Trojans play the hitting game

LOS ANGELES-You can run but you can’t hide. Utah State found that out on Saturday. The Aggies found out that the going can get tough on the ground when’re you’re facing a ticked off team with their ears pinned back and ready to knock the snot out of you.

The ticked off team was the USC Trojans that Utah State had the misfortune of going up against at the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium. USC entered its nonconference matchup against Utah State not in the best of moods. They wanted to tee off on somebody. The Trojans got the Aggies to butt helmets with.

USC, still smarting from their season-opening debacle against Alabama, didn’t hold back their pent up frustration against Utah State, thrashing the Aggies in a 45-7 win at home. The game wasn’t as close as the final score shows. It was a rude morning and mid-afternoon greeting that USC gave their Mountain West opponent.

USC handed Utah State their hats at the line of scrimmage. The Trojans pushed the Aggies around on both sides of the ball, going for a 178-49 advantage in the run game. And they pretty much had their way on special teams. Everything was on point for the Trojans.

Nowhere was that more noticeable than on the defensive front.

USC clamped down on Utah State to come away with a 45-7 win in the Trojans' 2016 home opener. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline
USC clamped down on Utah State to come away with a 45-7 win in the Trojans’ 2016 home opener. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

USC held Utah State’s running attack to just 49 yards for the game, and hounded Aggies’ quarterback Kent Myers into a deceptive statistical afternoon of missed opportunities and facing constant defensive pressure.

The defensive unit played lights out. Everything that went wrong last week went right for USC in their easy pasting of Utah State. The Trojans’ victory against the overmatched Aggies was in stark contrast to their not-to-pleasant defeat at the hands of  No. 1 Alabama.

After being embarrassed in the national spotlight against the Crimson Tide, USC took its weeklong anger and doled it on Utah State. The best sign of  a fired up team is watching how its defensive unit play on that side of the ball. The Trojans’ defense was relentless against the Aggies.

For a minute there, it looked like USC might pitch a shutout for game. The Aggies’ third-quarter touchdown wiped that off the slate. Nevertheless, it was an impressive defensive outing for a unit that surrendered 52 points to the top-ranked Crimson Tide just a week ago.

So dominant was the Trojans’  defense that USC held Utah State to just 13 first downs in the game. So locked down were the Trojans on defense, especially in the secondary, that Myers and Utah State didn’t even waste their breath to try to go downtown with the deep ball.

USC wide receiver Darreus Rogers moves the chain with this reception against Utah State. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline
USC wide receiver Darreus Rogers moves the chain with this reception against Utah State. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

With all of that being said, it was the playmaking of the USC special teams unit that got the ball rolling offensively for the Trojans. It was special teams that provided the backbreaking points that solidified USC’s first victory of the season.

The biggest round of applause should go to Michael Pittman Jr., whose blocked punt late in the first quarter, gave quarterback Max Browne and the Trojans a good starting point to score their first touchdown.

Pittman’s game-altering play was a good setup for Browne, who threw two touchdown passes in the game. Cornerback and return specialist Adoree’ Jackson might have an argument in this category. It was his 71-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter that literally put the hammer on the nail for the Trojans.

With USC up 24-7, but sensing the Trojans needed a big play, Jackson scooped the ball after a bounce, did some wiggling to elude several Utah State defenders before turning on the jets enroute to his devastating touchdown run.

If defense won the game for USC, kudos have to be awarded and thrown to the Trojans’ special teams. And you can’t forget about Browne, who played efficiently, completing 23 of 30 passes for 182 yards and engineered his first multiple touchdown game.

Despite being the object of attention all afternoon, JuJu Smith-Schuster went out and snatched two touchdown passes, including putting USC on the scoreboard with a three-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.

It was a solid outing and a good rebound win for the Trojans. It’s one game. Now they get Christian McCaffrey and Stanford.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1083 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.