For three quarters, the USC Trojans football team was in an unexpected dogfight with the San Jose State Spartans. After three periods, the Trojans led just 13-7.
By scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter the Trojans managed to pull away from the Spartans with the final outcome looking like the contest was an official blowout. The 30-7 win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was anything but that.
USC was able to stave an upset by the Spartans because its defense didn’t allow San Jose State to rush for more than 68 yards. It didn’t hurt that Greg Johnson’s 37-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter helped break the game open for the Trojans.
“That was a good football team out there today and a team that I feel is going to compete in their league again for a championship.,” USC head coach Clay Helton said in a postgame press conference. “We came into this ballgame, defensively, to try to make San José State one-dimensional, and to stop the run and try to put pressure on the quarterback. To hold them to 68 yards rushing on the day and really force a lot of third-and-longs is the reason you look up and see 3-of-14 on third downs; we were able to get off the field.”
Except for the rushing tally, The Trojans and Spartans played nearly evenly the entire game. The Trojans won the ballgame in the trenches and in the turnover battle. While its defense was holding the San Jose State running game to just 68 yards, USC pummeled the Spartans with 160 yards rushing the football.
Along with the dominance of its offensive line and run game, USC benefitted from a huge play in the second half. Johnson’s interception in the final period flipped the momentum of the game.
“Coach called a great call and I was just dropping in my zone, and reading the quarterback’s eyes,” Johnson said. “I noticed that they ran that play earlier in the game, so I just made the most of the opportunity and that’s how I did it. How did it feel running into the endzone? “Honestly it felt like a dream. It was something that I’ve always dreamt of. Being from LA and playing in the Coliseum in front of all these amazing fans while getting to do that was just great.”
Lost in the shadow of a great overall team defensive performance, USC wide receiver Drake London put his name on the checklist for the best wideout in the country. London caught 12 of the 16 passes thrown his way on the afternoon for 137 yards. Nearly half of his totals came from yards after the catch (63 yards).
“I think overall, we tried to go out there and win, and the ball happened to land in my hands a couple of times,” London said. “I just had to make the best of my opportunities, and I did.”