Sixty players- walk-ons and scholarship players- took the field at some point against Cal on Saturday. They made a case for why they still deserve some national recognition, and they got it.
USC almost did not need their offense to score, but the offense scored a lot anyway. The three touchdowns scored by special teams would have been enough to overcome the 14 points given up by the first team defense. Three— as in an FBS record-tying three— punts were returned for a touchdown.
Before the USC team produced a single offensive yard, they were up 7-0 after Nelson Agholor’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown. The punt return team continued to pour it on with a blocked punt returned by Josh Shaw for a touchdown and a 93-yard return by Agholor for a touchdown. Great blocking by the team helped secure the touchdowns.
Speaking of blocking, USC’s offensive line and receivers blocked extremely well downfield, which helped Javorius Allen significantly. It enabled him to score three total touchdowns for the second consecutive week despite getting a mere seven touches against Cal. He had touchdown runs of 43-yard and 79-yard.
The combination showcased a Southern California team that averaged 25.3 points per game and scored only 228 total points in nine games, managed to score 62 in a single game— 25 percent of their season total up to that point and the most they scored since dropping 69 on Washington State in 2008. The 62 points was also the most scored against Cal this season— more than top ten teams Ohio State and Oregon. This came despite substituting for backups halfway through the third quarter on offense and defense. USC showed similar resilience to what was seen against Oregon State.
After the defense gave up two touchdowns in a row, Cody Kessler was sacked back in his own territory sending Cal’s crowd into a frenzy. Cal fans felt as if they were on the verge of turning the game around after a 21-0 deficit. On the next play, Kessler threw to Allen on a halfback screen, resulting in a 57-yard touchdown, quelling a possible comeback. Cal’s offense was unable to score again until late in the third quarter.
The defense held up even though they were without Leonard Williams. Cal ran an astounding 96 plays (for comparison, USC ran 51) and still only managed 28 points. Half of those points came off of units containing mostly backups, which is significant because they were subbed into the game halfway through the third quarter, with plenty of game left to play. Not bad for a defense that did not produce any turnovers.
The backups on offense were in the game even earlier, hitting the field with a majority of the third quarter remaining. The game was well in hand with a score of 48-14, but Ty Isaac, who started the year off somewhere around fifth or sixth string, decided to add two more touchdowns. One was off a 37-yard run, mostly on his own power.
Overall, the team scored six offensive touchdowns and three special teams touchdowns. They performed admirably on third downs, converting 5 of 9. However, penalties and missed field goals still continued to be a problem even though they have taken a backseat in people’s minds amidst the decisive victories. This may matter more in big games against Stanford and UCLA. For now, though, USC officially becomes bowl eligible and hopefully continues to pave their way to a prestigious bowl game. There is no better place to start than next week’s game against Stanford, fresh off a win against Oregon and with College Gameday coming to town.
Allen surpassed Justin Davis as the team’s second leading rusher at this point in the season.
Walk-on receiver Robby Kolanz logged his first reception during the first drive of the fourth quarter. It was a three yard pass from Wittek.
Walk-on running back John Akiba got more yards on less carries than Silas Redd. Those four carries were his first this season. He had four carries during the 2012 season as well.