Trojans hold off Gophers for season opening win
An interception by cornerback Torin Harris foiled Minnesota’s comeback attempt and sealed a 19-17 victory for USC. The win extends the Trojan streak of consecutive wins over Big Ten opponents to eleven. It also ran an active streak of season opening victories to fourteen. On the way, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods would set new school records, yet somehow we walk away unimpressed.
Robert Woods finished with a game-high 17 receptions for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns. The 17 catches set a new USC single-game record, moving passed Johnnie Morton’s 15 receptions against Houston in 1993. Matt Barkley connected for 34 completions, including a stretch of 16 consecutive, to finish with 304 passing yards. Those 34 completions were one more than Todd Marinovich’s 33 versus Notre Dame in 1989, establishing a new school record.
On a record-setting day, the number most focused on is zero. A Trojan offense that appeared to open the game with the intention of lighting up the scoreboard, failed to score a single point in the final thirty minutes. Woods made eleven of his seventeen grabs in the first half, as USC built a 19-3 lead at the break. But as the Gophers adjusted in the locker room, an offense that was nearly flawless in the opening minutes suddenly donned a look of imperfection.
The obvious scapegoat is the offensive line, since it was already pegged as the Achilles heel of this year’s team. It is younger and less experienced, and showed evidence of such through errors and penalties. Though it was a big day for Barkley and Woods, the Trojans failed to establish a running attack, resulting in a second half shutout and unimpressive nail-biting victory over one of the Big Ten’s lower tier members.
But let’s not lay it all on the guys up front, since the coaching staff is partially to blame. Jerry Kill did his part in adjusting in the second half to exploit the opponent’s weakness and give his team a fighting chance. Lane Kiffin failed to counter, and a unit that gave an early impression that it would hold its own, suddenly found itself fully exposed and clawing for every inch of turf.
Style points are only important to those participating in the 2011 fashion show, and for a second year in a row, the Trojans are left out. So despite the miscues, missed assignments, and missed opportunities, USC will move on to face Utah carrying a zero in the loss column, which says it was perfect in game one—and and the only thing that matters.