As USC fell to Stanford for the fourth year in a row, certain things came to light. Most of it was not pretty. Weakness on the O-line—especially the left side and the ease with which a team can render the Trojan's elite offense useless, to name just two.
The most telling stat of the game is USC’s rushing yardage. The Trojans gained just 26 yards over four quarters. Of course Matt Barkley’s four sack counted against that total, but it's still plenty terrible.
On the most basic level you have to wonder how USC can succeed without a center or kicker. They can’t, as was evidenced on Saturday in Palo Alto. The losses of Holmes and Heidari have decimated the entire offense.
Kiffin’s lack of faith in walk-on kicker Alex Wood doesn’t help matters either. It is hard to figure out what is going on in Kiffin’s head right now, but that game plan was clearly awful and ill-suited to the system David Shaw operates for the Cardinal.
It is hard to maintain a defensive advantage when you can’t tackle. And USC’s D has issues with tackling throughout the Lane Kiffin era.
Here is something to chew on USC fans: UCLA is the only undefeated team in Los Angeles.
UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin’s season rushing stats: 66 carries, 541 yards, 8.2 YPC
USC team season rushing: 84 carries, 365 yards, 4.3 YPC
Matt Barkley season passing: 66 comp, 109 att, 60.5% comp, 813 yds, 10 TDS, 3 Ints
Freshman QB Hundley season passing: 69 comp, 103 att, 67% comp, 827 yds, 8 TDs, 3 Ints
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from USC’s 2012 matchup with the Stanford Cardinal.
Clearly Stanford has USC's number. This is four in a row, a record for Stanford in this series that dates back to 1905.
Josh Nunes was in just his third collegiate start when he dismantled the Trojans. Or, had a hand in it, as it was really Stanford's insane defense that gave the Trojans fits.
The O-Line was godawful. (I've used atrocious so much, I had to turn to thesaurus.com for more options.)
Without All-American center Khaled Holmes, the O-line, and hence the offense, fell apart. The left side was especially weak, with linemen unable to hold their positions for more than a few seconds. Barkley never had time to properly get the ball off, there was no blocking on the running backs, it looked like a high school O-line.
Holmes' replacement, Cyrus Hobbi...well, I will get to him later. How he is even a Trojan is beyond me. He was lost.
Holmes' ability to recognize blitzing and change calls is huge, and clearly Hobbi had none of that. As a result, Barkley had to pick up the slack and the the O-Line couldn't give him more than two or three seconds to get the ball off before their coverage fell apart.
It was a woeful performance.
Freshman wide receiver Nelson Agholor emerged as a legitimate contender Saturday with three catches for 76 yards.
Two of his catches in particular—a 48-yard gain early and a 20-yard reception late—made USC's offense look like it was doing something right.
The play-calling was suspect. Kiffin has no faith in Kicker Alex Wood. He was unable to adjust the game plan to allow for the protection of Barkley and the advancement of the offense.
There were no halftime adjustments by Kiffin and his coaching staff.
His game plan is so scripted and predictable that even the most novice coaching staffs and inexperienced defenses can read it.
I don't know what happened, but Kiffin needs a wake-up call. The conservative and ineffectual play-calling and lack of adjustments has to stop.
Reportedly, the Stanford Stadium play clock ran quicker than normal on Saturday (Pedro Moura for ESPN).
Randall Telfer said that the play clock started significantly faster than normal after every play. As a result, the Trojan offense barely had time to get set up (and the woeful O-Line didn't give them much time after the snap...).
It took the team some time to get adjusted to it. In fact, one could argue that they never got adjusted to it.
This is apparently not holding. Are you kidding me?
As in past Stanford vs. USC matchups, the officiating did not favor USC, not by a long shot.
Matt Barkley, despite being sacked four times, would not blame Cyrus Hobbi in any of his post-game interviews. Appearing dejected and barely audible, Barkley refused to blame the offensive offensive line for the loss.
He showed what a leader and class act he is once again. His team can trust him, but can he trust his team?
Are you kidding me? This was a highly ranked recruit? How? He didn't look like he had played more than a down of football in his entire career.
His snaps were sloppy.
He could not protect Barkley.
He could not read Stanford's defense.
He could not hold his position for more than a few seconds.
Hobbi's Trojan debut was awful. He reminded me of Aaron Corp when he started in place of Matt Barkley at Washington in 2009.
USC had 26 total yards of rushing. Silas Redd coughed up the ball again. Both Redd and Curtis McNeal were out of the game for a time with injuries.
Sure, we can also blame this on the lack of protection the O-Line gave them, but Redd needs to hang onto the ball.
USC was 1-for-12 on third-down conversions versus Stanford.
One could point to this as the main reason USC lost the game. Without the offense actually possessing the ball for longer than three plays, how could they get any momentum going?
Without any third-down conversions, the Trojans were unable to get enough production to score. Sure, the Stanford defense is very good, but 1-for-13? From what was previously the No. 1 team in the country?