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USC 55, Arkansas State 6: Trojan defense was excellent, offense a bit sloppy

Chris Hawkins fumble recovery
Chris Hawkins fumble recovery
Harry How/Getty Images

USC 55, Arkansas State 6

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Arkansas State USC Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 87 64
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 42.4%
Avg Starting FP 25.8 32.8 29.6
Possessions 16 16
Scoring Opportunities*
5 7
Points Per Opportunity 1.40 7.00 4.96
Leverage Rate** 53.6% 75.0% 68.3%
Close S&P*** 0.391 0.752 0.586
* A scoring opportunity occurs when an offense gets a first down inside the opponent's 40 (or scores from outside the 40).
** Leverage Rate = Standard Downs / (Standard Downs + Passing Downs)
*** When using IsoPPP, the S&P formula is (0.8*Success Rate) + (0.2*IsoPPP)
EqPts (what's this?) Arkansas State USC
Total 34.3 47.9
Rushing 18.4 21.6
Passing 15.9 26.4
Success Rate (what's this?) Arkansas State USC Nat'l Avg
All (close) 25.0% 55.6% 41.3%
Rushing (close) 38.5% 64.3% 42.9%
Passing (close) 13.3% 50.0% 39.6%
Standard Downs 26.7% 63.0% 46.8%
Passing Downs 23.1% 33.3% 29.5%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Arkansas State USC Nat'l Avg
All (close) 0.95 1.54 1.28
Rushing (close) 0.86 1.45 1.06
Passing (close) 1.19 1.61 1.53
Standard Downs 1.02 1.31 1.11
Passing Downs 0.86 2.83 1.84
Line Stats Arkansas State USC Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 2.32 4.14 2.82
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 14.3% 5.8%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 14.3% 25.0% 6.5%
Turnovers Arkansas State USC
Turnovers 4 0
Turnover Points (what's this?) 23.5 0.0
Turnover Margin USC +4
Exp. TO Margin USC +2.56
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) USC +1.44
TO Points Margin USC +23.5 points
Situational Arkansas State USC
Q1 S&P 0.404 0.678
Q2 S&P 0.455 0.838
Q3 S&P 0.624 0.695
Q4 S&P 0.465 0.637
1st Down S&P 0.514 0.720
2nd Down S&P 0.521 0.727
3rd Down S&P 0.576 0.706
Projected Scoring Margin: USC by 37.1
Actual Scoring Margin: USC by 49

The USC offense overall was exciting but concerning at the same time. Cody Kessler and company benefited from relatively favorable field position and a bevy of big plays (which I'm defining as plays generating 30+ yards). Of the five drives that featured a big play, the Trojans scored on 4 of them. Although it's great they were able to generate so many big plays, it's concerning that the first-string offense was only able to score on one extended drive. This may be nitpicking in this game due to the talent gap, but it is something that OC Clay Helton should pay attention to.

Defense! Blitzes! Turnovers! All things USC fans were pining for last season showed up in this game against Arkansas State. If a team benefits from four turnovers, and its offense doesn't turn the ball over, it'll win more often than not. Fumble recoveries by Chris Hawkins and Osa Masina (who returned his for a TD), combined with INTs by Hawkins and Su'a Cravens (whose was almost a TD) were the highlights of the day for the defense. An absolute yes for turnovers.

Formations/Basics

Arkansas St. USC
Backs-Wide % of Plays Yds/Play % of Plays Yds/Play
1 back, 3 wide 35.8% 6.6 40.0% 3.2
1 back, 4 wide 26.9% 3.1 41.8% 8.4
2 backs, 2 wide 3.6% 0.5
2 backs, 3 wide 29.9% 3.7 14.5% 24.1
3 backs, 2 wide 7.5% 7.4
Arkansas St. USC
Hash % of Plays Yds/Play % of Plays Yds/Play
Left 36.4% 3.9 40.0% 8.9
Middle 6.1% 2.5 12.7% 5.4
Right 57.6% 5.7 47.3% 8.6

Passing

Arkansas St. USC
Passing Comp Rt Yds/Pass Passing Comp Rt Yds/Pass
Behind Line 5-8, 40 yards 62.5% 5.0 2-2, 19 yards 100.0% 9.5
0 to 4 6-10, 28 yards 60.0% 2.8 9-10, 87 yards 90.0% 8.7
5 to 9 3-8, 24 yards 37.5% 3.0 6-7, 55 yards 85.7% 7.9
10 to 19 2-8, 24 yards 25.0% 3.0 50-9, 138 yards 55.6% 15.3
20 to 29 1-2, 40 yards 50.0% 20.0 1-1, 25 yards 100.0% 25.0
30-plus 1-2, 41 yards 50.0% 20.5 0-3, 0 yards 0.0% 0.0
Arkansas St. USC
% Blitz: 33.3% 45.9%
Avg. Rushers 4.3 4.6
Passing (no blitz) 13-25, 131 yards, 1 sacks, 5.0 yds. per att. 14-17, 168 yards, 3 sacks, 8.4 yds. per att.
Passing (blitz) 5-13, 66 yards, 0 sacks, 5.1 yds. per att. 9-15, 156 yards, 2 sacks, 9.2 yds. per att.
Reason for INC/INT Arkansas St. USC
QB Fault 10 5
Good Defense 7 3
WR Fault 2 1

A big question entering the season was how would USC create pressure on the QB. Well, they were able to get one sack by Kenny Bigelow, and they blitzed 33% of the time so we'll leave this TBD with encouraging signs. Pressure on QB Fredi Knighten was absolutely the cause of the Hawkins interception -- he threw it off his back foot -- which was definitely good to see.

On the surface, Cody Kessler had a good game, but in truth he only had a decent one. Of the five sacks, two were definitely the result of him holding on to the ball for too long (noted below in QB Activity). Kessler also missed every one of his passes over 30 yards; his furthest completed pass traveled 17 yards in the air, with Juju Smith-Schuster taking that pass for 44 more yards for a touchdown. His air yards per completion was a decent 7.90, however it would've been nice to see him complete one of those bigger pass plays.

Rushing

Arkansas St. USC
Rush-Yds YPC Rush-Yds YPC
To Edge 15-68 4.5 7-89 12.7
Toward Tackle 5-19 3.8 12-102 8.5
Up Middle 4-30 7.5 1-3 3.0

The running game was good, with Ronald Jones II being the highlight -- every one of his carries went for five yards or more. Tre Madden was hit or miss. When he hit, boy did he hit with a 65-yard run and a 20-yard run. However, Madden also had seven runs that went no more than three yards. Those two carried the load. Aca'Cedric Ware got the carries at the end of the game. Look for that to change this week with Justin Davis coming back.

QB Activity

Arkansas St. USC
QB Move Rushes-Yds Passes-Yds Sacks-Yds Rushes-Yds Passes-Yds Sacks-Yds
Rollout 2-10 3-25
Option - speed option 4--2
Option - zone read 21-124
Sack - in pocket 1-(-6) 1-(-9)
Sack - coverage sack 1-(-8)
Sack - QB fault 2-(-15)

Mostly good things from the Trojans with definite things to work on. They get Idaho next week; the Vandals gave up an astounding 3.9 big plays per game(!!) last year, so look for more big plays and hopefully less inconsistency in the other areas.