Timothy Lutes | USCfootball.com

Tape Review: USC-Penn State Rose Bowl game notes

Notes on USC players and scheme after re-watching the Trojans' instant classic Rose Bowl win over Penn State.

USC/Penn State Game Notes

- USC brings five pass rushers on the first play of the game after the kickoff return bumble gave Penn State terrible field position. Trace McSorley was getting pressure off the outside by Porter Gustin, which may have caused him to fire the pass rather than possibly waiting just a hair longer, in which he would have seen the receiver run a different route. Instead, Iman Marshall gets the interception.

- After the interception, Marvell Tell III tries to make a block. He can’t quite get to the Penn State receiver. If he had blocked the Nittany Lion, Marshall returns the ball at least inside the 20-yard line and possibly even further. For his troubles, Tell knocks off Clay Helton’s headset as he flies into the sideline when trying to block. As he tries to run back on the field to celebrate, Tell gets tangled up in the wires of Helton’s headset and nearly yanks Clay out onto the field with him.

- Trojans use a heavy-receiver lineup early with JuJu Smith-Schuster in the slot and De’Quan Hampton substituting for Deontay Burnett.

- Sam Darnold may normally be as cool as the other side of the pillow, but his first two throws show that playing in a Rose Bowl will get to everyone just a little bit. First a high throw behind Deontay Burnett and then a throw at the feet of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Accurate throws are completions on both plays and a first down inside the 25-yard line.

- Penn State shows pressure on USC’s initial third down and then backs out with a zone blitz scheme and only three pass rushers.

- Chris Hawkins gets caught on his heels on a third down play that he is blitzing on. He is standing straight up and doesn’t get a good initial burst. He never even makes it to the line of scrimmage before Trace McSorley is stepping into his throw and delivering.

- Just a tiny stumble coming out of the break for DeAndre Thompkins and the ball goes off his hands where Adoree' Jackson says thank you very much and snatches the tipped ball for the second interception of the game on the second Penn State pass of the game. But that interception was also set up by the zone blitz USC ran. Uchenna Nwosu dropped back into coverage and forced McSorley to throw a bit wider than where Thompkins was because otherwise Nwosu would have been able to get a hand on the throw. 

- It’s hilarious when USC’s defensive players go to personally deliver the ball to Clay Helton and have the field judge shadowing them trying to get the opposition’s football back.

- This question will be revisited several times this game: What were the referees looking at…when JuJu Smith-Schuster and the defensive back both go tumbling to the ground? Christian Campbell tried to latch on to Smith-Schuster in the first two steps, grabbing his jersey near the collar. USC’s star wideout tries to push away and gives a good shove that sends the Nittany Lion offbalance. So Campbell just grabs onto Smith-Schuster and pulls him down by the collar. ESPN tries to explain it away as the players getting their feet tangled, but this one was a full on yankdown.

- Poor job by the offensive line on USC’s initial first down pickup. Penn State rushes only three, yet Chad Wheeler lets his guy go inside, thinking he has help from Damien Mama. Nico Falah also lets the defensive tackle go, thinking he has help from Mama. The d-end splits Wheeler/Mama while the d-tackle loops around the outside. Sam Darnold has to escape the pocket against a three-man rush.

- On the same play, very nice job by JuJu Smith-Schuster to assess the defensive players round him and take a small step inside where there was a hole in Penn State’s zone defense and then working outside as Darnold rolls to his right.

Timothy Lutes | USCfootball.com

- The Adoree’ Factor was once again in play on USC’s first touchdown. Jackson lines up in the backfield and goes in motion to the wide side of the field. All three linebackers and the top side safety take steps in that direction either right before or at the snap. Darnold looks the opposite way for Darreus Rogers and then turns his attention to Deontay Burnett, who was wide open in the middle with the safeties being split beyond the hashes and the linebackers not getting much depth.

- USC using multiple zone blitz schemes and causing confusion early. Uchenna Nwosu drops out after stealing the left tackles attention on a third down play. Ajene Harris runs untouched off the edge forcing Trace McSorley to evacuate the pocket. Porter Gustin nearly gets a sack and Leon McQuay III nearly gets an interception.

- Asking Zach Banner to reach a one-tech or two-tech defensive tackle with the right guard pulling is going to be a tough challenge. Some times you have to switch up a call when you see the opponent’s alignment. Instead, USC manages a zero-yard gain on first down when Ronald Jones II is met three yards deep in the backfield.

- Darreus Rogers with yet another outstanding catch away from his body for a first down. In the Rose Bowl, every catch he made was for either a first down or a touchdown.

- Ronald Jones II misses the hole on an outside zone run. Rather than following the inside hips of Zach Banner and Nico Falah and challenging linebacker Jason Cabinda to try to pick up more than a couple of yards, Jones II tries to bounce it outside and loses two yards.

- When healthy, Justin Davis’ first cut is just lethal. There are very few defenders that bring him down by themselves in the open field.

- Adoree’ Jackson’s physicality and tackling ability is one of the most underrated portions of his game. He isn’t afraid to come up and stick his shoulder into the action.

- After a two-yard carry down to the 4-yard line, Adoree’ Jackson wants to stay in the game and get the ball again. He looks very disappointed when he comes off the field.

- Jackson comes back on the field after an incompletion. He is open to the left, but Deontay Burnett is open in the center of the field near the end zone for a walk-in touchdown, but Sam Darnold doesn’t have the time to find him. Penn State brings the house and Darnold does well to get the ball off with a jump throw, but he spikes it at Darreus Rogers’ feet, forcing a field goal.

Timothy Lutes | USCfootball.com

- Penn State trying to be too cute in the early going. Third-and-1 and Saquon Barkley hasn’t got less than three yards on his first five carries and yet the Nittany Lions try to go play-action pass to the tight end leaking out after chipping the end. It doesn’t work and the USC defense gets off the field once again in the first quarter.

- You can’t have much better coverage than cornerback Jordan Smith had on Daniel Imatorbhebhe on a third-and-9 play, but the connection between Darnold and Imatorbhebhe is just too great to be stopped sometimes. Smith is almost bear hugging Imatorbhebhe, but Darnold throws a seed, putting the ball about two inches wide of Smith’s hand on the outside where Imatorbhebhe is able to snag the ball for a first down.

- Double reverse…flea flicker…screen back to the original reverser? Yea. They did that. And the play could have been blown up. Jalen Greene pitches the ball to Darreus Rogers just before the defensive end gets to him. But rather than knocking Greene down, the lineman gives him and glancing blow and continues the chase for Darnold. If he hits Greene hard, the screen option is off the table. JuJu Smith-Schuster was another option going deep on the right, but he was in man-to-man coverage and locked up it appears. The third option is Rogers coming around the end on the right side after flipping the ball back to Darnold.

- USC has another drive stall. This time on back-to-back dropped passes. Deontay Burnett drops a quick receiver screen that would have likely picked up a couple yards. That makes for a third-and-10 and JuJu Smith-Schuster can’t catch a dart that is a little high, but a catch that has to be made at the next level. USC settles for a field goal again.

- On the kickoff, USC picks up an offsides penalty on Isaiah Langley. I’m fairly certain that is his third time he has been called offside on a kickoff this season. Unacceptable.

- The first third down of the second quarter, USC uses one of it’s unique passing situation looks. Rasheem Green and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu are split out as true defensive ends in a seven-tech look with Uchenna Nwosu standing over the ball and Porter Gustin and Cameron Smith walking around and peeking in gaps. Eventually, right at the snap, Smith and Tu’ikolovatu back out while the Trojans overload the wide side of the field, bringing Ajene Harris and Michael Hutchings. It’s a unique zone blitz look, but the pressure doesn’t get there as Trace McSorley buys some time in the pocket and throws a strike to Chris Godwin.

- Great push by Rasheem Green forces Saquon Barkley to try to bounce a play where Porter Gustin makes the tackle for a three-yard loss. A defensive line unit has to work together and has to rely on the man beside them.

- When you miss multiple tackles on a play, it’s almost guaranteed to be a quality pickup. That’s why Saquon Barkley had such a strong performance. The Trojans struggled to bring him down on first contact. He runs through arm tackles and diving attempts at his legs that have no force behind them.

- USC moves guys around once more on a third-and-6 play, but Penn State burns them. Saquan Barkley runs right up the gut and is barely touched on his way to a touchdown. Both middle linebackers are spread out with Porter Gustin being in the head up on the center, but Gustin gets folded out by the center, leaving Barkey a big hole straight up the middle.

- When you completely dominate a quarter like the Trojans did the first, you want to put a dagger in the opponent. Settling for three field goal attempts and making two does not do that. Once Penn State’s offense got going in the second quarter, USC could have killed their spirit by being up by 21+ points. Instead, one touchdown drive and suddenly the Nittany Lions are right back in the game.

- Penn State bites hard on a misdirection play-action pitch out of the pistol formation. The Nittany Lions are blitzing off the edge and three defenders start inside and have to change direction to chase Darnold as he starts to roll outside. They produce enough pressure that Darnold can’t set his feet and deliver a strike to an open Darreus Rogers coming across the field on a high post for a touchdown.

- Part of the reason Deontay Burnett had such a successful game is that Penn State was really keying on Daniel Imatorbhebhe when he was on the field. Burnett picks up 32 yards on a pass over the middle when he and Imatorbhebhe run a little midfield wheel action. The linebackers again don’t get enough depth and the safety takes one false step outside towards Imatorbhebhe, leaving ‘Tay wide open for a big gain.

Timothy Lutes | USCfootball.com

- Justin Davis will go down as one of my personal favorite Trojans to cover. He’s one of the most humble, soft-spoken players and he plays the game “the right way.” He never complains. He’s always complimentary of his teammates. And he’s really good. His cuts are deadly to defenders because when he’s healthy he can change directions and accelerate out of every cut. He’s also tough for a 19 pounder. He’s the complete package…except he doesn’t have the speed to finish off long runs, which cost him a touchdown run when he weaves his way through the Penn State defense, but is tackled at the 4-yard line.

- When USC hurries up to the offense after Justin Davis’ long run, you know they are going to run the ball again and probably with the same play because Isaac Whitney and Taylor McNamara, who were both in, are not your normal red zone targets. Darreus Rogers and Daniel Imatorbhebhe come back in on the next play and now the playbook opens up again.

- USC getting pressure up the middle, but Trace McSorley did a good job all night of moving in the pocket and escaping to buy some more time.

- Still don’t think that Chris Godwin bobbling grab should have been a touchdown because he was juggling the ball after it hit off his leg, but one of those plays you aren’t going to be able to overturn either way.

- The “rules expert” that ESPN used brings absolutely nothing to the table. Whatever the booth or the actual official when they make a call says, he just repeats it.

- “This dude can pitch it on the move,” Chris Fowler says after Sam Darnold connects with JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 36-yard gain. Yea…except he shouldn’t have thrown the ball on the move this time. Penn State has a bust in the secondary with the corner passing Smith-Schuster to a safety that is not there (possibly because of the playaction. If Darnold sets his feet and leads Smith-Schuster, it’s a 62-yard touchdown pass rather than just a big chunk play. Instead, he throws on the run, underthrows the receiver and Smith-Schuster has to stop, come back and make a leaping grab just before the defender gets to him and can’t get any additional yards after the catch.

- A new wrinkle as USC unveils a diamond alignment on the outside with the running back and tight end in front with Darreus Rogers. A quick pass out to Deontay Burnett gives USC a numbers advantage if it can make all the blocks. But a potential 10-12-yard gain before a safety can come over turns into a 4-yard gain when the cornerback pushes Rogers back into the feet of Burnett as he’s turning upfield. With JuJu Smith-Schuster on the other side of the field, if the opponent tries to shift someone over to the heavy side, you have your best receiver one-on-one. The same concept that helped Johnny Moxon lead West Caanan back to a district title in Varsity Blues.

- When Adoree’ Jackson motioned across and Sam Darnold reared up to throw the ball to him on a screen play, I immediately thought there was going to be a touchdown. Jackson had two blockers in front of him with two defenders. (Nice blocks by both Chad Wheeler and Damien Mama as well.) I expected Jackson to outrun any defenders. I did not expect Penn State’s linebackers to be able to get across in time to catch him, but Jason Cabinda showed nice sideline-to-sideline ability to track him down at the 11- or 12-yard line.

- Another impressive thing about Adoree’ is that he almost never goes down on first contact. Cabinda gets to him beyond the 10-yard line. Yet, Jackson twirls and lunges all the way down to the 3-yard line. He gets a ton of extra yardage that are overlooked because of how rarely he’s in a game on offense. He’s like the running back that is running okay in the first half, but you look up and he’s got 60 yards on 10 carries without ever breaking a 10-yard run. Instead every ordinary two-yard gain he turns into four or five yards. Five yarders become eight and etc.

- The back-shoulder touchdown pass to Darreus Rogers was indefensible with the defensive back’s head turned. Rogers has been such a integral part of the offense this year even though that touchdown is only his fourth of the season. I went back and looked up his catches and targets this season to see how clutch his catches were (i.e.: whether they netted a first down or touchdown). More than half of Rogers’ targets resulted in first downs or touchdowns. In fact, 40 of his 56 catches were clutch catches. 

- Leon McQuay III can cover so much ground when he knows where he’s going. When he hesitates, he struggles, but one of the things Clancy Pendergast did so well this season was simplify assignments for defenders so they could play at full speed.

Timothy Lutes | USCfootball.com

- Great punch, rip through combination by Rasheem Green gets him into the backfield where he’s hog-tied by the Penn State center, but a flag is never thrown. The pressure is key though because as Kirk Herbstreit points out, Jack Jones and Ajene Harris let the outside receiver on the opposite side run free down the middle. A couple of plays later, Green just obliterates the center once again, getting his hands to the center’s chest and flinging him out of the way on his way to a hit on Trace McSorley.

- Chris Godwin is catching everything in the first half. His one-handed grab on a ball thrown behind him is the second terrific hands catch he’s made on a third down on Penn State’s final drive of the first half. 

- A big third down stop is negated when Stevie Tu'ikolovatu gets another face mask penalty, something that happened a handful of times throughout the season. He often reaches his big paws out and when a running back or quarterback puts their head down and leans forward, he catches them across the mask, turning big stops into big first downs. This one turns a potential field goal attempt into a touchdown drive two plays later.

- Little bit of a push off, but tremendous catch by Mike Gesicki. Catching the ball with two hands and tucking it with his top hand in mid air so that the ground doesn’t jar the ball loose when his elbow hits the ground.

- Penn State makes an adjustment during the two-minute drill, dropping their linebackers deeper to give up the underneath throws instead of the chunk plays, but Sam Darnold uses it to his advantage when he scrambles up the middle for a 13-yard gain and a first down.

- One of the downsides of your two starting receivers being blockers/up men ready for a sneak onsides kick attempt is that on a long sideline-to-sideline return by Adoree’ Jackson, they may need the first play of the ensuing drive off. JuJu Smith-Schuster is out for the first two offensive plays of the second half.

- The slipping starts getting worse for USC in the second half when the sun goes down. Ronald Jones II is the most affected because of he almost completely loses his ability to explode upfield with his one cut in the zone blocking scheme. He is visibly frustrated on multiple occasions.

- Sam Darnold gives up a likely easy first down throw to JuJu Smith-Schuster cutting across the middle of the field with his defender a step and a half behind him. Instead, Darnold launches a floater out to the far side where Deontay Burnett can’t catch up and USC is forced to punt for the first time in the game.

- USC missed six tackles in the first half by my count. Saquon Barkley made six Trojans miss on Penn State’s first play of the second half -- a 79-yard touchdown run

- Penn State does something a little different on the touchdown run by Barkley. They run the read option, but pull the left tackle and have Barkley follow the tackle, who picks up Uchenna Nwosu while he’s watching the mesh point to see who is going to be carrying the ball. Nwosu tries to duck inside of the block, but his arm tackle attempt does no good. If Nwosu stays outside, Cameron Smith and Marvell Tell III are there to make the tackle on Barkley after a 2-3 yard gain. Instead, Barkley jukes Tell and makes him also lose outside leverage. Tell and Ajene Harris both miss tackles. Smith can never catch up. Jack Jones gets snipered by the turf. Barkley cuts back on Chris Hawkins and Porter Gustin’s last ditch dive comes up short. Adoree’ Jackson would have had a shot at catching Barkley within the red zone, but he slowed up and jogged for about 12 yards when Barkley cut back.

- USC’s special teams pick up a third penalty flag. This time for having too many men on the field. Soon, they get a fourth on a false start while they are lined up to punt. Clay Helton adamantly yells, “It’s on them. It’s on them.” But it is the Trojans that pick up the flag. They end up with an eye-popping six special teams flags on the night.

- Once again a third down incompletion when Sam Darnold attempts a deep ball when he may have been able to find JuJu Smith-Schuster underneath.

- Nearly perfect defense from Iman Marshall on the 72-yard touchdown pass. USC’s blitzes, so Marshall is left one-on-one. He’s tugging on the bottom of Chris Godwin’s jersey as he leaps up. He swats the ball, but it flutters in the air and Godwin does an excellent job of concentrating and reeling the awkwardly spinning ball in. 

- Definitely should have been pass interference called on the tipped interception. Why in the world they had to review the play is beyond me.

 - After that burst by Penn State and the looks on the USC sidelines, it is quite surprising that the Trojans would come back.

- Sam Darnold is just a hair long on a deep ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster and then the next play, he misses an open Darreus Rogers on a slant that would have went at least 20 yards and down into field goal range.

- Maybe Tee Martin/Tyson Helton could sense that Sam Darnold was pressing a little after missing the last two throws, so on third-and-10, USC calls a screen pass. On his first and only snap of the game, Aca'Cedric Ware catches the pass, bursts outside and picks up 20 yards. Daniel Imatorbhebhe blows up Jason Cabinda and Viane Talamaivao gets out in front to seal off another linebacker.

- Taylor McNamara was open for about six years on the two-point conversion. Every time I watch the replay, I forget to watch Sam Darnold because I can’t stop starting at how wide open McNamara is.

- Often when you miss a sack, it can result in a significant gain because that means the receivers have that much longer to get open. Porter Gustin uses a nice job with his hands, staying free of the left tackle and is coming clean around Trace McSorley’s blindside, but McSorely steps up and Gustin puts his head down as he tries to make the tackle, allowing McSorley to run through the arm tackle and then pick up a 17-yard completion to Saquon Barkley. A sack would have made it third-and-18 with USC having all the momentum back after the TD, two-point and sack.

- Barkley got up a little slow to get up on the previous play, but he has to be helped up and jogs off the field after the 17-yard catch because Chris Hawkins delivers a full-bodied shoulder into Barkley’s thigh. If you want to try to slow down a running back, that’s an excellent way to do it.

- Stevie Tu’ikolovatu will be sorely missed next season. There aren’t many defensive tackles around that can do what he can. He takes on a double team and doesn’t budge and then stiff arms the center, so he can come off and swallow up a running back for a no-yard gain. Very impressive.

- Great timing on the blitz by Leon McQuay III and he puts another lick on Saquon Barkley. Trace McSorley does a nice job to escape and pick up a couple of yards before sliding and he draws a phantom late-hit penalty flag to boot with Uchenna Nwosu flipping over McSorley rather than making contact.

- The Cameron Smith hit on Trace McSorley doesn’t look like much when watching the play live, but upon replay it is the textbook hit they are hoping to eliminate. Smith launches himself helmet first. One good call to go with the rest of the game that was referee’d.

- Quinton Powell checks in after the targeting and Penn State immediately runs the ball straight at him for a 17-yard gain.

- Beautiful play call on the touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley. He fakes like he is going to block for McSorley running to his right and then slips behind Leon McQuay III, who also literally slips.

- Love seeing the fire from Adoree’ Jackson and his desire to get back on the field when he was waiting to get a different pair of shoes to try out. Not quite Leonard Fournette-ing it. Later, you see his teammates consoling him on the bench. They call it a brotherhood for a reason.

- Porter Gustin does a nice job scraping along the line on a read option play even with Penn State pulling the center his direction. He initially takes on the tight end and gets outside leverage with a stiff left arm, keeping the tight end from locking up with him. Then when he sees the center coming, he widens out and takes on the center with his right arm, shoving the center inside as he comes out to meet him. He does this two yards behind the line of scrimmage giving Saquon Barkley nowhere to run and with Uchenna Nwosu closing fast from the backside, Barkley tries to reverse field and eventually is tackled for a no-yard gain. Though he gets no statistical credit, Gustin made the play by taking on two blockers.

- Good effort by the secondary allows Rasheem Green to get the coverage sack. He also forces the fumble and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu recovers the ball in the pile…until the referees decide to give the ball back to Penn State since touching the football is apparently now considered possession. The most baffling overturn I’ve ever seen or as Clay Helton mouthed, “What are you talking about?!?”

- Tu’ikolovatu follows up his not allowed fumbled recovery by again just tossing aside another Penn State offensive lineman in route to another tackle, forcing Penn State to punt.

- Tyler Petite is thrown into the lineup at tight end during the two-minute drill at times. His first offensive play of the second half, Sam Darnold gets pressured and throws one up for Petite. The ball goes right through Petite’s hands. Luckily, for USC, JuJu Smith-Schuster is there. If the Trojans don’t somehow have that tipped ball caught by Smith-Schuster, the drive is done and USC would have been weighing going for it on fourth down from their own 18-yard line while trailing 14 points with 11:30 to go. It wasn’t a great decision from Darnold to throw with two defenders hanging on him, but it was a great throw and somehow it worked out.

Timothy Lutes | USCfootball.com

- When you bring a blitz and it doesn’t get there, you leave yourself vulnerable and Sam Darnold is the opportunistic predator. Penn State brings six. The offensive line picks it up excellently, giving Darnold plenty of time and he throws a dart to Deontay Burnett up the seam for 20 yards.

- USC goes under center for the first time in the game on Ronald Jones II's 3-yard touchdown run. The Trojans put Daniel Imatorbhebhe in the F-Back spot lined up behind Zach Banner and swing Chad Wheeler over beside Banner to give the right side a ton of blocking beef. Damien Mama pulls to the right side as well and Jones follows all the big boys for an easy score. The field was so bad that Jones even slipped when he tried to stop in the back of the end zone.

- Clancy Pendergast shows a lot of confidence in the abilities of Jack Jones to continue bringing pressure as if Adoree’ Jackson was the one on the island for USC. Kirk Herbstreit incorrectly states that Jones gets lost on the third down incompletion that forces the Nittany Lions to punt. Jones had his eyes on the quarterback and kept his eyes on the ball the whole time. He turned to where the ball was going. But since the receiver (who was the one actually lost) and quarterback weren’t on the same page, the ball was far away, making it look like Jones was confused when he whipped his head around, but he was actually tracking the ball the whole way and was all over the play. That’s why he was also so fired up after the play.

- Penn State’s playcalling got very predictable in the fourth quarter…at least on first down. The Nittany Lions ran a read option designed to go between the tackles on every first down play in the fourth quarter, even after USC tied the game. 

- Ajene Harris is lucky that Michael Hutchings picked him up and was able to stop Saquon Barkley behind the line of scrimmage on the third down play with just more than two minutes to go. Harris comes off the edge and has a clean shot on Barkley, but misses his fourth tackle of the night. Hutchings makes a great read from his middle linebacker spot and sprints up to make the clutch defensive play to give USC a shot, which is enough to have JuJu Smith Schuster and Darreus Rogers dancing on the sideline.

Timothy Lutes | USCfootball.com

- Sam Darnold was very fortunate not to have to go 99 yards on the game-tying drive. Penn State's punt lands right in front of end line and luckily for USC bounces forward rather than back.

- What’s most impressive about Sam Darnold’s patience and escapability in the pocket is his demeanor. He never seems to get flustered by the rush, which is what enables him to keep his eyes down the field so well. He Houdinis out on the first play of the drive and connects with JuJu Smith-Schuster for a first down to get things rolling.

- After the first play, USC uses some tempo even though the clock is stopped. Penn State linebacker Jason Cabinda is looking elsewhere making a call when the ball is snapped and Darnold attacks him with a throw over the middle to Daniel Imatorbhebhe for another first down.

- It’s been said a lot, but what an incredible throw by Sam Darnold to Deontay Burnett for the game-tying touchdown. The offensive line gave him a great pocket and plenty of time, but I don’t even really know how he could see Burnett there, especially after Burnett said following the game that he changed the route that was called. It was an impeccable throw.

- Over the headset someone suggested to Clay Helton to go for two (and the lead) after Burnett’s third score. You can see him on the broadcast mouth, “No no no! We’re going for one.”

- Did Penn State think they were going to be able to lull USC into thinking it was running the clock out? Otherwise, why run on first down.

- While watching the game with Gerard Martinez, he was surprised that USC hadn’t picked off more of Trace McSorley’s passes because on his deep balls he was just throwing the ball up in the air. He did it twice more in the final minute and Leon McQuay III got one of the two. If McSorley isn’t being pressured by Porter Gustin and is able to step into the first throw, there is a good chance he would have been able to hit Mike Gesicki for a big gain after the tight end turned Jack Jones around in the zone coverage, but McQuay gets over there just in time to break it up. The second throws seemed to be more of baiting McSorley to throw the ball by Jones because he knew he had McQuay there. Rather than breaking hard and trying to break the pass up himself, Jones slows down and watches McQuay come across for the pick.

- I’m putting the ball in Sam Darnold’s hands for two plays before I concede to kick the field goal, but whatever works, works. Congratulations to Clay Helton and the Trojans on a heck of a game and a nine-game winning streak to finish the season.

Follow Shotgun on Twitter: @ShotgunSpr


USCFootball.com Top Stories