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Lincoln Riley has USC focused on finishing games

The Trojans held Fresno State scoreless in the fourth quarter, one week after giving up 14 final-quarter points to Stanford

USC is 3-0 with an average margin of victory of more than 30 points. 

But Lincoln Riley is far from satisfied. He wants his USC football team to finish.

After the Trojans' 41-28 road win over Stanford, Riley lamented his team's poor play in the second half. USC built a 35-14 halftime lead - which included touchdowns on each of its first five drives - but did not find the end zone again. 

Stanford outscored USC 14-6 in the second half and Riley was not pleased with how Stanford was able to get back in the game. 

Against Fresno State, USC didn’t let that happen. The Trojans outscored the Bulldogs 24-7 in the second half - including 10-0 in the fourth quarter.

“I’m really proud of the way we played in the second half," said Riley. "That was a very big point of emphasis throughout the week — especially coming off of the Stanford game — of putting together a more complete game, and I thought we did that very well." 

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“I just told the team that probably my favorite play of the game or sequence of the game was the goal-line stop there at the end.”

USC kept its foot on the gas in the second half Saturday, scoring on each drive, excluding the game’s final drive which ended with the Trojans running out the clock. The defense also forced a fumble in the second half — their 10th forced turnover of the season — and held strong on two fourth-down efforts by the Bulldogs late in the game to get the ball back in the hands of the offense.

“We just held a really, really good offense and offensive staff and talented guys to 17 points," Riley said. "Can it get better? Absolutely. Do we expect it to get better? Yes. But we’re finding ways to allow people to not score very many points and win games and make the big plays when we need to make [them]."

The Trojans also allowed zero points in the fourth quarter, a much different story than the 14 they gave up in that frame against Stanford. Riley and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch both expressed that there’s both room and a need for improvement — on both sides of the ball— but that they were pleased with how the defensive unit responded and continued to execute throughout the full 60 minutes.

“Great units make big-time plays at big moments, and I would say we’re a very good defense that’s going to get better and better,” Riley said.