Southern California is looking to guard against a letdown after a pair of emotionally charged results.
Running back Javorius Allen figures to keep the Trojans on track against Colorado, which is seeking a second Pac-12 win in 21 tries.
No. 22 USC tries to stay unbeaten in its series with the visiting Buffaloes on Saturday.
The Trojans (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12) led then-No. 10 Arizona 28-13 at the start of the fourth quarter Saturday, but escaped with a 28-26 road victory after the Wildcats missed a 36-yard field goal with 17 seconds left.
Coach Steve Sarkisian’s team found itself on the other side of late-game disappointment a week earlier when it gave up a 46-yard touchdown pass on the final play of a 38-34 loss to Arizona State.
“We need to get better. Naturally the thing is you get a great win on the road, you want to relax,” Sarkisian said. “We need to improve. We’ve had that meeting already with the football team. It wasn’t personal but it was critical.”
Allen ran for a career-high 205 yards with three TDs against Arizona. Allen, the only FBS player with at least 750 rushing yards and 250 receiving yards, leads the Pac-12 with 130.2 rushing yards per game and averages 5.8 per carry.
He is averaging 176.5 scrimmage yards per game – more than the 170.6 by Reggie Bush in his 2005 season.
“What I love about him is his ability to be coached. He’s continually trying to improve and it shows,” Sarkisian said. “His game is very good right now.”
Colorado (2-4, 0-3) doesn’t appear to be equipped to slow down Allen, giving up a conference-worst 5.0 yards per carry. The Buffaloes allowed 171 rushing yards and three TDs to Oregon State’s top two running backs in a 36-31 home loss to the Beavers on Oct 4.
USC is 8-0 in the all-time series with a 277-76 scoring margin, and has averaged 46.3 points in three meetings since Colorado joined the Pac-12. The Trojans won the last meeting in Los Angeles, 50-6 in 2012 and claimed a 47-29 victory in Boulder last season with Allen running 21 times for 145 yards and three TDs.
The Buffaloes have lost nine straight conference road games and are 2-13 in league road games since joining the Pac-12. They’re also 1-19 in their last 20 conference games overall, though victory was within reach against Oregon State and in a 59-56 double-overtime loss at California on Sept. 27.
Coach Mike MacIntyre was fined $10,000 by the conference after yelling at the officials while chasing them off the field following the loss to the Beavers.
“Our kids taste it. They understand they can win every game. Just got to find a way to make some plays and finish at the end,” MacIntyre said. “We’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
Colorado’s offense is much improved with 476.7 yards per game – seventh in the Pac-12 after finishing last with 369.9 in 2013. The Buffaloes’ 320.3 passing yards per game would be a school record, though quarterback Sefo Liufau’s 6.6 yards per attempt ranks last in the conference.
USC leads the Pac-12 with seven interceptions and 35 passes defensed. The Trojans faced a school-record 72 pass attempts against Arizona but allowed 5.5 yards per attempt and one touchdown.
The secondary could be somewhat weakened, however, with starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson not practicing Tuesday after he left against Arizona with a hip flexor injury.
Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler has been corralled in his last two games, throwing one TD and an interception after throwing for 10 scores with no picks in his first four contests. The junior completed 19 of 28 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns against Colorado last season.