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USC Trampled By Boston College In Miserable Loss

Jeremy Bergman |
September 13, 2014 | 10:38 p.m. PDT

Sports Director

On a miserable, rainy evening in the suburbs of Boston, USC fell victim to its own repetitive offensive game plan and an explosive Boston College running attack, surrendering an atrociously-high 452 yards on the ground and falling 37-31.  

“We were defeated tonight,” USC head coach Steve Sarkisian summed it up sadly and succintly.

He’s right. The Trojans didn’t quite lose the game; losing would imply that winning was always the achievable goal.

No, USC was physically manhandled, in the trenches and on the wings.

The Eagles matched the Trojans’ apparent skill advantage and raised them one, executing a tactically sound game plan that relied heavily on option plays and stretch runs and dove rarely into passing downs. 

Boston College dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy ignited the Eagles offense throughout the game with speed off the option and remained the Trojan defense’s Achilles' heel on the ground. The Florida transfer finished as BC’s leading rusher, accumulating a career-high 191 yards on the ground - he was over 200 yards if you don’t count the sacks. What Murphy lacked in his aerial game (5-for-13, 54 yards), he made up for with his deceptive runs and obvious speed. 

As Murphy turned the corner after faking the handoff on the final death knell 66-yard TD scamper with less than four minutes to go in the game, it was clear that USC was too slow, too beaten and too unaware to compete with the mobile man. 

“He beat us with his skills,” USC defensive back Su’a Cravens confessed. “We were anticipating him to run the ball and that’s what they did. We knew he liked to scramble and we just didn’t execute.”

It was a reoccurring theme throughout the night: the stocky Trojan linebackers chasing the short and speedy Boston College backs from sideline to sideline. The way the Eagles spread Chris Wilcox’s defense Saturday night was reminiscent of the damage Oregon did on the Trojans back in 2012 when Chip Kelly’s Ducks racked up 62 points and 424 rushing yards, 321 of which at the legs of Kenjon Barner. 

But it wasn’t just one Heisman-worthy back in Chestnut Hill. It was an army of burners - Jon Hilliman (19 car, 89 yds), Myles Willis (9, 89), Tyler Rouse (8, 32) and Sherman Alston (4, 62) combined for four touchdowns. When USC’s front seven tired - and they did - Boston College just went back to the stockade and tapped into its pool of elusive backs. 

There was no stopping the Eagles, though the Trojans knew they had to.

“They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Sark iterated. “The quarterback got confident running it. The running back got confident running it. And in turn, we lost that confidence.”

When the Trojans lost their mojo wasn’t a mystery; it was the second quarter, a brutal fifteen minutes during which USC was outscored 20-7 and the Eagles commenced on an unanswered 24-point run. 

The players may have lost confidence - senior captain Hayes Pullard was stuck in the locker room in the first half serving a one-half suspension - but they wouldn’t admit it, dishing out credit to Boston College when asked what on earth happened to their squad. 

“It just showed great character for Boston College coming out ready to play,” Pullard claimed. “It was a fun game to watch.”

A fun game to watch. It looked like the Trojans were watching the game blow by them on the sidelines and on the field, and not just the players. The coaches, too.

At one point in the third quarter, USC’s offense, a dynamo against Fresno State two weeks earlier, went six straight drives without recording more than three plays. Sark’s offense ticked off multiple fans on Twitter, choosing to run the ball on first down way too often and setting the squad up for unmanageable third down situations. 

Though Javorious Allen was effective in the screen game - he scored on a long pitch-and-catch in the second quarter - USC’s leading rusher was completely inept on the ground. Allen recorded just 31 rushing yards, an average of 2.1 yards per carry. 

At the half, the leading rusher was Soma Vainuku with an 11-yard garbage time burst. It was that bad. 

With the run game unable to set up the pass, Cody Kessler saw lots of pressure on third down pass plays and was sacked five times. Though the Bakersfield skipper closed on a hot streak, completing 18 of his last 21 passes to cap a four-touchdown night, his performance was one of desperation. His success was dependent on his coaches' play calling, which was poor and predictable until the fourth quarter.

The quarterback and team captain was emotionally absent during the postgame press conference, staring blankly at the floor and answering drearily, “We had a lot of missed assignments. At the end of the day, I have to take blame for that.”

In front of a massive USC contingent, an amalgamation of East Coasters and Beantown alumni, the Trojans fell flat in every phase of the game. Well-traveled Trojan fans watched in dismay as the Boston College fan base rushed the field in wet, drunken glee. 

For the fans and the team, it was a wasted night, full of wasted opportunities, wasted talent and wasted time. 

“We have to do a better job,” Sarkisian admitted. “I don’t think it was for a lack of effort. I thought we tried.”

Well, try harder.


- Boston College graduate center Andy Gallick saw Saturday’s game as an archetypical Boston College win: “Waking up this morning, just knowing that it was a night game, it was going to be a BC-style football game…Those were the types if games BC was winning in its hay day, the cold, wet games versus tough teams.”

- Boston College’s win over ninth-ranked USC was the program’s first win against a top 10 team since 2002 when the Eagles bested fourth-ranked Notre Dame, 14-7.

- Lot of firsts for USC players tonight: first touchdown grab for injury-plagued wideout George Farmer and first interception for freshman CB Chris Hawkins.

- USC’s 20 yards rushing was the program’s lowest since the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl, when the Trojans picked up just one yard on the ground against Utah.

- Look! A tight end reception! Randall Telfer and Bruce Dixon recorded a combined three catches for 60 yards, but are still underutilized. 

- USC alum Will Ferrell was on the sidelines for the game, sporting a beard for which Grizzly Adams would pine

Reach Sports Director Jeremy Bergman via e-mail here and on Twitter here.



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