By Duane Barker
(Los Angeles) – USC scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to break it open and beat Western Michigan 49-31 Saturday to kick of the 2017 season at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
Western Michigan gave the Trojans fits throughout the contest and were even with the Trojans in the fourth quarter at 28 before USC took control.
USC had trouble stopping the ground game as the Broncos racked up 263 yards rushing.
Tied at 28, USC finally took the lead for good as Ronald Jones got loose on the right side and scooted into the corner of the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown run with 6:57 left. It was his third score of the afternoon.
The Trojans went on to score twice more including a pick six to put the game away.
USC got on the board first on a 16-yard run by Jones to cap a 16 play, 75 yard drive on the Trojans first possession.
Then things took a turn as Western Michigan bounced back to take the lead. Jamauri Bogan scored on a four-yard run to tie it. Western Michigan then took the lead as quarterback John Wassink kept the ball and ran in from seven yards out in the second quarter.
After a short punt the Trojans tied it at 14 when Jones finished off a 45-yard drive with a one-yard run. The teams went into the half tied at 14.
Western Michigan took the opening kick off in the third quarter and grabbed the advantage. Wassink caught a ball from Keishawn Watson off of a double pass and went 27 yards for the touchdown. USC linebacker Porter Gustin just missed an interception and Wassink broke free the other way.
Sam Darnold did it himself later in the quarter with an 11-yard run to again get the Trojans even.
USC regained the lead with a prolonged drive in the fourth quarter. Freshman Stephen Carr picked up the first touchdown of his Trojan career with a two-yard run.
However Western Michigan immediately responded when Darius Phillips returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to tie it at 28.
Then the Trojans finally took over. Jones, with his sprint to glory made it 35-28. A 37-yard field goal made it 35-31 but Carr did his thing again on the next possession. He broke through the line of scrimmage and outran the Western Michigan defense for a 52-yard jaunt.
On defense Crespi’s own Marvell Tell picked off Wassink and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown on the following series. In a moving scene USC had coach Clay Helton brought in blind center Jake Olson who snapped the ball for the extra point to make the final score 49-31.
Jones finished the night with 159 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. Carr had 69 yards and two scores. Darnold completed 23 of 33 for 289 yards but he was hurt by two interceptions. Deontay Burnett was his main target with seven catches for 142 yards.
Levante Bellamy led the Broncos with 102 yards on nine carries. Jamauri Bogan rushed for 77 yards and a score on 15 carries.
Next up for the Trojans is a date with Stanford next Saturday night at the Coliseum.