Sandwiched between Stanford and UCLA, Colorado was easy to overlook. Add in below freezing temperatures, and the excuses were already laid out, but the Trojans refused to make them. Instead, they delivered a mature, professional performance to keep the momentum rolling into the final game of the regular season. "We just dealt with the task at hand," said interim head coach Ed Orgeron. "We were not going to worry about any circumstances." The defense pitched a shutout for three quarters, while the offense found its balance again with 243 yards rushing and 206 yards passing.
Run to the End
At halftime, USC had just 37 yards rushing on 17 carries, so Orgeron tasked the offensive coaches with lighting a fire up front. The halftime pep talk led to 206 yards on the ground in the second half led by sophomore RB Buck Allen who ran for a career-high 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. "I am very happy with how the offense came and ran the ball in the second half," said Orgeron. "They just started blocking and being more physical. They just started opening up holes."
Baxter's Best Chess Piece
Under John Baxter, USC's special teams are terrorizing opponents with blocked kicks in four consecutive games. FB Soma Vainuku is a special teams demon with three blocked punts this season, including one tonight for a safety, and 12 special teams tackles. "Baxter said we had them in checkmate all week," said Vainuku. "We got the calls down and recognized what they were doing, and everything just fell right." Vainuku even flashed his running skills to kill off the game with a 52-yard TD burst. "I felt like I was back in high school," he said.
In the last few weeks, Clancy Pendergast has tasked CB Josh Shaw with shadowing the opponent's top receiver instead of playing one side of the field. Tonight, Shaw went one-on-one with Paul Richardson, and held CU's biggest threat without a catch until midway through the third quarter. "He's probably the best receiver that I have gone against this entire season," said Shaw of Richardson. "I just wanted to get up there and challenge him at the line of scrimmage, and I was able to do so." Shaw credits "countless hours" of film study for his success, and says he has not been going to bed until 2 a.m.
Remember the Tight Ends
The tight ends are always a fan favorite, but the group has been too banged up to contribute consistently this season. However, Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer are getting healthy at just the right time. Grimble led the team with 6 catches, while Telfer found the end zone for the first time this season. "I had a conversation with [Clay] Helton, and he told us that he is a big tight end guy, and that the key to our success is going to be our tight ends," said Telfer. "I believed him, and it has proven successful."
Bring on the Bruins
The Trojans have had nearly a year to swallow the loss to UCLA at the Rose Bowl, but the bitterness has not subsided. "I'm still sick from that game, and I am sure the entire team is," said Shaw. "It is a new year now. We're going to play them in the Coliseum, and it will be a different outcome this year." While the Pac-12 South belongs to Arizona State, no extra incentive is needed when a city championship is at stake. The game will officially kickoff at 5 p.m. PT and be nationally televised on ABC. "We are going to give it hell. We are going to give it everything we got," said Orgeron.
Folsom Field at 6:30 p.m. PT (7:30 p.m. Boulder time) on Pac-12 Networks
Buffalo to Watch: Junior WR Paul Richardson
The Trojans have been effusive in their praise for Richardson all week. He is a Los Angeles product who teamed up with Marqise Lee, George Farmer and Robert Woods at Serra High School in Gardena, so many USC players know him well. CB Josh Shaw, who will be tasked with covering Richardson for much of Saturday, has worked out with him in the off season. "If you ask me, he's the best receiver I have seen on film this year," complimented Shaw. Richardson is on pace to break CU's single-season records with 71 catches for 1,201 yards and 9 TDs already this year.
USC QB Cody Kessler seems to grow in confidence every week. Coming off his Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week performance, the sophomore will hope to feast on the Buffaloes as his predecessor did. Matt Barkley passed for 6 touchdowns in each of his two games against Colorado the previous two years. The Buffaloes have the second worst pass defense in the Pac-12 giving up 267 yards per game on average.
Heat It Up
USC has not played a game in the snow since November 30, 1957, at Notre Dame. While the snow might clear out before kickoff, Folsom Field is expected to be an unfriendly 25-degrees throughout the night. The Trojans played in cold weather games at Notre Dame and Oregon State this year, but packed houses raised the in-stadium temperature and energy level in both cases. This time, USC will have to motivate itself against a Pac-12 cellar dweller in between two monster home games against Stanford and UCLA.
If It Ain't Broke...
The Trojans are playing their best football in two years as they have found a winning formula under Ed Orgeron. Keep it loose and fun off the field, while bringing intensity and toughness on the gridiron. The win over Stanford should do nothing but boost the team's confidence even further. Many Trojans have expressed support for Orgeron's head coaching candidacy, and they know that the best thing they can do for him is to keep winning. "We know we have him for three more games, and we are going to give
everything we got for him these last three games that he's guaranteed to
be a head coach," said junior safety Dion Bailey about Orgeron.
USC is 7-0 all-time vs. Colorado including stampeding the nationally ranked Buffaloes in 2002.
By Jordan Moore on November 22, 2013 10:45 AM
No. 4 USC men's water polo lost a double overtime classic to No. 2 UCLA in Westwood last night on a controversial game-winning goal. The water polo rules are similar to soccer in that the entire ball needs to cross the goal line.