Well, I am emotionally wrung out. Anger, annoyance, resignation, ebullience, joy, exhilaration—those are a lot of emotions to feel over the course of one football game. But feel them I did—as did much of the Homecoming crowd packed into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on an uncharacteristically chilly day to see the hometown Trojans take on the Sun Devils of Arizona State.
USC 38, ASU 17.
First, despite my manifesto on all things wrong with Lane Kiffin the other day, I want him to succeed. There is no question that he is not head coach material right now, or, at least not one that should be calling the offensive game. But I do want him to succeed. Shake up the defensive coordinators and hire an offensive coordinator.
However, had USC lost this game, I am not sure I’d be able to resist another rant. But they did not, they won, not quite as convincingly as the score might suggest, but they won. The two most important games of the year for Trojan fans lay ahead—UCLA and Notre Dame.
The fact is, if Kiffin can pull off two more wins against the Bruins and Fighting Irish—a lot of the brou ha ha surrounding his performance will die down. Trojans are predictable. (And I count myself as one of those fairly predictable, expects the best, pretty spoiled Trojan fans. So there’s that.)
There isn’t anyone around this program that didn’t know USC needed not just a win, but a statement win, something to restore the spirits of the players and the fans. This wasn’t it, but you know what? I’m not going to complain (for once).
Marqise Lee continues to be the consistent superstar and lone bright spot on the Trojan offense. This afternoon he had 10 receptions for 161 yards and a touchdown, including a gorgeous 80-yard catch in the second half and a 66-yard rush.
Running back Curtis McNeal had two touchdowns and 163 yards of his own. Tight end Xavier Grimble had a touchdown catch of his own as well.
Matt Barkley added another conference record to his USC tenure when he became the leading passer in conference history for the Trojans, a record previously held by Carson Palmer. Barkley threw for 222 yards, went 20-of-33 with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
With this win, USC managed to keep the streak of not losing three in a row at bay. The last time that happened was during Pete Carroll’s first season back in 2001.
USC was tied with ASU at halftime, and Kiffin and the Trojans were booed by the Homecoming crowd as they made their way to the locker room. Well, let’s be honest, it was Kiffin the crowd was booing. Can he call something other than a short screen pass to Lee? It doesn’t seem so, and it is frustrating.
If the Trojans knock off the Bruins next Saturday in Pasadena, they will claim the Pac-12 South and a legitimate (cough, UCLA 2011, cough) spot in the conference title game.
But something almost magical happened in the locker room at halftime. Adjustments were made that actually changed the way the Trojans played on both sides of the ball in the second half. The mood in the Coliseum improved exponentially and the jaded Los Angeles crowd was back in the game.
Penalties for this, the most penalized team in the FBS, were vastly improved as well, with the Trojans being flagged just four times for 30 yards on Saturday afternoon.
Now the Trojans must shut out all the noise and distractions and prepare to face their crosstown rival UCLA, ranked 17th and thriving under first-year coach Jim Mora.