6-Points: USC Football 30, San José State 7
Break Even D
The USC defense scored as many points as it gave up in a dominant season-opening display against a talented San Jose State offense. The Trojans put together a comprehensive defensive performance, holding the Spartans to 67 yards rushing and forcing 22 incompletions. "We trusted our game plan," said senior DB Greg Johnson. "Coach [Orlando] talked to us at halftime and we made our adjustments, but just trusting our game plan let us ride it out and execute on defense. Ultimately we got the win."
In the offseason, the Trojans stressed improvement in the running game after last season's struggles on the ground. Graham Harrell's offense delivered on the promise, running 34 times for 160 yards. The two-headed approach worked well as Keontay Ingram averaged 5.7 yards per carry and Vavae Malepeai ran for 4.6 yards per carry. "It was sure enjoyable to have a balance today with the run game with the two backs," said head coach Clay Helton. The run-pass split was almost exactly 50-50 as the Trojans passed it 36 times to counter the 34 runs.
Shake and Drake
Drake London was clearly the focal point of the passing game, setting a new personal-best with 12 catches to go along with 137 receiving yards. Memphis transfer Tahj Washington provided a nice complement to London, scoring the game's first touchdown on a 29-yard grab en route to a 56-yard USC debut. No other receiver caught a pass but Kedon Slovis (25/36 for 263 yards and 2 TDs) did get the tight ends involved as Erik Krommenhoek and Jude Wolfe had two catches apiece.
The Coliseum was getting a little nervous when the offense stalled in the second and third quarters allowing San Jose State to get back into the game. Greg Johnson changed the mood and the game with his first career pick-six early in the fourth quarter. "Honestly it felt like a dream," Johnson said. "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."
Call Him Sticks
Two-time captain Isaiah Pola-Mao was forced to miss the game due to healthy and safety protocols, providing an opportunity for true freshman Calen Bullock to get the start at safety. The Pasadena native was not awed by the atmosphere or the moment, leading the Trojans in tackles and patrolling the secondary like a veteran. "I thought he did a great job out there," Johnson said about Bullock. "For that to be his first game, he looked like he was very comfortable out there and it was exciting to see him fly around and do the things that he did. That is a testament to his hard work and work ethic, day in and day out."
Room to Improve
As is the case with every season opener, the performance was far from perfect. On the positive side, USC won the turnover battle and limited its penalties to only four. On the negative, the Trojans left as many as 12 points in the red zone, settling for field goals on three of their four trips inside the 20. "The thing that I think we could do better is I'd like to see better red zone efficiency," Helton said. "I think there's some things that we can correct on definitely red zone being one."