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Season in review: USC ends with first conference championship in nearly a decade, falls short of playoff expectations

By in Press Enterprise on January 11, 2018

By Joey Kaufman

LOS ANGELES — USC’s 2017 season lacked the feel-good finale of 2016, when it prevailed over Penn State in a Rose Bowl classic, a victory that led to a top-five finish.

Instead, the Trojans were handled last month by Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, another one of the so-called New Year’s Six bowl games, and dropped out of the top-10.

The beatdown shaded an 11-win season that had previously seen its share of high-points, most notably winning its first conference championship since 2008. It was also the first time USC posted consecutive 10-win seasons since the Pete Carroll era, marking the longest sustained period of success since NCAA-leveled sanctions.

But the Trojans harbored playoff hopes prior to the season and their regular-season losses to Notre Dame and Washington State, coupled with some uninspiring wins, ended their bid.

Here’s a look back on 2017, the highs, the lows and more:

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

1. RUNNING ‘ROJO’

It often looked like “Tailback U,” as Ronald Jones put together the best season for a USC running back in more than a decade. Jones rushed for 1,550 yards, the most since Reggie Bush zoomed for 1,740 during his then-Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2005. The junior was also the Trojans’ first running back since LenDale White in 2005 and 2004 to rush for 1,000 in consecutive games. One of Jones’ best efforts came in the Pac-12 Conference title game win over Stanford when he ran a career-high 30 times for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including an 8-yard run into the end zone with 4:22 left that helped seal the triumph.

2. BRINGING PRESSURE

The Trojans finished with 46 sacks, tied with Clemson for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu was one of their most disruptive players, with 9.5 sacks, second most on the team, along […]    

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