October 18th – at USC           No. 22 USC 56, Colorado 28

Colorado fans thought they had seen the best USC quarterbacks had to offer. In 2011, Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley torched Buff defense for a school record six touchdown passes. To prove the 2011 effort was no fluke, Barkley threw for six touchdowns against Colorado again in 2012.

Cody Kessler, seen as a game manager even by the USC faithful, was arguably no Matt Barkley.

Against Colorado, though, he was even better.

Kessler threw for a school-record seven touchdown passes, completing 19-of-26 passes for 319 yards and seven scores in No. 22 USC’s 56-28 rout of Colorado (yes, Buff fans, Kessler had as many touchdown passes as he had incompletions). Kessler’s favorite target was Nelson Agholor, who had six receptions for 128 yards and three scores. Javorius Allen, the Pac-12’s leading rusher, had 15 carries for 128 yards and one touchdown.

For Colorado, Sefo Liufau completed 23-of-35 passes for 143 yards, with two touchdown passes to Nelson Spruce. Liufau also had two costly interceptions in the first quarter, when USC sprinted out to a 28-0 lead, never looking back.

For the first time in 2014, Colorado did not win the coin toss to open the game. In the first six games of the season, the Buffs had won the toss, and elected to receive, rather than defer. USC won the coin toss, and took the ball.

And promptly scored.

Aided by two defensive holding penalties, USC quickly moved down the field. On a third-and-eight at the USC 40-yard line, Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler hit Nelson Agholor for a 17-yard gain. Four plays later, Kessler hit Agholor for a 16-yard touchdown. USC 7, Colorado 0, with 10:47 still to play in the first quarter.

Colorado responded with a sharp looking running game on its first possession. Tony Jones had runs for 18 and 12 yards to quickly move the ball into USC territory. Then, with his first pass of the afternoon, Sefo Liufau threw the ball right to Trojan cornerback Su’a Cravens, who returned the interception 12 yards to the Colorado 47 yard line.

Javorius Allen runs of seven, seven and eight yards helped move the ball into scoring position. There, Kessler hit Agholor for another touchdown, this time from 18 yards out. USC 14, Colorado 0, with still over half of the first quarter yet to be played.

The Buffs’ next possession included a 15-yard completion to Nelson Spruce before back-to-back false starts (one on Jeromy Irwin; one on Stephane Nembot), gave Colorado a first-and-20 at its own 23 yard line. How did the Buffs handle the adversity? Christian Powell up the middle for runs of one, three and six yards, bringing on a Darragh O’Neill punt.

The Colorado defense then forced its first three-and-out of the game … only to re-take the field after a roughing the kicker penalty was called on Marques Mosley. The Buffs’ fifth penalty of the first quarter gave the Trojans new life, and the USC offense quickly took advantage. A 45-yard completion from Kessler to JuJu Smith put the ball at the Colorado nine yard line. Two plays later, Kessler rewarded Smith with a seven yard touchdown pass, Kessler’s third touchdown of the first quarter. USC 21, Colorado 0, with two minutes still remaining.

But the first quarter carnage was not yet over. After two incompletions, Sefo Liufau completed his second pass of the game … to the opposition. An interception by Kevon Seymour was returned 23 yards to the CU 27 yard line. A 12-yard run by Allen was then followed by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kessler to Bryce Dixon. USC 28, Colorado 0 … and still not out of the first quarter.

The Colorado finally got its act together on its next drive, but it wasn’t easy. The Buffs pieced together a drive to get on the scoreboard, but it took 18 plays to score. A personal foul put the ball on the 40 yard line to start the drive, so it was really a 17-play, 60-yard drive. The first test came on a third-and-six, with Liufau hitting Nelson Spruce for eight yards and a first down. Two plays later, facing a third-and-10, Liufau hit tight end Sean Irwin for nine yards, with Liufau keeping the ball for two yards and a first down on fourth-and-two. A six yard completion to Irwin on third-and-four put the ball in the red zone. A second fourth-and-one conversion run by Liufau set the Buffs up at the USC one yard line, with Michael Adkins completing the marathon drive two plays later. USC 28, Colorado 7.

The Buffs then gave their fans a glimmer of hope, when on USC’s next drive, Chidobe Awuzie recovered a Justin Davis fumble at the CU 40-yard line. The Buff offense, though, was not able to keep up the momentum, going three-and-out and punting the ball back to the Trojans. USC needed only five plays to cover 68 yards to make it a 35-7 game. A 40-yard completion from Kessler to JuJu Smith was followed by a 24-yard run by Javorius Allen. On the next play, Kessler hit touchdown pass No. 5, with Bryce Dixon getting his second touchdown catch, this time from nine yards out. USC 35, Colorado 7.

A promising drive by the CU offense ended near midfield with an incompletion on fourth-and-three at the USC 47 yard line. The Buff defense then forced its second three-and-out of the first half, but the only action of note in the Buffs’ final drive of the first half was that Sefo Liufau was sacked twice.

Halftime score: No. 22 USC 35, Colorado 7

Any misguided belief that the Buffs would come out with fire in the second half was extinguished when the CU offense went three-and-out on its first possession.

Any misguided assumption that the Trojans would let off the gas with a big halftime lead was extinguished when the USC offense scored in two plays. Cody Kessler made it six touchdown passes against the Buffs with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor. USC 42, Colorado 7, two minutes into the second half.

With the game outcome well decided, the teams traded three-and-outs before the Buffs scraped together their second scoring drive of the game. A short punt by USC, followed by a personal foul on the Trojans, put the ball at the USC 20 yard line. Sefo Liufau ran for six yards on fourth-and-three, his third rushing conversion of a fourth down in the game. A five yard run by Phillip Lindsay then set up a two yard touchdown pass from Liufau to Shay Fields, making it a 42-14 game midway through the third quarter.

A 47-yard run by Justin Davis highlighted the Trojans’ next drive. Cody Kessler, still in the game despite the ongoing rout, then hit his seventh touchdown pass of the game, this time a 24-yarder to Steven Mitchell. USC 49, Colorado 14, after the Trojans’ one minute drive.

Then it was the Buffs’ turn. Aided by yet another personal foul penalty, the Colorado offense set up shop at its 40-yard line. An 11-yard run by Michael Adkins, a ten-yard completion to Nelson Spruce, and a 17-yard completion to Tyler McCulloch highlighted the 10-play, 75-yard drive, culminated in a five yard touchdown pass from Sefo Liufau to Nelson Spruce. USC 49, Colorado 21.

As they did with each of the Buffs’ first three scoring drives, USC answered the Colorado touchdown with a touchdown of its own. A 39-yard touchdown run by Javorius Allen gave the Trojans their first rushing touchdown of the contest. USC 56, Colorado 21, in the final minute of the third quarter.

With Jordan Gehrke now at quarterback for the Buffs, the CU offense turned the ball over on downs – after three straight incompletions from Gehrke. A three-and-out gave Gehrke another chance, and this time the sophomore was successful. A 14 yard run by Gehrke on a third-and-two kept the drive alive, with Gehrke hitting Shay Fields for 18 and 15 yard gains as part of a 13-play, 91-yard drive. Gehrke did the honors himself for the score, taking the ball in from nine yards out for his first touchdown as a Buff. USC 56, Colorado 28, midway through the fourth quarter.

The rest of the game was played before an almost empty Coliseum, with Trojans fans filing out content with the big win. The Buffs’ final chance to dent the scoreboard coming to an end with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-nine at the USC 40-yard line.

Final score: No. 22 USC 56, Colorado 28

“They kicked us good to say the least”, said CU head coach Mike MacIntyre. “We gave them way too many opportunities in the first half on some holding calls and roughing the punter and things like that that were things we worked on … They kicked us good, but I also think that three or four plays that were bonehead mistakes by us as coaches and players not getting it done really got them out front quicker”.

By the end of the game, the stats line was not as atrocious as the actual game. USC had 532 yards of total offense, to 403 for Colorado. The Buffs held the ball for 35:57 of game clock, to only 24:03 for USC, and had more first downs (27-to-21) than did the Trojans.

But in the decisive first quarter, the stats sheet was no so even. USC had 210 yards of total offense in racking up 28 points, while Colorado had only 75 yards of total offense. Cody Kessler went 11-of-14 for 159 yards and four touchdowns, while Sefo Liufau went 3-of-7 for 27 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.

“I put a lot on my shoulders,” said Sefo Liufau, who finished 23-of-35 for a season-low 143 yards. “You can’t have two picks and expect to win … We shot ourselves in the foot too many times today”.

Big plays were the difference for the Colorado defense. While the Buff offense managed just one run of 20 yards (by Phillip Lindsay) and one pass completion of 20 yards (to D.D. Goodson), the Trojans were gashing the Colorado defense for pass completions of 75 and 49 yards, and runs of 47 and 39 yards.

“We need to do a better job,” said MacIntyre. “It was definitely an ugly first half”.

– Game Notes … 

– The final total yards count: 532 for USC; 403 for Colorado, was skewed by the fourth quarter. As both teams played backups and tried to run clock, Colorado out-gained USC, 122-to-9. For the first three quarters, then, it was 523 in total yards for the Trojans; 281 for the Buffs.

– Colorado, with 403 yards of total offense, produced its sixth straight game of over 400 yards, the longest streak since 1994.

– With the loss, Colorado fell to 0-9 all-time against USC, and 2-18-1 all-time in games played in the state of California.

– Sefo Liufau extended his streak of multiple touchdown pass games to ten, the longest current streak in the NCAA.

– Nelson Spruce caught his 11th touchdown of the season, tying him with Derek McCoy (2003) for the single season record. With nine catches (for 69 yards), Spruce passed Michael Westbrook for second on the all-time list for receptions with 170 (Westbrook had 167, 1991-94).

– Tony Jones led the Buffs in rushing against the Trojans, with 62 yards on 11 carries. Jones had 30 of those yards, though, on CU’s first two offensive plays of the game. The next play was a Liufau interception … and the rout was on.

– Senior safety Terrel Smith started his first game since 2012 (vs. Oregon).

– Two players saw their first career action as Buffs – Shane Callahan and Gerrad Kough along the offensive line; Chris Graham kicking off.

– The longtime voice of the Buffaloes, KOA’s Larry Zimmer, missed his first game since the 1993 Aloha Bowl, having been hospitalized since October 4th. Zimmer’s streak of 251 consecutive CU games was snapped.

– With the game out of hand early, many Buff reserves saw plenty of action … Quarterback Jordan Gehrke went 7-of-13 passing, going for 71 yards. Gehrke also had three rushes for 19 yards, including a nine yards touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Gehrke’s first touchdown as a Buff … Michael Adkins had seven rushes for 25 yards and a one yard touchdown … Malcolm Creer, who did not have a carry previously in 2014, had four carries for eight yards … Tight end Sean Irwin, who had four catches in the first six games of the season, had two catches for 15 yards … Donovan Lee, who previously had three catches, added two catches for eight yards.



5 Replies to “No. 22 USC 56, Colorado 28”

  1. I think as fans we are allowed to be disheartened. This is a game that looked a lot like last year. We fell way behind early and could never recuperate. To say throw the towel? NEVER! Give up? NEVER!! One collapse does not make a season.
    But it had twinges of prior years.

  2. It’s so disheartening to see all of these Chicken Littles out there running around screaming that it’s the end of the world (I mean, start a wrestling program? That’s absurd). We didn’t expect to get it all back this year, and games like this happen to EVERY team, even great ones. Anyone remember the 1992 Buffs? They were a MUCH better team than this one, and ranked in the Top Ten on October 31. That was the day that they went into Lincoln and got blown away by the Huskers 52-7, much worse than what happened yesterday in Los Angeles. And for football fans in Colorado, all you have to do is think back to last year’s Super Bowl. Should we disband the Broncos and replace them with wrestling because of that one wretched game? Absolutely not. Despite what happened yesterday, I have seen more progress with the Buffs in the last month than I have in the last five years. It won’t happen overnight, but it WILL happen. The sky isn’t falling, Chicken Little, and I can’t wait for the 2015 season.

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