USC's offensive line delivers blows early, late vs Stanford
By DAN GREENSPAN
LOS ANGELES (AP) By the fourth quarter, the Southern California offensive line could see the physical and psychological effects of a bruising running game had taken on the opposing defense.
It's happened plenty of times over the last decade in the revived Stanford-USC rivalry, but this time the No. 4 Trojans finally turned the tables on the 19th-ranked Cardinal in their 42-24 win on Saturday night.
It is a template USC wants to continue in its glamour non-conference showdown with Texas on Saturday, their first meeting since the legendary 2006 Rose Bowl.
"We could see them demoralized," center Nico Falah said. "Like the last drive we had to get the first down to win the game, we could see them all with their hands on their hips, sweating. An offensive line can really see a defensive line struggling."
USC bludgeoned Stanford for 307 yards rushing, the most allowed by the Cardinal since facing a 2010 Oregon team that would play for the BCS title that season. Ronald Jones II had 116 yards rushing and two touchdowns, finishing with at least 100 yards in six of his last eight games. Freshman Stephen Carr had his first career 100-yard performance, with 119 yards on 11 carries.
"If we execute our blocks, we see them go right by us," Falah said.
Stanford did not record a tackle for loss on any USC running play, while its only sack of quarterback Sam Darnold resulted in just a 1-yard loss.
The credit rests with an offensive line that was regarded as a major question mark entering the season, replacing multi-year starters at guard and both tackles. USC rushed for 232 yards in the season opener against a frisky Western Michigan outfit, and allowed just one negative run in that game. A bad snap to Darnold resulted in the only other tackle for loss USC has surrendered through two games.
"The five kids up front are playing high-level football," head coach Clay Helton said.
USC recognized that Stanford has set the standard for offensive line play in the Pac-12 in recent years. They wanted to prove something. They did from the start, opening the game with four straight runs. They finished the game with 12 straight runs.
Of USC's 22 offensive snaps in the fourth quarter, 19 were runs, gaining 124 yards.
"I give them a lot of respect, but that's the greatest feeling as an offensive lineman, just knowing you can run the ball at will," right guard Viane Talamaivao said.
"Everybody says Stanford is a physical team, the big team that's run the ball against us," Falah said. "But that was our game plan, too. Running the ball, being physical, and it showed today."
With Stanford forced to account for the run, Darnold was able to exploit play-action and throw for 316 yards and four touchdown passes.
The 632 yards of total offense USC racked up was the most Stanford has allowed in David Shaw's seven seasons as head coach. Shaw, who knows something about offensive line play, said the dominance was a credit to USC's front.
"They ran it better than we did, and I'm not used to saying things like that so all the credit goes to them," Shaw said.
Updated September 10, 2017