Dear USC Athletics,
To me, you are like an ex-girlfriend that you broke up with after an intimate relationship of five years; some moments you realized why you loved them and then other moments you realized why they made you want to pull your hair out. I mean I haven't had a girlfriend, so I wouldn't know, but I don't want to sadden you with my pathetic love life.
USC sports have been up and down in the past four years. We have seen moments that brought us pure joy and some that left me standing alone in a room wanting to cry myself to sleep. As my graduation approaches, I look back at the top five USC sports moments in my time as a student.
#5 Any USC Men's Volleyball Game
I know this is not specific, but USC men's volleyball games might be the most underrated sporting events to attend at this school. For one, they are empty so you can sit anywhere you want, I have even sat on the floor for some of the games and no one bats an eye.
One of the many reasons I enjoy attending the men's volleyball games is because the sport is so incredible to watch. I can't hit a volleyball to save my life, so to see the way these athletes play with such precision and power is truly remarkable. I was not aware men's volleyball was a collegiate sport until I arrived at USC. Watching the guys play some of the top talent in the country and sending games down to the wire is so fun to watch.
Secondly, there is a family atmosphere at the games. With a lot of the players coming from California and more specifically the Southern California area, the families arrive at the games by the numbers cheering on their sons.
As for my favorite thing about all the games I have attended, it has to be the fact that two of my best friends at this school, Connor Inlow and Jack Wyett, were the captains of the team this year. It is something special to go and support peers or people you know in your class, but when you get to live with the two captains of a major sports team and are there to support them, watching them give their all on the court and even see one of them, Wyett, play his way to a first team All-MPSF award is just so cool.
Jack and Connor, being able to watch you guys over the past four years has created some of my favorite memories. From watching you guys win games you were not supposed to, to the agony of you guys struggling on the court, USC men's volleyball games have been some of the most memorable sporting events. While the team did not live up to the expectations, everyone should go support this team because they're fun to watch.
#4 USC Basketball Defeats No. 7 Arizona in QUADRUPLE Overtime
This is a game that I will never forget for multiple reasons. To start, I was calling that game on KXSC student radio with Jackson Safon, and this was the game that I really think put USC basketball on the map.
I remember this game like it was yesterday. Students were just returning from Winter Break to start the Spring 2016 semester, so the game was not as crowded as it should have been. USC had come into the game exceeding all expectations because for all intents and purposes, USC has never been a basketball school. Sure, here and there USC has sent players like Taj Gibson, Nick Young, and Demar Derozan to the pros, but, in my lifetime, USC had never been a premier team.
For no reason, there was a weird feeling that USC was going to win this game. Arizona, a yearly college basketball powerhouse, entered the game as the favorite and as the No. 7 team in the country. USC was unranked but 14-3 overall and 3-1 in conference.
The game was absolute insanity. Elijah Stewart went off for a career-high 27 points and the game went back and forth. The Trojans played with such a chip on their shoulder, it was incredible to watch. No one in the country counted them as a team or a contender to do anything in the college basketball realm and they proved everyone wrong.
Four overtimes later and a voice lost from yelling during the game on the radio, the Trojans had pulled off the stunner. USC beat Arizona 103-101 after Arizona's star player, Gabe York, clanked the game winning shot off the rim and the crowd went nuts. Jackson and I were in shock as the ragtag group of underdogs pulled off the biggest basketball upset the school had seen in years. USC improved to 11-0 at home, a first in 30 plus years.
#3 No. 20 USC Football Upsets No. 4 Washington on the Road
I have never been in a more hostile environment. My friends and I arrived as a small pack of cardinal and gold into a sea of purple and black. The crowd was full and Washington fans didn't let us into our seats. We ended up finding ourselves in a small pocket of the stadium with the rest of the persecuted USC fans.
Washington was one of the hottest teams in the country and their quarterback, Jake Browning, was considered to be the Heisman favorite. The Trojans came into the game with some momentum. After starting out the year 1-2 and making the switch to Sam Darnold at quarterback, USC was on a roll and sitting at 6-3 and No. 20 in the country.
The game started out as expected. Washington came out early with their dominant defense. It took some time, but USC stormed back and held a lead going into halftime. I remember the crowd being in utter shock. How could this USC team with their no-name quarterback be beating the Huskies in Seattle?
The second half I remember thinking we were doomed. Browning hit his main receiver John Ross for a 75-yard touchdown and the Huskies had all the momentum. I had never seen USC show any sort of resilience all season. They had been embarrassed by Alabama on a national stage and were at one point the laughing stock of college sports. This game was different. Led by Darnold and a perfect defensive performance, USC held out for the win. The clinching play: Adoree Jackson's interception. As the sad Husky fans filed out of the stadium a girl turned to me and my friends shook her head and yelled "I hate all of you and I hate USC!" I smiled.
#2 USC Women's Soccer Wins the National Championship
I actually wasn't at this game but whenever your team wins a National Championship, it is a big deal for the school. I remember this day because this was the day the men's water polo team had fallen in their national championship game. I was at my house depressed after seeing the loss as we turned on the women's soccer match.
I have never been a big fan of soccer but for some reason I found myself extremely invested in this game. One of the stars, Morgan Andrews, was in many of my classes so as mentioned in the men's volleyball part of this article, it is nice to watch your peers play; especially on a stage like this.
The Trojans took on West Virginia, the far-and-away best team in the country and the heavy favorite to win the game. The entire game, the Trojans absolutely dominated. From suffocating defense to perfect offense from the help Andrews to score the tie breaking goal just 82 seconds in the game, the Trojans broke the underdog storyline wide open.
West Virginia was a 23-win team and recorded 18 shutouts on the season. The Trojans were the first team to really put it to the Mountaineers all season.
The Trojans won the game 3-1 and went on to win their second championship in program history.
#1 USC Wins the Rose Bowl
There was no surprise here. This wasn't going to be the men's club lacrosse team winning a game against Long Beach State of San Dominguez Hills, no, that school does not exist. It is the Rose Bowl; it's quite possibly the greatest college football game I have ever seen in person.
Just like the Arizona basketball game, I was calling this game on the radio with legend Russell Simon. Darnold and USC had won eight straight games and were considered the hottest team in football facing Penn State, also one of the hottest teams in football. USC was the favorite going into this game and, honestly, I thought the Trojans were going win the game with ease; and it started that way. Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley threw an interception on the first play of the game and USC took an early lead.
Penn State, a team that was never good in the first half, lived up to that nature and USC controlled the first half. The second half slowly began and turned into a nightmare before my eyes. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley proved to the country that he was one of the best players around. The USC offense stalled out and Penn State roared to a 49-35 lead. Things were looking absolutely grim.
The Penn State side of the stadium was having a party, while the USC side was having a funeral. USC was outscored in the third quarter 28-8 and would need a flawless fourth quarter to win the game. That is exactly what the Trojans delivered. Darnold began his reign and was perfect in the fourth quarter as he led the Trojans all the way back.
I will never forget the feeling of not being able to breathe when a pivotal third down arrived for Penn State. If Penn State converted, they would win the Rose Bowl. McSorley handed the ball off to Barkley and Michael Hutchings was there for the tackle for the loss. It was Darnold time.
After two big pass interference calls that helped USC march down the field, Darnold through a perfect pass into triple coverage to tie the game. The roles were now reversed. USC was partying and Penn State was on pins and needles. After an errant throw by McSorley that was intercepted by Leon McQuay, USC was now in field goal range to win the game in regulation. The snap was good, the hold was great, and the kick was flawless. USC had come all the way back to win the Rose Bowl, their 27th in school history.
USC is one of the most storied programs in all of collegiate athletics. Some of my friends, i.e the ones who attend the University of Texas, barely saw 20 wins in their entire football career as students. Thank you USC for bringing me a Rose Bowl, a PAC-12 title and some moments that gave me near heart attacks.