Who are the Aggies? Aggies are students of a agricultural, or formerly agricultural college; the term was used interchangeably with farmers. They’re also the team that came to LA and could have beaten the Trojans.
The Utah State Aggies were talked up the whole week by, seemingly, the entire Trojan team, including the head coach. The relatively unknown team out of the Mountain West Conference were 5 points shy of completing their 2012 season undefeated instead of 11-2. Their quarterback, Chuckie Keeton, finished last season with 27 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, with 8 more touchdowns on the ground and 3,992 yards of total offense (3,373 passing and 619 rushing). He entered the week tied for first in touchdown passes in the FBS and had 187 rushing yards. He left the game against USC with 15 fewer rushing yards, but 2 more touchdown passes. Utah State provided a necessary test to this USC team– one that it barely passed.
The defense stayed relatively strong throughout the game, despite giving up a few big plays. The Trojans rank second nationally in yards per carry allowed, giving up an average of 2.24 yards per rush. Unfortunately, they did allow a couple of big runs to happen. A failed blitz early in the second quarter allowed the Aggies to set up good blocks and spring a 55-yard run. The drive ultimately led to a third-and-8 touchdown pass over the outstretched arms of cornerback Torin Harris.
The right corner proved to be a somewhat of a weak spot in the game. The touchdown was the not the first big play that Keeton got from exploiting that spot. Late in the first quarter, Keeton completed a 42-yard pass on a seemingly insurmountable third-and-20. An unnecessary penalty by Leonard Williams helped the drive continue.
Penalties became a problem with Josh Shaw and Demetrius Wright adding to the numbers in the second quarter. Utah State’s no huddle offense also seemed to cause trouble early in the third quarter leading to the Aggies’ second touchdown of the day. To USC’s credit, that was the last score they allowed, which is impressive considering that they were unable to force a single turnover. They were also able to routinely give their own offense favorable field position– an offense that was unable to capitalize often.
A quick peek at the numbers from the Trojan offense shows that USC was barely able to outperform the Aggies. It was a sloppy game by the offense that was saved by the defense and special teams play. A variety of factors led to an offense that produced 3-14 third down conversions and only 17 points on 14 possessions.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler threw for more passes this game than any other game during his short college career. It may not seem like it because he managed only a 48 percent completion percentage– a career low. A few of the passes were definitely his fault.
After Utah State faked a punt early in the fourth quarter– which is actually a testament to how little they respected USC’s offense– Kessler was unable to take advantage of starting at the Utah State 34-yard line, throwing three consecutive bad passes.
Some of the problems were not his fault. There were multiple potentially big plays that were dropped by Marqise Lee, Randall Telfer, and Nelson Agholor. If caught, there would have been huge gains of yardage and/or touchdowns. Jahleel Pinner started out the day by dropping a short pass. Miscommunication in the passing game led to further woes.
The offensive line contributed their fair share of errors. They gave up three sacks and caused many penalties. Their false start and holding penalties stalled out drives. One of the most wasteful drives featured a sack and a dropped endzone pass, leading to an unsatisfying field goal. The drive had started at the Aggie 24-yard line after an excellent defensive stop and a bad punt by Utah State.
Let’s not forget about the botched snaps and fumbles. On a short third-and-2, running back Tre Madden drops the snap out of the wildcat and recovered for a fourth-and-1, effectively ending the drive.
The product of 12 USC drives that mattered were two touchdowns, two field goal attempts (one missed), seven punts, and a fumble.
In the end, USC won and that should be commended. Many other teams wish they had USC’s current 3-1 record. That is not the point though. Forget about other teams; forget about historic USC teams. Measure this team against itself. These Trojans could have done so much better.