LOS ANGELES — “The longer it goes, the better we get.”
If you go to the USC Football team’s official Twitter page, that quote is included in the team’s bio. It is also the team’s mantra for the 2023 season, one that they adopted this past offseason.
Now, obviously it is still early. We are not even halfway through the 2023 season, and all of the Trojans’ biggest games are still ahead of them. But thus far, that has not exactly been the case.
On Saturday against Colorado, to put it bluntly, the longer it went, the worse USC got.
For the majority of the game, the Trojans actually played quite well. USC jumped out to a commanding early lead, scoring the game’s first 21 points. With two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Trojans led the Buffaloes 48-21, and appeared well on their way to a commanding victory.
And then, the wheels fell off.
Alex Grinch’s much-maligned defense fell apart down the stretch, allowing three Colorado touchdowns in the game’s final 15 minutes. Superstar quarterback Caleb Williams threw his first interception of the season on a bad overthrow. Even special teams contributed to the collapse, with kicker Denis Lynch, who earned a scholarship this past week, missing a 38-yard field goal that would have essentially put the game on ice.
Thanks to all that, it took poor clock management by Colorado and recovering an onside kick for USC to close out a game that they once appeared in complete and total command of. For the second consecutive week, the Trojans narrowly defeated an inferior opponent, coming away with a victory but leaving much to be desired.
Is it time to hit the panic button? Absolutely not. The Trojans are 5-0, have yet to trail this season, and all of their goals are still very much in front of them.
But it’s hard not to walk away from Saturday’s game without some level of concern for this team. As the more difficult portion of USC’s schedule looms closer and closer, the Trojans have a lot of work to do if they want to contend for a national title.
And that starts with playing a full 60 minutes of football.
On Saturday, USC only showed up for the first 40 or so minutes of the game, before mysteriously disappearing down the home stretch.
That was good enough to defeat an overmatched Colorado team that was playing without two-way star Travis Hunter. But it almost certainly won’t be good enough when the Trojans travel to South Bend to face archrival Notre Dame in two weeks, or when two-time defending Pac-12 champion Utah comes to the Coliseum the week after that.
“The longer it goes, the better we get,” USC told us.
Okay, cool. Now it’s time to start showing it.