USC vs UCLA 2016: Who Were The Studs and Duds?
The annual USC vs UCLA rivalry game held some intrigue early, but the Sam Darnold factor turned the tide before halftime and left the Trojans feeling bright.
The Bruins looked to make things interesting in the first quarter, but after USC broke out of their sluggish start, there was no looking back.
With big performances from every level of the offense and another shutdown outing from the defense, the Trojans finished off the Pac-12 slate with style.
Here’s a look at who stood out in the 36-14 victory for all the right reasons and all the wrong reasons:
Who were the studs?
USC’s victory over the Bruins was all about Sam Darnold. The redshirt freshman came out of the game with a passer rating of 139 thanks to two interceptions, but he countered that with two touchdowns and 267 yards. Most importantly, Darnold was a force that UCLA simply could not handle. The quarterback effectively scrambled out of the way of the Bruin pass rush, finding receivers for critical gains and when that didn’t work he tucked the ball and ran for 27 yards on nine carries.
Ronald Jones II:
Jones accounted for 121 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were essential to USC’s surge past the Bruins. His first score was also the Trojans’ first of the evening, tying the game at seven after UCLA took the early lead. His second drew the game even again, as he burst through the line for a 60-yard touchdown run which seemed to take the air out of the Bruins’ sails.
USC’s two other touchdowns at the Rose Bowl came courtesy of Hampton, the senior receiver who had played a bit part in the 2016 season thus far. On Saturday, with JuJu Smith-Schuster hampered by an injury, Hampton took center stage. His first two touches of the game were both scores, one an impressive 31-yard grab over a UCLA defender, the other a six-yard TD to all but seal the victory of the Trojans in the third quarter.
The defensive coordinator earns the superlative when his defense puts in the collective effort the Trojans did against UCLA. After giving up an early touchdown thanks to a missed tackle, USC tightened. The Bruins converted only two of 11 third down attempts. Tellingly, they managed just 51 plays, gaining 266 total yards of offense.
Who were the duds?
Last week, Damien Mama drew the ire of the refs with multiple false start penalties at Husky Stadium. This week at the Rose Bowl it was Viane Talamaivao who committed two pre-snap penalties in a much less raucous environment.
It was a weird game for Lasley, who caught both of UCLA’s touchdown passes and finished with a team-best 63 yards. Considering that, a place on the duds list seems odd, except Lasley’s Jekkyl and Hyde routine was the epitome of the Bruin offense on the night. The receiver caught two important passes, yes, but those were the only passes he caught despite being targetted ten times. He dropped at least two of the passes sent his way and fell victim to Adoree’ Jackson on several others.
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Fafaul managed to avoid throwing an interception against the Trojans, but his evening was far from stellar. The Bruin quarterback completed under 50 percent of his passes and managed just 181 yards. He was particularly ineffective when it mattered most. On nine third down attempts, Fafaul completed just three passes and only one of those actually converted the first down.
UCLA’s Veteran Defense:
From Takkarist McKinley to Jaleel Wadood, the Bruin defense was outmatched by the Trojan attack. Left out to dry by the offense at times, UCLA allowed the dam to burst in the second quarter as USC scored 16 unanswered points before the half to take a commanding lead. McKinley and the vaunted Bruin pass rush couldn’t find a way to neutralize Sam Darnold while Wadood and the Bruin secondary could never quite contain USC’s receivers despite an injury scare for JuJu Smith-Schuster.