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HomeSportsUSC's defensive woes entrance and heart in slim win over Cal

USC’s defensive woes entrance and heart in slim win over Cal

As contenders fell and chaos reigned among the many ruling class of faculty soccer, Tuli Tuipulotu stood amid the wreckage Saturday night time together with his arms raised in triumph. It wouldn’t be lengthy earlier than the triumph turned to feverish aid.

USC’s final two video games had been troublesome for its star defensive lineman — and the Trojans protection as an entire. Over 1,100 yards had been given up. Nearly 40 tackles had been missed. A beforehand unblemished report and clear path to the College Football Playoff was misplaced within the course of, elevating additional doubt concerning the trajectory of a Trojans protection struggling to cease anybody with a lot as a pulse.

On a Saturday when three of the nation’s high six groups — No. 1 Tennessee, No. 4 Clemson and No. 6 Alabama — have been all stopped of their tracks, USC practically discovered itself among the many many fallen contenders. What started as a formidable bounce-back efficiency for its protection practically devolved right into a nightmare earlier than USC escaped with a 41-35 victory.

As Tuipulotu threw down quarterback Jack Plummer for his second sack, USC appeared effectively on its approach to defibrillating its lifeless protection. USC had shut down the Cal speeding assault, giving up a season-low 63 yards, and saved Plummer below duress, with Tuipulotu contributing two of three sacks.

USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu (49) celebrates with teammates Nick Figueroa (99) and defensive lineman Stanley Ta’ufo’ou (47) after sacking California quarterback Jack Plummer through the first half.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

But as time ticked away, Plummer saved discovering holes in USC’s secondary as he racked up 406 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Trojans practically gave up 500-plus yards for the third consecutive week, this time capping the entire at a mere 469.

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It was sufficient definitely to maintain USC on its toes late. A shock onside kick and subsequent landing drive left Cal down simply seven factors with 9 minutes remaining, a reminder of how rapidly this USC protection is able to dropping its grip.

If not for Caleb Williams, who as soon as once more carried USC with a 360-yard, four-touchdown efficiency, the Trojans might need let this one slip away. Alas, they’d hold on.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams looks to pass during the second half against California on Saturday night.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams seems to go through the second half towards California on Saturday night time.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

USC quarterback Caleb Williams runs the ball late in the fourth quarter to secure the Trojans' 41-35 victory Saturday.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams runs the ball late within the fourth quarter to safe the Trojans’ 41-35 victory Saturday.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Cal got here out swinging from the beginning towards USC’s reeling protection. Freshman operating again Jaydn Ott ripped off a 22-yard achieve to open the sport, and Cal marched down the sector in simply 5 performs, the final of which noticed Ott slip by means of a number of tackles on his approach to the top zone.

But the Bears struggled mightily to maneuver the ball from there till the third quarter. After the Trojans have been trampled for 76 yards on that preliminary drive, they clamped down, holding Cal to only 88 over their subsequent six. Ott, in the meantime, completed the primary half with one fewer speeding yard than he’d gained on Cal’s opening drive, slowed by a immediately stingy USC entrance seven.

The renewed effort on protection early was important, contemplating USC’s electrical offense didn’t all the time have its traditional spark.

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Williams nonetheless largely had his means with Cal’s protection, regardless of as soon as once more being with out his high two receiving targets. He nonetheless discovered Tahj Washington (112 yards and a landing) and Michael Jackson III (115 yards and two touchdowns) in huge moments and nonetheless conjured huge performs by means of the air, finishing 10 passes of 15 yards or extra, together with a 59-yard display screen that Jackson took to the home.

Soon, Cal would discover its personal rhythm on offense. Fortunately for USC on Saturday, it was too little too late.

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