“In the locker room when we were getting dressed,” Ware said. “We were just talking about 'Hey...' I said, 'Whoever get 200 yards first the other owes $10.' 'Alright. Bet.’”
Filling in for injured starter Justin Davis, the Texas tandem was confident they were going to have a big game against Cal’s run defense, which had been shredded repeatedly this season and was ranked No. 126 out of 128 FBS teams, allowing 270.7 yards per game. For Ware, the preparation leading into the game let him know that an explosive performance was coming.
“We prepared like we were supposed to prepare and I have so much faith in [Jones]. I push him. He pushes me. That's the way we do it.”
While they both want to see each other do well, they are also trying to best the other.
“We try to outrush each other and things like that,” Jones said.
“It's all about competing with me and him,” Ware said. “That's my brother. We're close and that's how we built our bond, competing on each other.”
Since Jones and Ware arrived on USC's campus from Texas as part of the 2015 recruiting class, they have been going back and forth with each other. They have been striving to earn playing time at the running back position and battling against one another all along.
Jones starred as a freshman becoming USC’s leading rusher with 987 yards and eight touchdowns despite being the third-string rusher behind veterans Tre Madden and Davis. Following the departure of senior Tre Madden, Ware moved into the third-string role and has found a niche as the team’s tough-nosed, between-the-tackles runner to complement Davis and Jones’ ability to create big plays on the edge.
But when Davis went down with a sprained ankle against Colorado, the Trojans turned to the Texas two-step to carry the load. They did that against Arizona, rushing for a combined 184 yards on 28 carries (6.6 ypc). Each scored a touchdown. Ware led the way with his first career 100-yard game, taking advantage of the extra opportunities.
“I always say when God give me my opportunity, I'm going to take advantage of it. That's what I continue to do. He continues to bless me and that's it.”
Ware followed up his Arizona outing with another career performance, running for 130 yards on 20 carries against the Golden Bears on Thursday night. But it was Jones who starred, becoming the 18th player to rush for more than 200 yards in school history.
USC continually attacked Cal’s outside edge, running more outside zone concepts, which highlight Jones’ explosive burst and his ability to make defenders miss in space.
“I'm more comfortable running it outside [rather] than the inside zone concepts,” he said. “It was a great gameplan and we executed.”
Jones took a carry off left tackle on USC’s first offensive play and broke multiple tackles on his way to a 61-yard run that set up the Trojans’ first score. He caught a screen pass and waltzed 16 yards into the end zone for USC’s second score.
In the second quarter, he added a 42-yard run up the middle. The third quarter featured a 37-yard touchdown run off left tackle on which Jones only had to make one defender miss.
“Great push all night,” Jones said of the offensive line, which he also called “amazing.” “For 60 minutes, like we talk about at practice. We started fast and we finished strong. That's the goal.”
Jones only had one 10+ yard run in the fourth quarter, finishing with seven explosive runs on the night (and another five plays of 5-10 yards), but he and Ware helped USC salt away the game.
The duo combined on a 12-play drive that wasted nearly eight minutes off the clock. The Trojans faced a two third-and-2s, a fourth-and-2 and a third-and-9 and never once considered passing the ball. They even bypassed a 34-yard field goal attempt to go for it on the fourth down. Head coach Clay Helton put his trust in his dual-headed Texas monster.
“It's great to know that he has that trust in us to keep running the ball rather than taking the points,” Jones said. “We always talk about finishing the game and not giving the other team an opportunity to score again, so that drive was great.”
Jones gained 20 yards on that final USC possession, pushing him to a final tally of 223 yards on 18 carries (12.4 ypc) and $10 owed from Ware.
Watch Ronald Jones II and Aca'Cedric Ware, below, talk about their career performances against Cal, along with the advice that Justin Davis gave them, how hard he is on the Texas duo as an extra coach and what Jones plans to do with the $10 that Ware owes.
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