Several people told Ronald Jones II after USC’s win over Colorado on Saturday that he’d just reached No. 6 on USC’s all-time rushing list. It meant that, in one game, he’d passed Reggie Bush, LenDale White and Mike Garrett.
He did not quite believe it.
“It didn’t hit me yet,” he said. “I’ve got to see the numbers.”
I’m not lying to you, one person replied.
“I believe you,” Jones said. “But I want to see, like, the number numbers.”
USC has come to rely increasingly on Jones late in the season. A week after he received a career-high 27 carries, he rushed the ball 25 more times Saturday for 142 yards and a touchdown. He was fast, when he cut back so explosively in the fourth quarter, that no one got within 15 yards of him on a 20-yard score. He was physical, when he ran through a defender draped on his back in the third quarter for a 25-yard run. He took two-thirds of USC’s carries.
“Ronald Jones is everything that you’re looking for in a running back,” offensive coordinator Tee Martin said. “If one guy makes a mistake, he makes you pay for it. He’s like having a Sam Darnold at running back.”
Jones has now positioned himself to be one of USC’s most productive running backs ever. He has a shot to end the season at No. 3 on the all-time list.
Jones now has 3,293 yards in his career. He needs 130 more yards to catch O.J. Simpson (though Simpson needed just two seasons to accumulate that many), 396 to catch Ricky Bell and 432 to catch Anthony Davis.
Jones left USC’s locker room carrying a homemade poster someone made and delivered to him after the game. It said “ROJO’S GOT THE MOJO.” He said he was going to hang it on his wall. It would be a keepsake from the game he eclipsed a personal hero.
“Reggie was my all-time favorite player growing up, so just to be mentioned in the conversation with him is crazy,” Jones said. “And then obviously LenDale is obviously the go-to, and he’s got all these records here.
“I thought I’d never do it,” he continued. “But here we are.”
Kicker Chase McGrath said his injured groin has gotten progressively worse, and if not for a week off from practice, he might not have been able to play Saturday.
“I’ve had it for a couple weeks,” he said .”It just got way worse. And basically, every time I kicked the ball it’s a really sharp pain in my groin. It’s something I can play through, I’ve just got to learn to manage it better.”
USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu leads fans in singing the team song after defeating Coloradoon Saturday.(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
Erik Krommenhoek pulls in a pass for a two-point conversion.(David Zalubowski / AP)
USC quarterback Sam Darnold tries to evade the rush of Colorado’s Rick Gamboa during the second half.(Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)
Trojans running back Ronald Jones II breaks into the Buffaloes secondary during a touchdown run Saturday.(Matthew Stockman / Getty Images )
USC head coach Clay Helton directs his team during a time out against Colorado in the second half.(David Zalubowski / AP)
Trojans running back Ronald Jones II follows a block during a first-half run against the Buffaloes.(Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)
Colorado wide receiver Bryce Bobo fumbles the ball after he’s hit by USC cornerback Isaiah Langley during the first half.(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
Trojans wide receiver Deontay Burnett scores on an 18-yard touchdown reception against the Buffaloes(Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)
USC running back Aca’Cedric Ware is tackled after a short gain by (from left) Colorado nose tackle Javier Edwards, linebacker Drew Lewis and defensive back Evan Worthington during the first half.(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez scrambles as he’s pursued by USC linebacker Jordan Iosefa during the first half.(Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)
USC wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, front left, is tackled by Colorado defensive backs Isaiah Oliver, back left, and Trey Udoffia after making a reception during the first half.(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
McGrath, a walk-on freshman, had made 10 of 13 field goals before Saturday. But he missed his first attempt against Colorado, from 40 yards. He also missed an extra point.
He said the rest this week “helped it a lot” and said he would continue to kick sparingly until the injury heals.
“It’s just something you have to play through,” he said.
Austin Jackson and Brandon Pili both blocked Colorado field goals. It was the first time USC blocked two field goals in one game since 2011, also against Colorado.
Outside linebacker Christian Rector played with a club over his broken hand after missing two weeks because of the injury, but Jordan Iosefa was the starter. … Tight end Tyler Petite (sprained shoulder) played but did not catch a pass. ... Running back Stephen Carr again saw limited action in his second game back from a foot injury. He did not have a carry or a reception. … Michael Pittman Jr. made his first career touchdown reception. … … Colorado linebacker Trent Headley proposed to his girlfriend, Elizabeth Trujillo, a cheerleader, before the game during senior-day ceremonies. … USC is now 12-0 all time against Colorado. ... The game took three hours and 35 minutes to complete.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand