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USC Beats Syracuse 42-29 In An Inconsistent Performance

Will Robinson |
September 8, 2012 | 5:47 p.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor

It's safe to say Woods proved his ankle was 100% healthy (Shotgun Spratling/NT).
It's safe to say Woods proved his ankle was 100% healthy (Shotgun Spratling/NT).
The No. 2 USC Trojans moved to 2-0 on the season after a hard-fought battle against the Syracuse Orange, claiming a 42-29 victory.

After a rough showing last week against Hawaii, the USC ground game was very effective behind Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd’s play, as the two backs combined for 184 yards on 26 carries. Wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods added unexpectedly big reverse runs, as the Serra men ran for 23 and 76 yards, respectively.

Matt Barkley played well for the most part, compiling an interesting stat line: 22-for-29, 186 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. The six touchdowns tie the USC record for passing touchdowns in a game, which Barkley set twice last year (at Colorado, vs. UCLA).

The Marqise Lee show was in full force last week, but today, it was Woods’ turn. He returned to form with a ten-catch, 93-yard, two-touchdown day, reminding folks that Lee is not the only player in the Trojan receiving corps (as evidence by the play embedded at the bottom).

The defensive front seven was USC’s redeeming aspect, as defensive end Morgan Breslin and linebackers Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey had astounding games. However, as the second corner spot remains USC’s Got Talent each week, good quarterbacks like Ryan Nassib will exploit it until the Trojans find a consistent, competent complement to Nickell Robey.

The Trojans faced further problems following the rules. Lane Kiffin’s crew compiled seven penalties in the first half and 12 on the day, increased from last week’s eight.

USC mightily struggled in the first quarter, accumulating no points and just 71 yards on offense. Alternatively, the USC defense held Nassib in check, featuring an interception by Dion Bailey and a sack by Morgan Breslin.

But after a sluggish first quarter, USC returned to form in the second.

The Trojans’ first drive of the second featured effective play from tailback Curtis McNeal and the offensive line, as the redshirt senior racked up 42 yards. Barkley finished off the drive with a short touchdown pass to Lee to put the first points of the game on the board.

USC’s defense continued its shutdown performance in the second quarter, but it was also aided by Syracuse receivers dropping on-target passes.

On a drive that almost closed out the half, Barkley threw a perfect 29-yard pass to a blanketed Woods who rose to grab it and fell in the end zone to put USC up 14-0.

Nassib and the Orange responded, as the fifth-year senior led a quick 55-yard drive in 1:15 to gain three points before the half.

The second half was delayed 65 minutes due to a menacing thunderstorm over MetLife Stadium. The teams resumed play at 3:25 p.m. PDT.

Bailey highlighted a strong performance from the USC front seven with his two interceptions (James Santelli/NT).
Bailey highlighted a strong performance from the USC front seven with his two interceptions (James Santelli/NT).
As Nassib tried to establish more momentum for his offense, his effort was quickly extinguished via a Breslin tip and Bailey interception, his second of the game.

With the exception of an intentional grounding penalty, the USC offense moved as it pleased. Barkley was responsible for 45 of the 57 yards on the third touchdown drive, culminating in a quick pass to Woods.   

At this point, Barkley was en fuego; he had completed 11 passes in a row for 124 yards and three scores.

Nassib got on the board with his first score on a 12-play, 78-yard drive, ending with a three-yard pass to Marcus Sales, who beat Trojan corner Torin Harris.

The Orange offense, unrelenting with its attack, capitalized on a Barkley interception to score again against a fatigued Trojan defense.

USC only gained 56 yards in a rough third quarter, a 15-minute period in which Syracuse made the game a one-possession affair.

Barkley and the Trojans countered Syracuse’s third quarter assault with a solid pass and a great exhibition of athleticism from tight end Xavier Grimble, as he broke four tackles en route to a 22-yard touchdown, raising the Trojans’ lead to 12, 28-16

Woods took a reverse 76 yards to set up Lee’s second touchdown and Barkley’s fifth on a four-yard pass, beefing up the lead to 35-16, probably putting the game away.

The following drive, Nassib led a 12-play attack to put up another touchdown, this time finding Marcus Sales in the end zone, besting Harris (again). But as what happened with the previous two-point conversion attempt, the Orange failed to convert.

The next drive was kick-started by a 40-yard run by Silas Redd, pushing the transfer over 100 yards on the day.

The Trojans’ crucial blow of the game came during that drive, as co-captain Khaled Holmes left the game on a cart, requiring redshirt freshman Cyrus Hobbi to fill Holmes’ shoes at center. Barkley wrapped up the drive by throwing a fade to Lee in the left corner of the end zone, giving the quarterback his sixth touchdown and the wideout his third.

After the first-string defense left, Nassib snuck a touchdown in from the one-yard line to make the final score.

Next Saturday USC travels to Palo Alto, Calif. to face No. 25 Stanford. It will need a more convincing performance than today to prove that it is deserving of its No. 2 ranking and to declare what caliber the team is.


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