Football

USC football bounces back with dominant win over Colorado

The struggling Buffaloes had no answer for the Trojans’ explosive first half.

Photo of Drake London making a one-handed touchdown catch

Is any ball considered uncatchable for Drake London?

The junior wide receiver set the tone with numerous contested catches including a ridiculous one-handed touchdown grab in the first quarter as USC dominated Colorado 37-14 Saturday in Boulder.

“Drake’s pretty good,” offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said, as he usually does in his postgame media availability. “I don’t think there’s enough good things I can say about Drake, to be honest with you … They came out and tried to double him today, and [he] still found a way to hurt them.”

Although USC wasn’t without some of its usual miscues — posting 115 penalty yards, settling for three field goals and conceding the Buffaloes’ longest play of the season — the team had renewed energy on both sides of the ball coming off its blowout loss to Oregon State last weekend.

The presence of London, who leads the nation in receiving yards, opened up the run game for the Trojans. USC has been working on developing its rushing attack all season, and the pieces finally came together for a 232-yard performance. Senior Keaontay Ingram was featured as the lead back for the second straight week and posted his first 100-yard game as a Trojan, finishing with 135 yards on 14 carries. Redshirt sophomore Darwin Barlow had only three carries entering the game but found his way into the rotation, putting up 61 yards on 10 carries.

“I think the accumulation of the first four games really kind of motivated us. Obviously you might not have seen it, but I think we were kind of building toward this,” junior quarterback Kedon Slovis said of USC’s offensive performance. “I knew we were really close up front to getting it hashed out, and we’re still building on this; it’s not a finished product by any means. But I thought the offense did a great job today as a whole.”

A photo of USC running back Keaontay Ingram

After giving up 45 points to Oregon State, the conference leader in total offense, USC’s defense got a breather against a Colorado offense that ranked 128th out of 130 FBS teams coming in. Junior linebacker Drake Jackson ran all over the field with two sacks and a fumble recovery as the Trojans held the Buffaloes to 14 points on only 234 total yards. After conceding 322 rushing yards to Oregon State, USC gave up just 72.

“There [were] a little questions — not on this team, but the outside world maybe — ‘can they stop the run?’” interim head coach Donte Williams said. “And they proved that they can.”

A photo USC linebacker Drake Jackson breaking through Colorado's offensive line

The Buffaloes were unable to get anything going in the first half until a fumble by Ingram at the end of the second quarter set them up for their first touchdown. A 65-yard catch-and-run by junior tight end Brady Russell led to a touchdown that put the Buffaloes within two scores midway through the third quarter. But on Colorado’s next drive, a pick by redshirt freshman Joshua Jackson Jr. took away any possibility of a comeback.

“Our whole thing is to make sure that we got a killer instinct. Don’t even let a team feel like they have a little bit of life,” Williams said. “The fans start leaving at the beginning of the fourth. We want the fans to start leaving before halftime.”

Williams has implemented numerous depth chart changes since taking over the head coaching role, and new guys are starting to get opportunities. While the Trojans started the season with a 1A-1B approach at running back, Ingram has been getting the bulk of the carries and USC hasn’t seen much from sixth-year man Vavae Malepeai. Freshman tight end Michael Trigg has had multiple catches in each of the last two games and provides another big body for Slovis to target.

The Trojans now sit at 3-2 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play. They will return home to face 2-2 Utah before a bye that precedes a tough second half of the schedule with games against Notre Dame, Arizona State, UCLA and BYU. As USC has alternated weeks between dominating and being dominated this season, the Trojans’ biggest test moving forward will be consistency.

“There’s no sigh of relief in us,” London said when asked if the victory was a relief after the Trojans’ 2-2 start to the season. “We still gotta keep on going, and that’s our main goal right now … We don’t like to congratulate ourselves.”