In front of 39,507 spectators, less than half of the MetLife Stadium capacity, USC put on what looked to be a less than impressive first half display, but USC Coach Lane Kiffin thought his team held it together given the outside factors. "I thought they did a really good job for a game that is not real easy to play," Kiffin said after the game. "First off the East Coast, the two days, NFL stadium, not much attendance… so there wasn't a whole of energy and then the delay."
Neither team put a point on the board in the first quarter of play. The Trojans were forced to go for it on three 4th down situations, only converting once on a Matt Barkley reverse to Marqise Lee. The Trojans traveled to New Jersey without kicker Andre Heidari, who stayed home with an undisclosed injury, leaving USC Coach Lane Kiffin's fourth down options limited.
The Trojans were able to put some points on the board in the second quarter, when Barkley found Lee for a 13-yard touchdown pass. The Trojans went up 7-0 on the point after, kicked by freshman walk-on Alex Wood, who saw the first action of his collegiate career and converted on what would be all six of his point after attempts.
After struggling to get their run game going a week ago against Hawaii, the Trojans kept the ball on the ground much of the first half. Barkley handed off to Curtis McNeal for three straight carries before finding receiver Robert Woods for a 29-yard touchdown pass. Woods finished with 10 receptions for 93 yards, one carry for 76 yards, and two touchdowns. "Robert really stepped it up today," Kiffin said. "He was banged up as you probably saw out there. He really did a really good job."
Syracuse was held to a field goal in the first half as USC took a 14-3 lead into the break.
What was originally announced as an 18-minute halftime due to inclimate weather turned into a 70 minute break as thunderstorms passed through the area. The Trojans used the long break to take off their pads and refresh, which resulted in a spark in the third quarter. "It was weird," Barkley said of the delay, "we don't typically get delays from thunderstorms in Southern California."
"I think it did help," Kiffin said of the delay. "When our offensive staff has that much time, it's almost like the game is over, we're going to play a new game."
It may have felt like a new game for USC in the third quarter, but it was much of the same for linebacker Dion Bailey, who grabbed his second interception of the night on a tipped ball by defensive end Morgan Breslin. "We just tried to stay focused on our objective," Bailey said after the win.
Later in the third, the Orange looked as though they would make a game of their matchup against the country's number two team, when Shamarko Thomas intercepted a Barkley pass intended for Woods, setting up a Syracuse touchdown and pulling the Orange within a score of USC, 21-16.
But the fourth quarter proved the Trojans to be too much for Syracuse. Barkley found tight end Xavier Grimble for a 22-yard touchdown reception, then it was Barkley to Lee for his second, and later third, connection in the end zone on the day. Lee finished with 11 receptions for 66 yards, one carry for 23 yards, and three touchdowns. Barkley finished 23 of 30 for 187 yards and six touchdown passes.
USC improves to 2-0 on the season with the 42-29 win over Syracuse. The Trojans are back in action on the road next Saturday at Stanford.