Home Critical engine Travis Dye suffers season-ending injury in USC win over Colorado

Travis Dye suffers season-ending injury in USC win over Colorado

0

The final dress rehearsal dragged on, with the final issues still being ironed out ahead of the back-to-back showdown in Crosstown next week, when Tuli Tuipulotu busted around the edge and closed the curtains on Colorado himself.

Little about the past month, apart from the number 8 affixed next to his name, had hinted USC was ready for the bright lights and big stage that awaited next week at the Rose Bowl. In consecutive games, California and Arizona had pushed the Trojans to the brink. Now Colorado, a Pac-12 doormat and one of college football’s worst teams, was pushing them too.

It wasn’t until Tuipulotu forced his way into a collapsing pocket and threw the ball away during Friday’s second quarter that USC found the courage to push back. He kept pushing and pushing and pushing from there, until his backups applied one final push for good measure in a Resounding victory 55-17.

USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu knocked down a pass from Colorado quarterback JT Shrout in the first quarter on Friday.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

After a frustrating first quarter, USC’s oft-maligned defense put on one of its most impressive performances in months, albeit against a team that has scored fewer than 128 other teams this season. He’s held Colorado to 158 yards over the past three quarters, taken three sacks and forced two turnovers.

Considering where their defense has been over the past few weeks, USC might have been buoyed by their easiest win in months, if their star running back hadn’t left the field Friday night on an injury cart.

Travis Dye had been one of the loudest voices in the Trojans dressing room all season, delivering a new pre-game talk every week to inspire the team. But as he lay on the grass during Friday’s second shift, cradling his left leg, the Colosseum crowd was silent. The USC sideline emptied as he was loaded onto a cart of wounded, and the crowd screamed as the cart rolled through the tunnel.

After, USC coach Lincoln Riley would confirm the worst: Dye will not return this season.

“It just sucks. There’s no other way to put it,” Riley said. “He was one of the key cogs in this team.”

And now, with its most critical stretch ahead, USC will have to carry on without the engine of its offense and the soul of its locker room. His first try? Matching the Pac-12’s best ground attack.

Trojans wide receiver Tahj Washington scores on a 61-yard touchdown against Colorado on November 11, 2022.

USC wide receiver Tahj Washington scores on a 61-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

“Now we have a chance to reset,” Riley said, “and play these guys across town.”

It won’t be easy from here, even though USC made it look like this on Friday. Dye’s injury still weighed on the rest of Friday’s day, even as USC continued to roll without its running back. Whether he can move the ball as well next week without him would be another question.

If he has any hope of surviving UCLA and Notre Dame, after that Caleb Williams will almost certainly have to carry an even heavier load than usual. He wasn’t at his best on Friday, completing just 50 percent of his passes (14 of 26) for 268 yards and three touchdowns.

USC's Korey Foreman (0) gets excited after making a tackle for a loss to Colorado on November 11, 2022.

Trojans’ Korey Foreman (0) gets fired up after making a tackle for a loss to Colorado.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

It will also be up to Austin Jones to fill the void in the USC backfield. He finished with 113 all-purpose yards and a touchdown after replacing Dye. Both will need to be at their best against a stingy UCLA defense.

Nothing about USC was its best to begin with. Williams and the USC offense opened up haphazardly. Two of the Trojans’ first three workouts ended in threes and outs. The other ended with a Colorado interception snatched from the hands of receiver Brenden Rice.

The pick was just Williams’ second of the season – and only the second turnover for the Trojans this season. Still, he ended up scoring more points than any other USC player in the first quarter. On the next play, as the pressure eased, Colorado quarterback JT Shrout threw a pass from the end zone while still in the pocket. The intentional grounding was called and two runs were scored, courtesy of the USC defense.

After a frustrating start, the Trojans trailed Colorado, 3-2. Their offense was just eight yards and their quarterback completed just one for six passes for two yards. But those would turn around in a flash after that, as Williams hit Kyle Ford once to convert to third-and-long, then again. The spark was enough to launch the USC offense, which mounted a 12-play drive, topped off by a Williams guard for a two-yard touchdown.

Tuipulotu’s sack and forced fumble returned the ball to the USC offense. Just two minutes after his first score, Williams was left unguarded again, strolling around the end zone untouched for a second, extending a lead over Colorado that would quickly grow from there.

But the scoring streak was just subtext in light of Dye’s injury. As he left the field on the cart, his left leg in a cast following the USC win, he waved to the fans gathered around the tunnel. They howled in appreciation, knowing how much they had lost.