USC vs BYU — Game Day

A look at the key matchups as No. 24 USC (2-0, 1-0) takes on Brigham Young (1-1) in Provo, Utah, on Saturday (12:30 p.m. PDT, TV: ABC, Radio: 790):

Marquee matchup

USC’s running backs vs. BYU’s run defense. The last time USC traveled to Provo, it steamrolled BYU with a dominant performance on the ground from Reggie Bush (124 yards) and LenDale White (110).

While the Trojans may not have as much talent in the backfield this season, they’ve been pretty successful using a combination of Vavae Malepeai (left) and Stephen Carr. That duo will likely be the centerpiece of USC’s game plan, as BYU’s run defense has been a sieve so far this season. Opposing teams have run the ball 97 times in two weeks against the Cougars, and with a young quarterback on the road, there’s no reason to rock the boat.

Getting offensive

USC (469.5 ypg, 38 ppg): The Trojans’ new Air Raid offense was firing on all cylinders a week ago, as freshman Kedon Slovis threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns. But was that first start a sign of a bright future, or a flash in the pan? More will be known Saturday, as Slovis and Co. face off against a BYU pass defense that’s allowed just 282 pass yards over the first two weeks. Another stout effort from the USC offensive line would go a long way in making Slovis comfortable. So would another high-powered performance by USC’s running backs. Malepeai and Carr are both averaging more than five ypc and have combined for five rushing touchdowns in two weeks.

BYU (319.5 ypg, 20.5 ppg): After squeaking out just 12 points against a tough Utah defense in its season debut, BYU’s offense seemed to have found its rhythm late in last week’s double-overtime win over Tennessee. Still, this is hardly an explosive group. The Cougars will rely on a healthy dose of running back Ty’Son Williams, who is averaging 5.71 ypc so far this season, but he isn’t the only one capable of racking up rushing yards. Quarterback Zach Wilson is a viable scrambler, capable of turning a broken play into a big gain. His top target in the passing game, senior receiver Micah Simon, is a big-play threat in his own right, averaging more than 16 yards per catch.

Getting defensive

USC (398.5 ypg, 21.5 ppg): It’ll be on USC’s defensive front to mitigate the damage of a scrambling quarterback, but so far, the line has been one of the defense’s bright spots. Even if Christian Rector can’t go, defensive tackles Jay Tufele and Marlon Tuipulotu and freshman defensive end Drake Jackson have proved they’re up to the challenge. The underlying uncertainty continues to be on the back end, but the secondary is coming off an impressive second half against Stanford. Olaijah Griffin showed in that game that he has the potential to be USC’s No. 1 cornerback.

USC cornerback Olaijah Griffin, left, is congratulated by teammate Greg Johnson for breaking up a pass in the end zone against Stanford on Sept. 7.

BYU (393 ypg, 28 ppg): An experienced group of linebackers anchors the Cougars’ defense, but that hasn’t translated to stopping the run. Only two teams in the FBS have allowed more rushing yards than the 504 yielded by BYU, so it’s safe to expect an early test on the ground from USC. If that works, the Trojans may not even need to challenge BYU much through the air, where the Cougars have been much more effective, with just 282 passing yards allowed.

Something special

Through two weeks, USC ranks fourth in the nation in total kickoff return yards and 19th in yards per return (27.4). The Trojans have Velus Jones’ 100-yard touchdown return against Fresno State to thank for those gaudy return numbers. There have only been six total kickoff returns for touchdowns so far this season in college football. Outside of Jones’ long score, USC has averaged just over 18 yards per kickoff return.

Of note

In the only two prior meetings between BYU and USC, the Trojans have outscored the Cougars 77-28. In their most recent matchup,, in 2004, USC gained 527 yards in a 42-10 win.

Injury report

Rector, who injured his ankle against Stanford, is “questionable at best.” … Running back Markese Stepp has a calf injury and is a game-time decision. … Defensive back Chase Williams (shoulder) is expected to play.

latimes.com

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rleeholder1
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With the exception of the 50+ yard play on a wheel route, it was the same old Gumbo Offense, same old Gumbo Defense, same old mediocre punting, stupid mistakes (illegal wedge blocking on kickoff return) and poor tackling. McGrath’s long field goal was a highlight. Offense in OT was two runs up the middle and a forced pass in the middle. Where is this “Air-Raid” offense? Why not take a shot at the end zone in OT? Harrell doesn’t seem to be any better than what we had last year. I hope he proves me wrong in the upcoming games.… Read more »

Chris
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Had a conversation with my dad after the game and the old man brought some clarity. He reminded me that I’ve been a fan for over 35 years, from the first time he took me to a game when I was 7. in that time we’ve only had one consistently great run, under Pete. In his lifetime you can add McKay and Robinson. The rest of the time had been just like this. He told me “I’ve watched 40 seasons just like this one, where we should win but don’t, and I’ve seen about 15 seasons where we should win… Read more »

ATL D.D.S.
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But USC is shooting itself in the foot by accepting poor coaches, thinking that their talent will get them by…. That is what makes this run under Hugs so frustrating!

Scipio
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What do you guys think about what the BYU coach said about USC’s offense not being an Air Rail offense? Was he saying that the play calling in this game was not Air Raid, or the system was not Air Raid? I would like to hear your input.

Steveg
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It was air raid, they didn’t revert to the gumbo. There was a heavy run influence all evening.

PN4SC
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Losing a game that way always hurts, a lot. But knowing it is one more nail in Helton’s coffin takes some of the sting away.( and OK up by 34 on fucla)What’s critical is we hire a smart and savvy AD, and not someone ” who gets SC”.

TrojanRJJ
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I trust Foltz gets that.

Scipio
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Sad to believe some people actually thought things had changed this year. Three of the four top coaching positions (head coach, defensive coordinator, and special teams coach) are the same as the last three years. For those that struggle with math that means 75% of the crap coaches we have had are still here. Stop, and think, what has fundamentally changed? Nothing. In today’s game I found the body language of the team, even when we were ahead in the fourth quarter, showed a defeatist attitude. Am I encouraged about a new AD? No, because the last time I was… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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Scipio, relax – Helton is done. No rational AD would tie his career to Clay. Enjoy the rest of the year as best we can. Kedon is a true frosh with potential. He is not Sam. This year appeArs to be 5-7 to 7-5.

TrojanRJJ
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FYI, I remained hopeful but skeptical; skeptical won. Clay is Clay. He is not changing.

Steveg
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Too bad you are so bummed out. Hang, it’ll get better.

Scipio
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Thanks Steve. I needed that!

Rock2112
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I am tired of our team looking unprepared, confused, disorganized, and committing penalties no one else commits (illegal wedge???!!!). I am tired of our idiot coach looking surprised by it all, as if he ran a spectacular week of practice and it SOMEHOW just isn’t translating on game day. I am tired of watching us be out-coached by much lesser staffs, and having no answer to adjustments by our opponents. And I am mad that, just like with Kiffin, we didn’t make a change when it was obvious we were moving in the wrong direction after four years under Helton.… Read more »

Rock2112
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I’ve seen enough. There is no Helton 2.0. Just the same Helton we’ve had all along and a bad Stanford team in the rearview mirror. Today Helton was outcoached by an ass clown who himself is on the hot seat. And yet our coach is a guy who loses winnable games and brings a clown show of his own when he goes on the road. We spent an entire offseason building a “new identity,” and then were forced to completely abandon it after putting three or four quarters of it on film over two games. I don’t know what to… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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Rock, relax and enjoy. Helton is done. If you are an AD, do you trust your career to Helton? Clay is done. Utah will beat SC next Friday ending Helton 2. The Utah game should be entertaining. Kedon is not Sam. He is a true frosh with potential. My guess on the next 4 – 0 and 4 or 1-3. Knowing the Helton era is over, just enjoy it for what it is. I think GH will make the games entertaining.

Rock2112
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Yep RJJ. I am relaxed, much more than I usually am after a loss like this. I haven’t exclaimed the f-word once, or raised my voice talking about this. Even after last week, there is just no shock here. Of course Stanford was a “false positive.” Of course we’re not that good after we struggled in our opening game against an opponent we should have handily and convincingly defeated. Unlike prior years, I did not delude myself at all. Even after last week, I thought there was potential for us to be good but I never really expected it. The… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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On point, Helton was a huge mistake. It ends this year.

TrojanRJJ
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I think recruiting might actually pick up. New recruits will know SC will have a new coach.

Steveg
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Rock and Rjj, I totally understand how you feel, I am right there. From here on out I expect Helton to continue with his ineptitude. I support the players, but Clancy, Baxter, and Helton all need to take a bow and leave.

TrojanRJJ
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It is a shame: GH, Jenks, Drevino, ”Maui” (my favorite place) Chad K and AA are very good coaches. They could not overcome Clay, Clancy & Baxter. I think they will do just fine.

TrojanRJJ
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Enjoyed the game. BYU was the weakest team of the next four. Clay is done. He is clearly not an elite HC. Duh? No new AD will tie his career to him. So enjoy the season for what it will offer, knowing Clay is gone.

Paul_Muad_dib
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My take: USC players got tired. Bad coaching (not enough subs) or bad conditioning? The refs were obviously favoring BYU, but that shouldn’t matter if USC does what they are capable of. Helton got massively out-coached AGAIN! He is now holding this team back. No spine. Played not to lose. Showed no faith in his QB. Played right into the other teams traps.

Steveg
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No doubt they were gassed on defense. 5000 ft up and a high temp will do that. Our guys are used to sea level.

Paul_Muad_dib
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A half way decent coach would be smart enough to sub more.

TrojanMPA90
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At least UCLA is losing. Oklahoma up 17-0 in 1st Quarter. Doesn’t make up for losing to BYU but is at least something good.

illinoisusc
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OK…..so a little reality hit today…….is anyone surprised?………Utah 42 USC 17……at home……..that ought to just about end this nonsense of defending what cannot be defended and our wonderful new president will have clear grounds to begin a national search for someone who is actually a person that can inspire people, is not a drunk and is qualified to be a head coach. How refreshing.

ATL D.D.S.
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Be careful what you wish for. The easy job was firing Lynn Swann, who no one liked and everyone knew he was doing poor job except LS himself. Lets see who she picks as AD before we anticipate great picks at AD and new Head Coach in football. Pressie Folt is SJW through and through. The candidates will probably need to be “woke.” If i am wrong I will be the first to pipe up and say so.

illinoisusc
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I hear you…..its always a risk……but sorry…..but if we cannot do better than Helton……we might as well take those cheap plastic red seats and have the arts degree candidates paint people into each one.

Rock2112
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Watch, for the remaining home games, everybody’s going to be asking us if we want to use their tix (assuming you’re not a season ticket holder)! I’m glad I went to the Stanford game and had fun on the sidelines. It was great but it was also as good as it’s going to get for a while.

Want to throw up in your mouth? Just watch Clay Helton interviews this week. He’ll give you the impression that we won, and inevitably deliver the annual “all our traditional goals are still ahead of us” line.

Steveg
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How do we get our defense to contain and stop the outside game. A new DC? Seems they ran and passed outside at will. I can say that they tried to pick on our freshmen corners a lot, and as always the defense was in man coverage.

TrojanMPA90
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If you know you’re playing a mobile QB, then don’t you practice with someone on the scout team playing that role so the defense is prepared? We need to learn edge and gap containment.

Rock2112
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Clancy idea of adjusting edge coverage is taking everyone out of the middle, leaving a giant open field for the QB to rain straight through to a 17-yard TD untouched. That’s how he adjusts. Should have been fired last year. His defense doesn’t work, period. A lot of talent being wasted.

LawyerJohn
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Fun game to watch because for 4-hours it was difficult to tell who would win
The heat and mile-high altitude fatigued the SC boys; they’re not used to 5000 feet
So much for the so-called “Air-Raid;” looked like a typical 50-50 run/pass offense
Bad calls evened out
SC was fortunate to get into overtime with a great tying field goal
I guess SC still matters in Utah as the fans stormed the field

Carter
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Tried to watch the game on ABC with the sound off.l No on-screen names shown of any players the entire day. Awful broadcast, and those announcers, jeez…. All they want to do is jabber when I did turn on the sound. When does Dr. Folt insist that the names must return to the backs of the jerseys? First step(p) in the right direction. As to the refs, truly from the Pac-12 training class, per another comment. Watched a bit of the ASU – Michigan State game as ours was just soooooooo boring. ASU might be a bit more than originally… Read more »

TrojanMPA90
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Not sure what happened as far as distributing the ball around. Had the one big pass to a TE and then none after that.

Steveg
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It was odd because in the beginning of the game Slovis was looking at all his receivers, but as the game went on he got careless and tried to force it.

Paul_Muad_dib
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The announcers were clearly anti-USC. I turned the sound off.

TrojanMPA90
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Just watched Clay’s post game press conference. Sounded like many last year. Lots of excuses and needing to watch the tape. Said this game won’t define the season.

Nothing about how they made turnovers, bad tackling, letting players get the edge on runs.

Hoping this season is going to be good but not feeling it after today’s game.

ATL D.D.S.
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He has no other way to face his shortcomings as a coach except to double-speak.

Chris
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Slovis looked like a freshman today. All three of the picks had open guys on the route, just didn’t see them. Throwing into too tight of windows. Still think this team will be better, and expect them to win next week.

TrojanMPA90
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You can’t turn it over three times on the road and win. I warned people to not think of Slovis as the second coming of Darnold and that was proven today.

Trojan96
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Stepp averaged 5.9 yards on 9 carries and Carr averaged 2.4 yards on 9 carries. Why didn’t Stepp get more carries. I’m not impressed with Harrell. Zone defense shut down his air raid system and the defense was on the field for way too long. BYU had the ball 10 minutes longer and the defense was completely gasped, missed tackles. At least we were competitive and didn’t give up completely like last season. It’s clear that Helton’s Days are numbered.

ATL D.D.S.
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As far as Helton being at the end of his tenure, well we can only hope.

Paul_Muad_dib
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Because Helton didn’t want to hurt Carr’s feelings.

USCJojo
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BYU took away the air raid and made them run. It turned the game into a physical game. unfortunately, USC knows nothing about that, otherwise Stepp would be in getting more playing time.
Bad calls went both ways. The Pittman td, he was not forced out and he was holding the db.
They did play well and didn’t quit.

Mikejohn
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BYU’s defensive coaches’ planning and players’ execution won the game. Plus, the “physical game” was won by BYU.

USCJojo
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BYU had the ball for 10min more than USC on time of possession.
Their coach said he did not want to play against the air raid. He took it away.

Steveg
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Sure looked like the defender had hand on him, the refs agreed. Stepp could have gotten a first down on the 4th and 1 in the 4th. But of course Helton goes with his boys.

USCJojo
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“But of course Helton goes with his boys.” That’s how I have always seen Helton.
You have always wanted Stepp and you are right. He should be playing more. The kid looks like he can carry the ball 30 times. He reminds me of a young Jerome Bettis.

Steveg
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The discussion on the radio was what a horrible call that was by Helton, with Stepp on the sidelines. Carr is not cutting it, still going down at first contact.

Paul_Muad_dib
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Carr was stutter stepping into his own blockers and immediately fall down.

Rock2112
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Carr’s not bringing anything special. Kinda like our coaching staff.

Paul_Muad_dib
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He was also bad on kick returns. I was surprised.

Rock2112
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I don’t understand why we have Vaughns back there to return kicks. If the idea is for him to fair catch, he is not the best catcher on the team (and he muffed one on Saturday), and if the idea is yards on return, I find Vaughns to have a slow first couple of steps. He’s got a decent top speed, but he does not accelerate very well. He isn’t built for kick returns.

I’m scratching my head because this seems fairly obvious and yet our coaching staff doesn’t see it.

Paul_Muad_dib
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Vaughens loves to run backwards and he is not our best hands WR. It is simply terrible coaching. I would not have him back there.

Linkster
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They played well and didn’t quit which is better than 2018. Slovis made a number of mistakes, but he will learn. Clay is still a shitty coach on personnel. U got to run Stepp inside not outside. Is that Harrell’s call? Last pass right into the middle of the defense. Could be 2-5 I three weeks. Stanford is crappy this year, last weeks win doesn’t feel so good. Can Helton after ND game.

trojandn
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Good game. We have to live with the growing pains of the QB freshman. Looks like another nail in Helton’s coffin though. Fight On and let’s beat the Utes.

Trojanman
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We can still go 1-1 against the beehive state. I would rather have Utah be the win since it is a division game.

Trojan96
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Well what do you expect from a true freshman QB. He’ll improve with time. I have no idea on how we will be able to beat Utah. 3-3 is the best we can hope for now. There is no way this team beats Utah and ND. We might have a shot at Washington.

Trojanman
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I thought he played a decent game. I don’t blame him for the loss, but the turnovers were the difference, as we didn’t make enough plays to overcome them.

Linkster
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Don’t think much of our odds vs. WA. Up there, probably crappy weather. Helton will be outcoached there as well.

Steveg
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It may have been he was responding to the pressure of the moment, and some more pt will take care of that. Some of the O line play, especially on the run game was suspect. If Utah has game film, we can expect more of the same defensive schemes next week, only probably better executed than BYU. I am not looking forward to it.

Trojanman
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Slovis played fairly well. Three picks, two of which were tipped balls, were the difference in the game. You seldom win, especially on the road, with a -3 turnover ratio.

RialtoTrojan
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What a surprise the homer refs give BYU the game. The same catch interception by SC was ruled a dropped ball. Anyway maybe they can tarmac Helton now.

John Weld
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It is that Clay and the Trojans can’t win on the road?

TrojanRJJ
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John, Clay is an at best mediocre coach. He has overwhelming talent. Where talent can overcome culture- he wins. Where not, he loses. On the road, you need culture more often than at home. Without Sam, I think Clay is under .500. His time at S.C. is over. He will be lucky to be 3-3 after the first 6. I really hope he is 3-3 with the win being at ND. But, that is wishful thinking. When Swann was fired, he was on very thin ice. Today, that ice melted.

Trojanman
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At least Clay has a nice tan.

John Weld
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Threw it to the guy was double covered but look to the right and Pittman is open

TrojanRJJ
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John, He is a true frosh. He made a mistake. He is not Sam. He is Kedon.

John Weld
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Absolutely understand and agree with you.

Trojanman
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That feels familiar.

Trojanman
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Some things never change.

Steveg
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Give it to Stepp

Linkster
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Nice job by defense. Need a Td now.

Trojanman
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Time for the offense to win the game.

Trojanman
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Defense does its job.

Trojanman
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Great start to the OT.

TrojanRJJ
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Great game

TrojanRJJ
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Great game. Enjoy it. We played better than I expected.

Trojan5
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The one positive I take out of this game: The 2019 Trojans fight until he end. The 2018 Trojans would have folded already.

Steveg
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I hope SC gets the ball first and scores. It will give the defense time to rest. If Stepp is not in then Harrell is an idiot.

Trojanman
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They should have been playing more aggressively on the last drive. You could see they were playing for the tie. You play to win, but Clay plays not to lose.

Steveg
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A lesson he learned from Sark.

ATL D.D.S.
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Beautiful Clock Management once again.

Steveg
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Take a time out and run? The clock expires. Helton cannot manage a game.

ATL D.D.S.
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What the hell kind of call is that?

Chris
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Ok Slovis. Time to win this.

Trojanman
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The defense is gassed.

ATL D.D.S.
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You could sure tell on that QB scramble…

ATL D.D.S.
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If we don’t lose in regulation.

ATL D.D.S.
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We’re gonna die in OT, I fear.

Trojanman
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Clay playing for the tie. What a wuss.

Steveg
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Remember Fresno when he went for it and failed? He is totally gun shy now.

ATL D.D.S.
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Fresh legs with Stepp

Steveg
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Nice to see Malapei back in able to play.

Chris
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We’re very tired.

Steveg
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What happened to Clancy and his rotation of players. Some things never change.

ATL D.D.S.
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That was a fatigue touchdown !