LOS ANGELES, CA-Timing is everything. USC running back Ronald Jones II proved that in the Trojans’ 49-35 win at home Saturday. Just when things were getting a bit crazy for the Trojans at the end of the ballgame, just when Arizona star quarterback Khalil Tate was imposing his will on the contest by rallying his team from a double-digit deficit, Jones put on his hard hat and went to work.
With the scored knotted at 35-35, Jones scored two late touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help USC wrap up its eight win of the season. Jones may not be in the mix as a frontrunner to the Heisman Trophy this season, but he should be. Quarterback Sam Darnold have received the bulk of the Trojans’ praises this season as USC look to claim the Pac-12 Conference South Division title.
All the preseason and in season hype about Darnold has been justified by the redshirt sophomore’s dynamic play, week in and week out for the Trojans. But it’s hard for anyone to sleep on what the ground game has meant for Darnold and the USC offense. With a more than capable rushing attack, USC opponents have had to choose which offensive headache they can live with.
When defenses concentrate on trying to stop Darnold, it is Jones and his backfield crew that forces them to play honestly. As a result, USC is now standing as the class of the Pac-12 Conference South Division, with games with Colorado and UCLA left to go. Darnold may pile up the postseason accolades, but Jones should have a seat right along with him.
In back-to-back weeks against Arizona State and Arizona, USC have managed to knock off the other two potential contenders to the South Division crown. In doing so, the Trojans unleashed the Cardinal and Gold blur with the No. 25 patched to the back of his jersey. In USC’s 48-17 road victory against Arizona State, Jones went nuclear, rushing for a season-high 216 yards and two touchdowns.
Jones was just as lethal in the Trojans’ homecoming win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against the Wildcats. As Tate, the former Serra High star was showcasing his magical field talents against the USC defense, breaking the Pac-12 Conference season rushing mark for a quarterback, Jones reached into his own bag of tricks for the Trojans.
All three of his touchdowns, including the last two in the final period against Arizona, came in the second half. For the game, Jones rushed for 194 yards, the sixth time this season he has gone over the century mark. Probably the most remarkable thing about what Jones, who has rushed for over 1,000 (, 1082 yards) yards this season, is that he is nearly averaging seven yards (6.8 yards per rush attempt) every time he takes a handoff from Darnold.
If he keeps this up, Jones is going to be part of everyone’s talking point list about the best running back in college football next season.