimmage and using its line to control the tempo of the game. Marquise Lee made a tremendous touchdown grab between two defenders and Andre Heidari came out healthy, banging two field goals.
The game was a different story for the Trojans defensively whose stats do not tell the entire picture. The Trojans accumulated seven sacks on the night, including three sacks from JC transfer Morgan Breslin. The defensive line was aggressive all night, putting pressure on Maynard forcing him out of his comfort zone.
The Golden Bears were able to use the read option and the short passing game to matriculate the ball down the field. When it mattered most however, the Trojans defense stepped up its game, forcing three field goals from the red zone and one incredible interception from T.J. McDonald.
Not only did the Bears keep the game close with time of possession, but they used a field goal from D’Amato to put the game back into one possession territory late in the fourth. Cal struggled offensively to pass the ball in the red zone, but can definitely build from two straight competitive performances against top-25 ranked teams.
The biggest key for the Trojans is its offensive line and linebacker play moving forward. Khaled Holmes left the game in the fourth quarter with a high-ankle sprain, creating a huge silence in the crowd, as fans feared the worse for their starting all-conference center.
Abe Markowitz switched from guard to center late in the fourth, solidifying the line for the remainder of the game. Although the Trojans allowed pressure to reach Barkley on numerous occasions, the unit created nice running lanes for McNeal and Redd all afternoon.
Dion Bailey, Lamar Dawson and Hayes Pullard played well for the Trojans against the run, but struggled to defend the short passing game. Keenan Allen and Jacob Wark gashed the Trojans, combining for 119 yards receiving on 11 catches. These two were honestly the bright spots in the Cal offense, but they still were able to attack the middle of the Trojan defense.
Looking forward two weeks, when the Trojans visit the hot Utah Utes, the line-backing core will be tested by dual-threat quarterback John Hayes and powerful running back John White IV. It might have been a larger part due to the game plan, but the Trojans will not want to play bend but don’t break defense against the Utes.
But congrats, USC.
You avoided the trap game and now will have time to clean up a few minor flaws in your game. Defensively, keep putting pressure on the opposing quarterback and continue to get solid play from T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey, and things will go much smoother against Utah.