USC Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Trojans' Win vs. Washington
A win is a win, unless you’re the BCS computers. Then style counts. Stats count. Dominance counts. Whatever dominance USC showed in the first half of its game against Washington, completely disappeared in the second half.
A win is a win, except when it feels like a loss, which USC’s victories have felt like lately. Where is the passing game? Where is the explosive, poised, conference-leading Matt Barkley Trojan fans have come to know and count on the past three seasons? Why can’t Head Coach Kiffin make in-game adjustments—or—why can’t he be at least as good at it as opposing coaches?
A win is a win, except when your fans spend most of the second half holding their breath because it sure as heck looks like their team is trying to give the game away.
These 2012 Trojans, they are causing their fans to sprout more grey hairs and near heart attacks than is wholly necessary.
Let’s take a look at 10 things we learned from the Trojans’ win vs. Washington:
USC's Running Game Is a-OK
Silas Redd has been a valuable addition to this Trojan squad. He has proven to be a workhorse for the running game, eking out yardage, even if he has to pull the opponent’s entire defense along with him.
Redd had 158 yards on 26 carries on Saturday with 108 of those in the first half. He had one touchdown.
Curtis McNeal had 11 carries for 58 yards with some critical bursts of speed for much needed yardage.
Kiffin relied on the run nearly exclusively tonight. While it was productive in the first half, in the second half with the adjustments Washington made, it was not, and Kiffin might have been well served to go to a passing attack.
Offense Has Issues
For an offense that sports a bunch of future first round NFL draft picks, they sure don’t act like it. This is the second straight game the Trojans have been shut out in the third quarter.
The Trojan offense looked good enough in the first half. USC scored on three of its first four drives and went up 17-7, the only stop coming when Barkley was intercepted by Washington.
Redd rushed for 108 yards and a TD in the first half. Barkley shot an 18-yard TD pass to TE Xavier Grimble, and it looked as if the Trojans would run away with the game.
Unfortunately, that was all the offense had to offer. They were, yet again, completely impotent in the third quarter.
Where Are the Adjustments?
Seriously, is Lane Kiffin just completely inept at making adjustments? Steve Sarkisian isn’t and his halftime adjustments could have cost the Trojans the game were it not for the strong defensive statement from USC (see next slide).
The USC schedule after the Colorado game is brutal. This kind of play-calling and lack of in-game and halftime adjustments could cost the Trojans all of their final five games. They will not beat Arizona, Oregon, ASU, UCLA and Notre Dame playing the way they’ve played these past six games.
The Trojans need to play all four quarters and it is up to Coach Lane Kiffin to ensure the game plan remains viable. He has not been doing that. He has just been hanging on to win by the hair of his chinny chin chin.
It is frustrating as all get-out watching that, when fans know how much talent this team has.
USC Defense Is Winning Games
Monte Kiffin’s defense is complicated and it takes some time to learn. It seems this crop of Trojans has it down, as they can take credit for not just USC’s wins, but for the fact that the Trojans weren’t beaten worse by Stanford.
USC’s defense stood firm when it was critical, forcing two Husky fumbles late in the fourth quarter that kept the ball in the impotent offense’s hands. Hey, whatever, all they had to do was run down the clock.
The USC defense sacked Washington QB Keith Price five times and held the Huskies to 100 rushing yards.
So, if I hear one more supposed fan lament the sad state of the defense, well, expect to be slapped. Without the current defense, Trojan fans as a whole would be looking at way more than one loss to an at the time Top 10 team.
OLB Dion Bailey further cemented his stud status with another interception. S Jawanza Starling forced a fumble that DE Wes Horton recovered. CB Josh Shaw also had an interception late in the game.
Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams both had a couple of sacks each. In fact, Breslin has seven sacks on the season and is the anchor of the USC front four.
Unlike the Trojan offense, the defense keeps getting better and doesn’t give up when they get tired.
There Is Something Going on with Matt Barkley
I can’t help but think there is something more going on with Matt Barkley than Kiffin’s craptacular play-calling.
Why isn’t Kiffin letting Matt air the ball out?
Why isn’t Kiffin helping Matt climb back into the Heisman conversation?
It almost feels like Barkley got on Kiffin’s bad side—and tales of how Kiffin shuts out players he is, shall we say annoyed with, are legendary.
Is that what is going on here? This is pure, unadulterated conjecture on my part, of course, but it keeps swirling around my head as I watch Barkley look average at best, game after game after game. We’re halfway through the season now—Matt’s last as a Trojan. Where are the fireworks? Where are the spectacular plays?
Barkley was 10-of-20 Saturday for 167 yards, one TD and one INT. In the second half, he was 3-of-10. Really? This is the preseason Heisman favorite?
Is he hurt?
What is going on?
Where Is the Passing Game?
I get establishing the run to set up the pass, but tonight, Kiffin only passed in situations that blatantly called for it, negating the strategic advantage of a well-placed long ball.
With two world-class receivers in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, Kiffin’s strategy is use the run to run time off the clock and hope the defense can hold. That is more like an anti-strategy and one that is bound to fail down the stretch.
For some reason, Lane Kiffin appears to be terrified to throw the ball. I want to know why.
Without a balanced attack, USC doesn’t have a hope in Hades of beating Arizona, let alone Oregon.
USC Still Cannot Handle No-Huddle/Hurry-Up Offenses
There is a faction of USC fans that think Kiffin is being bland by design. The toughest part of USC’s schedule still lays ahead; Arizona, Oregon, ASU, UCLA and Notre Dame.
But the simple fact remains that when faced with Sarkisian’s second half no-huddle, hurry-up offense, the Trojans looked befuddled at best.
Arizona under Rich Rodriguez, and Oregon, both run hurry-up offenses.
This does not bode well.
A Record Is Set
USC set a school record for the most games without being shut out. Previous records in 1983, 1990 and 1997 were all broken by Washington in Seattle.
Michigan holds the longest active streak at 343 games.
USC Can't Control the Penalties
And of course I’m not talking about off the field. I’m talking about sloppy play and those penalties.
USC had 10 penalties tonight for 70 yards. In a game soon, those yards are going to be the difference between a win and a loss, between the Rose Bowl and the Holiday Bowl (or whatever).
USC Has a Long Way to Go
The simple fact of the matter is that USC doesn't look inspiring. A win is a win, sure. But a win that leaves fans and voters scratching their heads as to the actual ability of this team is somewhat counterintuitive.
We are now halfway through the season—the point at which, traditionally, USC turns up the heat and blazes through their schedule.
That wasn't what happened tonight. Not by a long shot.
I have questions, mostly, why is the passing game not happening?
It has been a weird schedule—very front loaded with away games. USC now plays five of their last six games in Los Angeles with four of those in the Coliseum.
Unfortunately, right now, as these Trojans have been playing—I foresee at least two more losses before the end of the season.
Last season USC had nothing to play for and played lights out, balls to the wall, impassioned football.
This year they could play for it all and they've sputtered and started, sputtered and stopped and looked distinctly mediocre at best.
Is it a chemistry thing? Is the team not gelling? I wish I knew. I wish I had a crystal ball. (It would sure make my job a lot easier, people.)
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