Any fears that existed about USC’s offense have been put to rest.
The sixth-ranked Trojans struggled in Week 1, squeaking past Western Michigan with a 49-31 win that was much closer than the final score suggests. Pac-12 foes Stanford came to town on Saturday night and were met with an explosive USC offensive attack with playmakers both in the running and passing game.
In a 42-24 win over the No. 14 Cardinal, USC’s offense put up a whopping 623 yards — and made it look easy.
Sam Darnold didn’t throw a touchdown in Week 1. Against Stanford, Darnold completed 21-of-26 passes for 316 yards and four scores, showcasing the pinpoint accuracy and awesome playmaking ability that made him one of the breakout players in the sport last fall. His most-experienced receivers, Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell, were his favorite targets. Burnett finished the night with nine catches for 121 yards and two scores while Mitchell hauled in four balls for 94 yards. Both Burnett and Mitchell had two scores.
USC’s success through the air was set up by a ferocious ground attack. We already knew about Ronald Jones but with true freshman Stephen Carr in the mix, the Trojans have one of the better running back duos in the country. Jones was the bell cow, carrying the rock 23 times for 116 yards and two scores with the speedy Carr serving as the big play threat with 119 yards on just 11 attempts.
Stanford was unapologetically dominant in the trenches when it knocked off Rice 62-7 in Australia two weeks ago, but it was a different story against USC. After giving up 263 yards rushing to WMU, the USC run defense was much better against Stanford. Bryce Love was able to break off a 75-yard touchdown run in the first half, but Stanford totaled only 98 yards on its other 25 carries.
Stanford is at its best when it is running the ball and controlling the clock. USC wouldn’t allow that to happen. The Cardinal played most of the game from behind.
Things were a bit slow on both sides to start until the teams traded touchdowns on five straight possessions. Darnold got USC on the board first when he hit Mitchell for a four-yard score late in the first. Love’s 75-yard scamper tied the game on the next offensive play, but USC went back in front 14-7 when a Jones one-yard plunge capped off a nine-play, 80-yard drive. Stanford quickly responded with a Keller Chryst touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz, tying the game at 14 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
From there, it was pretty much all USC. On the next drive, Darnold gave USC the lead for good when he found Burnett for a 22-yard touchdown. Darnold and Burnett hooked up again on a 25-yard touchdown just before halftime, giving the Trojans a 28-17 lead at the break.
The defenses stiffened in the third quarter, with both teams going scoreless. The lead increased to 35-17 when Darnold, Jones and Carr orchestrated a 90-yard drive that was capped off with an 11-yard TD pass to Mitchell.
Stanford responded with its only scoring drive of the second half to cut the lead to 35-24 with 6:41 to play, but had no answer for Jones and Carr when it needed a stop. Jones put the capper on the impressive win with a 23-yard touchdown scamper.
USC improves to 2-0 on the season with Tom Herman’s Texas Longhorns coming into The Coliseum next weekend. Stanford, now 1-1, heads to San Diego State in Week 3.
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