Ronald Jones II continues his late surge in Pac-12 championship game
Ronald Jones II, as he has done so often this season, broke two tackles in the fourth quarter and flipped, belly flopping into the end zone.
Usually, Jones is a ball of energy after scores. This time, he just stayed on the ground.
He had good reason. For the fourth game in a row, he was USC’s quiet, dependable workhorse. He set a career high with 30 carries. He rushed for 140 yards.
In what could be four of his final games in a USC uniform, Jones finally became the featured, every-down back like those in USC’s past. In those four games, he set his four career highs in carries. He has averaged 27.5 carries per game in that span. He has averaged 176.5 yards in those games.
Even more than quarterback Sam Darnold, the offense has run through Jones.
In the 31-28 victory over Stanford, Jones punched in a one-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He scored to put USC ahead by 10 late in the fourth quarter. He had runs of 18 and 28 yards.
In a matchup against Stanford’s star running back, Bryce Love, Jones more than matched him. Love finished with 125 yards.
USC linebacker Cameron Smith stood up Love on a handoff at the end of the first quarter and drove him backward, then ripped the ball loose. The officials ruled the play had been dead, and it was not reviewed during the break between quarters.
Why? The referee explained that Love’s forward progress had been stopped. Once the officials whistle a play dead in such situations, the play is not reviewable.
Don’t keep trucking
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, at a pregame news conference at Levi’s Stadium, expressed displeasure at one particular Pac-12 television arrangement.
Jones has not commented on his future, but the NFL draft could beckon. He is already one of USC’s most accomplished backs in history. On Friday, he moved past O.J. Simpson for fifth place on USC’s all-time rushing list.
Pittman sets record
A little over a month ago, Michael Pittman Jr. was languishing in the bench, still recovering from the effects of an ankle sprain. His father, former NFL receiver Michael Pittman Sr., went on a rant on Twitter, raising the possibility that Pittman would transfer.
A few days later, he was in the starting lineup for the first time.
A few weeks after that, on Friday, Pittman was setting a Pac-12 championship game record.
He had 146 receiving yards for the evening to set the title game mark.
USC quarterback Sam Darnold (14) scrambles against Stanford during the first half of the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium.(Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)
USC running back Ronald Jones II fights off the tackle of Stanford tk Justin Reid as he runs for an eight-yard touchdown during the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium.(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)
USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr., center, is congratulated by Sam Darnold (14) and Deontay Burnett (80) after his touchdown reception against Stanford.(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)
Stanford’s Cameron Scarlett comes up a yard short of the goal line against the USC during the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium.(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)
USC receiver Tyler Vaughns dives into the endzone for a touchdown against Stanford during the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium.(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)
USC quarterback Sam Darnold looks to pass against Stanford during the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium.(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)
Stanford running back Bryce Love scores on a nine-yard touchdown run against USC before halftime of the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium.(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)
USC cornerback Jack Jones is called for pass interference on Stanford receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside during the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium.(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)
Stanford running back Bryce Love (20) is congratulated by his Cardinal teammates after scoring a touchdown against USC in the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium.(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)
“I don’t think that the Pac-12 football game should ever be delayed for a truck race,” Scott said.
Earlier this month, Stanford and Washington played in a game that was supposed to air on FS1. But the start of the game did not air on FS1. It got bumped by a truck race that had gone long. Instead, the game was shown on FS2, which isn’t available on some major carriers.
“My phone was lighting up about it,” Scott said. “I was very, very disappointed in what happened and raised it with the president of Fox.”
Scott said the result of the conference’s pilot program aimed at shortening games, tested in 15 nonconference games this season, reduced game time by an average of five minutes and the total broadcast time by eight minutes.
Tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe’s 48-yard reception in the first quarter was a career long. … Right guard Andrew Vorhees left the game in the first quarter holding his head and neck. He was replaced by Jordan Austin. … Scott said that next season’s schedule would not include any Friday road games following a Saturday road game. … According to ESPN Stats and Info, USC is the first team to defeat Stanford twice in a season since 1913, when the New Zealand All Blacks did — in the days when Stanford’s official football team actually played rugby.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand
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