The USC Trojans hosted No. 19 Colorado Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, returning to action for the first time since defeating Arizona. As the contest unfolded, the bye-week off gave USC the boost they needed, especially in the second quarter when the Trojans erupted for 21 points on their way to a 31-20 victory against the Buffaloes.
The Trojans got off to an initial rocky start as freshman quarterback JT Daniels threw an interception on the first play of the game giving Colorado great field position on the Trojans 40-yard line. It would be an odd night for Daniels, who passed for 272 yards and three touchdowns but threw two interceptions as well.
USC’s defense held strong on that initial hiccup by Daniels and forced a sack leading the Buffaloes to have to punt the ball back to the Trojans. Daniels, who showed poise and confidence in the last two previous wins for the Trojans, played like a freshman for most of the first quarter, throwing another ill-advised interception. However, the Trojans defense held strong again.
USC played well defensively in the first quarter even though they were without a key crucial defensive player, senior linebacker Cameron Smith. The Trojans captain leads the team with 47 tackles after five games with one sack. Smith has been dealing with an injured hamstring since the season began.
The Trojans started the second quarter with possession of the ball. But two incomplete passes and a penalty against the Trojans for unsportsmanlike conduct forced the Trojans to punt. The Buffaloes offense finally found its rhythm and struck first blood against the Trojans by putting together a scoring drive that took only less than a minute. Altogether, Colorado’s scoring drive amounted to three plays, 58 yards, which was culminated with an electrifying 49-yard touchdown run by running back Laviska Shenault.
The Trojans offense finally began to move the ball in the second quarter with Daniels snapping out of his first-quarter funk. After Colorado jumped out to the early lead, Daniels led the Trojans down the field with an impressive six play, 69-yard scoring drive that featured a pair of passes to running back Tyler Vaughn, one of them a 27-yard touchdown pass. With the extra point by Michael Brown, the Trojans evened the score at 7.
As soon as USC touched the ball again, Daniels struck again on a 2-play scoring drive with a 65-yard touchdown pass to wideout Michael Pittman. The Trojans defense continued to shut down the Buffaloes offense forcing another punt to the Trojans who looked to score again before the half ended.
USC’s offense didn’t disappoint. Daniels and the Trojans struck quickly with a 55-yard scoring drive that took 47 seconds. The four-play scoring drive ended with Daniels connecting on a 9-yard touchdown pass to Pittman with 1;10 left in the half, putting the Trojans up by double-digits.
The Buffaloes defense shut down the Trojans rushing game in the first half which was essentially non-existent throughout the game. Daniels’ three touchdowns tosses and 255 yards through the air in the first half is the only reason why the Trojans walked into the locker room with the lead.
The Buffaloes began the second half with possession of the ball, but their quarterback, Steven Montez, struggled as he did in the first half, and Colorado just couldn’t get their offense going anywhere. Midway through the third quarter, Montez was picked off by USC defender Ajene Harris, who ran back the interception for a 6-yard touchdown, giving the Trojans a 28-7 lead. That all but sealed the ballgame for the Trojans.
The fourth quarter didn’t fare any better for the Buffaloes as they couldn’t move the ball with any consistency against a Trojan defense that was stubborn and relentless. Colorado scored a meaningless touchdown that took 16 plays and burned nearly seven minutes off the clock. The drive culminated with a 3-yard touchdown by running back Kyle Evans. Colorado added a final touchdown to tightened the box score, but this was a big win for the Trojans.
USC coasted the rest of the game, remaining content to just move the ball down the field to run the clock out and hand Colorado it’s first loss of the season. With the victory, USC jumps to first place in the Pac-12 Conference South Division. The attendance for the game was 57,617. Next up for the Trojans is a key Pac-12 Conference game with Utah on the road.
Ali is a long time South Los Angeles civil rights activist, author, and blogger. Ali may be contacted at Brothernajeeali@gmail.com.