USC vs. Cal: 10 Things We Learned in the Trojans Win over the Golden Bears
The USC Trojans stormed into Berkeley and took it to the battered Cal Golden Bears by a score of 62-28.
Ty Isaac, Nelson Agholor and Buck Allen all had multiple touchdowns on the day for the Trojans. The 62 points scored was the most points scored in conference play since the 56-0 win over the Washington Huskies.
Sonny Dykes' team shot itself in the proverbial foot when it came to special teams. Agholor scored two touchdowns on punt returns, and the Golden Bears also had a punt blocked, which resulted in a touchdown.
Let's take a look at 10 things we learned in the Trojans victory over Cal.
Ty Isaac Has a Bright Future
The true freshman from Shorewood, Ill., only had 10 carries for 57 yards heading into today's ballgame.
With Silas Redd, Justin Davis and Tre Madden all out with injury, it was time for Isaac and Buck Allen to take over the tailback spot.
Isaac rushed for a career-high 87 yards on 11 carries. In the process, Isaac scored his first two touchdowns of his career. For a man 6'3", 225 pounds, he displayed great agility and balance. It appeared almost as if he was gliding down the field against the Golden Bears.
As evidenced today, he's got an incredibly bright future. He should be in line for more time on the field if the injuries to the USC running back corps continue.
Buck Allen Is a Force
Buck Allen, welcome to the party.
The tailback out of Tallahassee has rushed for 268 yards combined and six touchdowns in the past two games. Against Cal, Allen rushed for 135 yards on only six carries.
Allen scored a 43-yard rushing touchdown on the first time he touched the ball. Later he scored on a 57-yard screen pass and on a 79-yard carry.
He's brought the big play element to the tailback position. Allen runs with magisterial effort and drive. He's truly giving the Trojans a big lift with the injuries the team has recently suffered in the backfield.
Jared Goff Is One to Watch in the Future
Jared Goff is a gamer, there's no question about it.
He leads all true freshmen in passing yards, completions and touchdown throws. Although this season hasn't been the best, Goff has shown a good deal of moxie and guile.
Goff was victimized by drops Saturday. There were at least four very catchable balls Cal receivers were unable to haul in. On the day, Goff went 34-of-48 for 255 yards and three touchdowns.
With the 255 yards passing, Goff is now third all-time in Cal football history for most passing yards in a single season. He'll likely break the mark before the year ends.
Nelson Agholor Is Dynamic
Cal's special teams unit was anything but special.
A large reason why was Agholor. USC's punt returner went virtually untouched on both of his punt returns for touchdowns. For one, his vision was spectacular. He was able to read his blocks and follow the wedge set up to perfection.
From there, he turned on the jets and used his sublime speed to run away from the Cal defense. His ability to make an impact in special teams gives USC a very valuable weapon.
Special and (un)Special Teams
An eye-popping dichotomy existed in this game.
For USC, the Trojans scored three touchdowns on special teams. Agholor was able to score on punt returns of 75 and 93 yards. USC also blocked a punt, which was returned for a touchdown by Josh Shaw.
Cal allowed three touchdowns on special teams. On both of Agholor's returns, the unit wasn't even close to tackling the returner.
That's all that needs to be said. No team will win a game by allowing three touchdowns on special teams.
Kenny Lawler Is a Talent
The receiver duo of Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs gets most of the publicity for the Golden Bears.
However, a third pass-catcher in true freshman Kenny Lawler is making a name for himself. He led Cal Saturday with six catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns. This comes on the heels of last week, in which he caught three touchdowns against Arizona.
Lawler is bigger than both Harper and Treggs. He's very good at contorting his body and making the acrobatic catch. Against USC, he exploited the Trojans defensive backs on back-shoulder throws.
He, along with Harper and Treggs, make up a very impressive receiver trio.
Cal's Had a Rough Year
Saturday's game was a microcosm of the problems that have plagued this season.
Cal didn't play disciplined from a defensive standpoint. Tackling was poor, and there were multiple blown coverages. The special teams play was absolutely horrific. The offensive line was not able to sustain much of a push during meaningful play, and the defensive line didn't pressure USC's signal-callers enough.
There just wasn't enough consistency on either side of the ball to be victorious in a game like this.
The 1-9 record is a tough pill to swallow for this new coaching staff. Injuries have effectively robbed Cal of this season.
Distractions have been plentiful throughout the year that extend beyond the football field. Starting defensive end Chris McCain was dismissed from the program earlier in the season. Also, walk-on running back Fabiano Hale was hospitalized by a teammate in a recent locker-room altercation.
Lastly, athletic director Sandy Barbour has gotten a ton of heat publicly.
Things just aren't going well for the Golden Bears right now.
USC Dominated Up Front
From the start, it was obvious the Trojans did whatever they wanted.
Cal was not able to sustain any push with its offensive line. USC's defensive line was shooting the gaps and giving Goff no time to throw the ball. The Golden Bears' rush game never fully got on track in the first half.
The USC offensive line rushed for 256 yards and an 8.8 yards-per-carry average. Cal's defensive line was constantly getting blown off the ball.
Major Talent Influx Needed at Cal
Cal has a nice nucleus in regard to its skill position players.
Goff, Treggs, Lawler, Harper, Khalfani Muhammad and Daniel Lasco are all underclassmen. The offense in theory should be pretty good in the upcoming years.
However, there's little depth at the other positions. Cal got absolutely dominated up front on both sides of the ball. Dykes and his staff needs to address both the offensive and defensive lines immediately when it comes to recruiting.
Dually, there needs to be more team speed on the defensive side of the football. Cal athletes looked a step slow Saturday when compared to the Trojans.
To be fair to Dykes, his team suffered a litany of injuries across the board. It will take some time before the team is built up from a depth standpoint. The offensive line in particular should be addressed via recruiting ASAP.
Status Quo for the Trojans Under Orgeron
The Trojans did what they needed to do, taking care of an inferior opponent on the road.
With the advantage the Trojans had up front, it made sense to pound the rock and wear out the thin Cal defense. USC played with intensity and energy from the get-go. Even with depth issues, the Trojans were more physical than a team with more bodies.
The win sets up USC nicely at this point. With games against Stanford and UCLA remaining, the Trojans have a shot at winning the Pac-12 South. USC has to win out and hope that Arizona State trips up somewhere.