Justin Davis

USC dominates UCLA for Pac-12 South crown; Trojans vs. Stanford for Pac-12 title

4 Comments

For the first time in program history, the school with the most football championships in Pac-12 history will play in the Pac-12 Championship Game. USC (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12) snapped its three-game losing streak against crosstown rival No. 22 UCLA (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) in convincing fashion in the second half to pick up a 40-21 win and claim ownership of the Pac-12 South Division championship. The win will send USC to the Pac-12 Championship Game to play Pac-12 North champion Stanford next week.

USC quarterback Cody Kessler may not have put up huge numbers against the Bruins, but his 15-of-26 for 175 yards and two touchdowns without an interception was effective enough to lead the team to a victory. Freshman quarterback Josh Rosen for UCLA got his first dose of the rivalry with the Trojans, and it did not go as well. Rosen was picked off twice and he completed just 19 of his 37 pass attempts. Bruins running back Paul Perkins rushed for 95 yards and two scores, but USC’s Justin Davis was the big runner of the day with 130 rushing yards. USC’s Adoree’ Jackson made some big plays happen as well with a punt return for a touchdown. USC’s Rasheem Green had a 31-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter that gave USC a 26-21 lead. This proved to be the game-winning score, as the Trojans continued to tack on a couple of more touchdowns on offense.

USC was the preseason favorite of the Pac-12 media at media day this summer, and now they have a chance to make good on those expectations. The fact they have arrived at this point is a fascinating story all by itself given the bumpy path it took to get to this point.

Stanford handed USC its first loss of the season in the early part of the season. The Cardinal took a 41-31 victory against the Trojans and never really looked back in conference play. USC struggled a few more times and had to go through an in-season coaching change with the firing of Steve Sarkisian. Clay Helton took over as the interim coach for the Trojans, and quickly calmed the stability of the program after a loss at Notre Dame. USC ripped through Utah to mix up the Pac-12 North and went on to win the next three games before hitting a speed bump on the road at Oregon against a resurgent Ducks program. USC has won more Pac-12 conference championships than any other conference member, including time as the Pac-8 or Pac-10, with 38 conference championships. It has not played in the Pac-12 Championship Game though, but that will change next week.

USC may be able to play spoiler for Stanford’s playoff dreams, if the Cardinal manage to beat Notre Dame tonight. The Pac-12 champion is still unlikely to sneak into the four-team playoff field, but Stanford is the one that has a slight chance to do so. USC, with four losses, will not have enough things bounce their way to make that giant leap.

No. 9 UCLA pulls away from No. 19 USC for 24-14 halftime lead

Leave a comment

A spirited Battle for the Victory Bell opened with Anthony Sarao stepping in front of a Brett Hundley pass and returning it 17 yards for a USC touchdown.

It’s been pretty much all Bruins from there, though, as Hundley tossed touchdown passes to Devin LucienThomas Duarte and Eldridge Massington – the last of which came just before the half – to give No. 9 UCLA a 24-14 halftime lead over No. 19 USC at the Rose Bowl.

The Trojans got a two-yard touchdown toss from Cody Kessler to Justin Davis to tie the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter, but missed a golden opportunity when stuffed on a 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line on an earlier drive.

Hundley has been near perfect outside of the interception, completing 15-of-19 passes for 201 yards and those three touchdowns, and Paul Perkins has carried 11 times for 44 yards.

Kessler has completed 10-of-19 passes for 119 yards, but has been harassed by his Bruin counterparts much more than Hundley. Buck Allen has rushed eight times for 38 yards.

UCLA will receive the ball to open the second half.

USC RB Tre’ Madden officially calls it a season

3 Comments

After weeks of false starts and what turned out to be even more false hope, Tre’ Madden has officially turned his football attention to 2015.

Following a meeting Thursday that involved the player, his parents and the USC coaching staff, it was determined that the running back will sit out the remainder of the 2014 season.  Madden suffered what turned out to be a significant case of turf toe early on in summer camp this past August and has yet to play a down in 2014.

Madden will have one more year of eligibility remaining.  It could be two as he missed the 2012 season with a knee injury, meaning he’d be a near-lock for a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA if that’s the tack he decides to take.

“We’re moving forward,” Tre’s father, Curtis Madden, told the Orange County Register. “It’s disappointing that he’s not going to be able to contribute this season. But there’s next year and the year after that.”

During the first five games last season, Madden rushed for 583 yards and three touchdowns. The last eight, three of which he didn’t record a carry, Madden totaled just 120 yards and didn’t find the end zone. His 703 yards were second on the team to the 785 yards for Javorius Allen.

With Allen widely expected to make the early plunge into the NFL draft pool, Madden and Justin Davis would ostensibly enter the 2015 season as the Trojans’ top two backfield options.

Pick six, Hail Mary key No. 18 USC past Oregon State, 35-10

1 Comment

USC is missing close to 30 scholarship players, but two key players that the Men of Troy absolutely do have: a quarterback and a running back. Quarterback Cody Kessler diced Oregon State for an ultra-efficient 261 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-32 passing, and Buck Allen added 20 rushes for 115 yards and a touchdown to push No. 18 USC past Oregon State 35-10 on Saturday night.

The quarterback-running back duo may have carried the water for USC, but it was defensive back-turned-linebacker Su’a Cravens that got the Trojans going with a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:11 to play in the first quarter. Ryan Murphy took the ensuing kick back 97 yards for a touchdown, and the Beavers added a 38-yard Trevor Romaine field goal early in the second quarter to grab a 10-7 lead, but that would be it offensively for Oregon State on this night.

Kessler hit Justin Davis for a 16-yard touchdown on the following drive, and then connected with Darreus Rogers on a 48-yard Hail Mary on the final play of the first half, effectively putting the game away at 21-10. Allen added a 17-yard scoring dash to open the fourth quarter, and his backup Justin Davis closed the scoring with a 21-yard burst at the 5:02 mark of the fourth quarter.

USC threw for 261 yards and rushed for precisely 200 more (Davis added 82 yards on 15 carries) and did not turn the ball over. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I feel like teams that rush and pass for 200 yards and don’t turn the ball over win home games approximately 95.2 percent of the time.

Especially when the opponent doesn’t hit 200 yards of total offense.

Sean Mannion looked like a quarterback that ranked second nationally in passing a year ago solely due to the presence of the now-departed Brandin Cooks, passing for a paltry 123 yards (he averaged 358.6 in 2013) on 15-of-32 passing with no scores and two picks. The Beavers rushed 21 times for a total of 58 yards.

With losses by Arizona State and Utah this week, USC (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) remains atop the Pac-12 South alongside UCLA and Arizona. The Trojans host No. 15 Arizona State on Saturday.

Oregon State drops to 3-1 (0-1 Pac-12) and visits Colorado on Saturday.

The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind

13 Comments

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

Exorcising the Raleigh ghosts
When it comes Raleigh, NC, that college town has served as Florida State’s kryptonite over the past couple of decades.  Six times since 1998 a ranked FSU squad lost to North Carolina State, the most recent coming in 2012.  The Wolfpack were looking to continue that rather bizarre run of success, jumping out to a 24-7 first-quarter lead and holding a 10-point lead with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The reigning Heisman winner and one of his backfield sidekicks, however, weren’t having any of that.

In his first game since a one-game suspension, Winston tossed a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes to give the ‘Noles their first lead of the game at 42-38.  A Karlos Williams one-yard touchdown run three minutes into the fourth quarter essentially put the game away — Winston’s inexplicable interception, which had Jimbo Fisher downright irate, notwithstanding — while Williams’ 12-yard scamper with just over two minutes remaining put the exclamation point on the closer-than-it-looked 56-41 win.  Winston wound up completing 26-of-38 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns while Williams added 126 yards and three touchdowns to stave off the upset bid.

The win kept FSU’s winning streak alive, extending its school record to 20 straight.  However, the Seminoles have already seen its stranglehold on the top spot in the Top 25 rankings loosened over the past couple of weeks; it’s highly likely that support will weaken yet again when the polls are released Sunday afternoon.  Will it be enough to knock them off the perch?  Probably not this week, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if a team like Oklahoma or Alabama leapfrogged the defending BCS champions.

Good gawd Gurley
You would have to do a pretty damn good job to convince me that Todd Gurley is not the best football player in the country this year.  In Georgia’s nail-biting  35-32 win over Tennessee Between the Hedges, the junior running back rushed for a career-high 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns; 129 of those yards came in the pivotal fourth quarter.  One of the scores was a 51-yard thing of beauty that put the back’s exceptional vision and cutting ability on full display.   On his next run after that, he hurdled a Vols defender on his way to a 26-yard gain midway through the fourth quarter.  Provided he stays healthy the remainder of the season, there’s simply no way Gurley won’t at least receive a mid-December invitation to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.  If Mark Richt & Company continues to feed the beast, that is.

Elementary, my dear Watson
Against North Carolina Saturday, Deshaun Watson became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Clemson in 20 years (Nealon Greene, 1994 vs. South Carolina). Watson’s debut as a starter was a monster one as the five-star 2014 signee completed 27-of-36 passes for 434 yards and six touchdowns.  The scoring tosses are a school record for a freshman, or for any other class for that matter, as well as an ACC record for a frosh. According to a note from the school, the Tigers are now 5-12 all-time in games started by first-year freshman quarterbacks; three of those five wins have come at the expense of the Tar Heels.  Based on Watson’s play in his first outing, it appears likely he’ll get the opportunity to add to that overall win total as, barring injury, there’s little doubt it’s his job moving forward.

(more…)