Game 3 wrap-up: USC 38, Syracuse 17

The first offensive series of a football game is pre-scripted, often based on opposing tendencies captured on film. So when Syracuse used the opening possession to drive 70-yards on 12 plays, capping it with a field goal, USC suddenly found itself trailing for the first time in 2011, and alarms sounded prematurely as a sign of things to come.

Ryan Nassib completed eleven consecutive passes early, keeping the Trojan defense on its heels and an Orange offense confident. But in a game of adjustments, USC flipped the script on the opponent, adapting to its game plan and making subtle alterations accordingly. After 11 completions for 74 yards to begin the game, Nassib met each snap thereafter with difficulty, connecting on just 14 of 26 passing attempts and 156 yards for the remainder of the contest.

In contrast, it was a USC offense that played with consistency for the first time this year, en route to a 38-17 victory and 3-0 season start.


Nassib was the talk of the first quarter, but it was Matt Barkley who finished as the most dominant figure in the game. The junior didn’t fire a double-digit string of consecutive completions, but finished with a school record-tying 5 touchdown passes. It’s the second record set by the quarterback in three games, after establishing a new school mark for completions in the season opener.

Barkley completed those 5 touchdown passes to five different receivers, spreading the wealth as he picked the Orange defense apart. Among those on the receiving end is Robert Woods, who finished with a team high 8 receptions for 82 yards. The quarterback also played error free, without a turnover, raising his total to 9 touchdown passes and a single interception through three games. The 38-points scored on Saturday also marks the first time in six games that the team has eclipsed thirty points in a game.

Strength and Conditioning

Last week I mentioned special teams Coach John Baxter as one of the unsung heroes of Southern California’s early season success. This week I’ll give you another, in Coach Aaron Ausmus.

Syracuse was solid in the trenches for at least 3 quarters on Saturday. The Trojans could generate little progress on the ground, and even resorted to a manufactured rushing attack that included end-arounds and wildcat formations in a desperate attempt to gain forward progress.  The Orange defensive front also applied heavy pressure to keep Barkley a bit off balance in his game of pitch-and catch.

There was a noticeable difference once the game moved into the latter stages. The Orange began to show fatigue, while the Trojans continued to stand tall. That is a credit to strength and conditioning that began in the spring and continued throughout the hot months of summer. The better conditioned players began to impose their will and obvious edge to close the game.

There is no statistical category to reflect Ausmus’ contribution to each victory, but it is visible to the naked eye. A team that plowed into a brick Orange wall early, suddenly found lanes to be wider, as a once stout defensive front was slower to react and easily pushed aside by the strength and stamina of the offensive line.

The lone sack of Barkley came late in the fourth quarter, occurring as a result of a predictable exchange. With the table set in the red zone for a possible record-breaking pass attempt, the defensive charge was toward the quarterback looking to make history with his sixth scoring toss.  Barkley faced little harassment in the final thirty minutes against an opposing pass rush that showed even less of an existence in the fourth.

USC is now 3-0, ranked 23rd in the AP Poll, and preparing for its first road test of the season.

Closing Numbers

  • Matt Barkley’s five touchdown passes tie five others for the school mark. The quarterback has now accomplished the feat 3-times at USC.
  • Robert Woods has 33 receptions on the season, establishing the highest 3-game total in school history.
  • With victories over Minnesota and Syracuse, USC has posted a record of 26-2 versus out-of-conference opponents since 2003. That record is 17-2 versus BCS AQ opponents.

Fight On!

[Box Score]


~ by Anthony on September 19, 2011.

One Response to “Game 3 wrap-up: USC 38, Syracuse 17”

  1. […] Home › NCAA Football › Game 3 wrap-up: USC 38, Syracuse 17 […]

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