The Buffs started off strong. Their defense kept USC out of the end-zone for the entire first quarter. Unfortunately, CU quarterback Steven Montez and his offense failed to put anything together, and there’s only so long that any defense can contain the high-powered Trojan offense. On their first drive in the 2nd quarter, USC quarterback Sam Darnold marched his team up the field and ended it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Pittman.
The Buffs followed up with a quick three and out, only to give up consecutive 20+ yard passes to Tyler Vaughns. Darnold found Deontay Burnett in the end-zone for an 18-yard touchdown, giving them a 14-0 lead. At this point, the Buffs had shown discipline on the defensive side of the ball, and if the offense could find a rhythm, they could have a chance to steal a victory.
However, in a desperate attempt to get on the scoreboard before half-time, Montez was intercepted by Ajene Harris who took it all the way to the house for a 34-yard touchdown. 20-0, USC lead at half-time is the last thing any Buff fan would’ve hoped for heading into today’s game.
On the intercepted pass, Montez explained, “We tried to run a pick-route. I had thought the guy had gotten picked, but he went over the top and jumped it, picked it, and took it to the house. He made a good play.”
The Buffs had a rough start to the 2nd half, which saw James Stefanou miss his 2nd field goal of the game, who has only had one other miscue in the first game of the season. When the Trojans tacked on another six from a Darnold 24-yard touchdown run, it seemed that this would end up being the Buffs worst game of the year. Darnold finished the game with two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and 360 total yards while completing 21 of 34 passes.
CU finally got on the scoreboard from a 79-yard bomb from Steven Montez that found Juwann Winfree for his first touchdown all year. Long pass plays have been effective for the Buffs all season which makes you wonder why it took them until the second half to try a single long-route. Hope started to glimmer on the following drive when Freshman linebacker, Nate Landman, blocked a USC punt. Phillip Lindsay punched in the one-yard try and put made it a two score game at 27-14. This was the furthest CU would get in their attempt to come back. USC running back Ronald Jones Jr. danced around multiple defenders for 22 yards into the end-zone, making it 38-17 with just 8 minutes to go. Jones finished with 142 yards on 25 carries.
Winfree has not been a feature in CU’s offense until tonight. He came through with a second touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Look for his role to grow in the following weeks. When asked about the game slipping away following the Jones Jr touchdown, Winfree said, “It was real frustrating, we wanted this game real bad. When it slips away like that, all it does is prepare us for the future. We can work on missed opportunities. Just motivation, we gotta pick it up.”
It was Senior Day, signifying the last time seniors will be playing on Folsom Field. Buffs Senior safety, Afolabi Laguda, said “I just wish I could send out the rest of my buddies with a win. Just to lose at home. It’s tragic. Nothing like it. This is such a special place to play, so much history here.”
USC clinched the Pac-12 South title with today’s victory and head back home next week to take one UCLA. The Buffs will take their bye week to make improvements and come back strong at Utah against the Utes. This game will determine whether the Buffs can become eligible for a bowl game.
Coach MacIntyre said, “It was good to see fight out of them. They could have just tanked it and I was glad to see they didn’t. Obviously, next week, we’ll see a great fight out of Utah. It’s always a good game so, hopefully we can get the upper-hand in that.”
CU won’t travel to Utah until November 25th and will take place at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.