USC Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 12 Game vs. UCLA
To modify a quote from that old football guru Dennis Green, "they aren't who we thought they were."
With USC's football season now officially in the trash, Trojan fans must now face the notion that their team was vastly overrated.
That stark reality was delivered emphatically by a UCLA Bruin team that was determined to put last year's 50-0 Trojan loss in the rear-view mirror.
With the Bruins' 38-28 victory over USC on a sloppy Rose Bowl field, UCLA has served notice that there is a new power in the Pac-12 South.
And once again, the Trojans are left with the empty feeling of what could have been if they had played to their potential instead of giving their opponents opportunities that, frankly, USC is not good enough to overcome.
In this case, it was a 24-0 gift-wrapped lead that USC couldn't negate. Now the Trojans find themselves just another middle-of-the-pack team, one of dozens whose season has been defined by mediocrity.
This slideshow will look at the Trojan winners and losers in this wasted effort. While the winners' category will find itself relatively barren, the losers' section will be standing-room-only for a game that should thoroughly embarrass USC.
Winner: Tailback Curtis McNeal
OK, let's get one of few bright spots for the Trojans out of the way.
If everyone dressed in cardinal and gold brought the same intensity and effort that tailback Curtis McNeal did in this game, the outcome might have been different.
McNeal ran for 153 yards on 21 carries (7.3 yards per carry), and although he didn't find the end zone, his hard running often put the Trojans in position to find paydirt if only the passing game had not let them down.
When quarterback Matt Barkley and the Trojans vaunted passing game faltered, McNeal thrived. It's too bad that head coach Lane Kiffin didn't realize that before this contest became a lost cause.
Loser: Matt Barkley
Sadly, for everyone involved, this is a season that USC would rather forget. But that is especially true for quarterback Matt Barkley.
On the surface, Barkley's game didn't look that horrible against UCLA. He went 20-of-38 passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
Unfortunately, he also threw two costly interceptions and, most importantly, was not able to lead his team to a victory.
That inability to get a win when it counts most is what makes Barkley a loser in this game and in 2012.
Note: Not shown in the above photograph is Barkley lying in a crumpled heap after his offensive line allowed yet another sack.
Loser: USC's Special Teams
Although there might not be a better special teams coach in the nation, John Baxter sure didn't have his unit ready to play against the Bruins.
With a Kyle Negrete punt and Andre Heidari field goal blocked and a missed extra point and field goal by Heidari, Baxter's boys were anything but special.
On a day when the Trojans squandered too many opportunities, they simply couldn't afford to add sloppy special-teams play to the mix. But that was the case far too often against the Bruins.
Loser: The Trojan Offense
Man, can numbers be misleading.
Looking at the game statistics, one might be tempted to say the Trojans had an effective offense against the Bruins. After all, 518 total yards is nothing to sneeze at, right? Wrong.
In what might be the emptiest of stats, those yards translated to a measly 22 points by an offense that should have doubled that output in its sleep.
Of course, three more turnovers by a team that specializes in giving the ball away didn't help the Trojans. But even when they weren't celebrating Christmas early by offering gifts, USC gobbled up yards between the twenties, but couldn't cash in when it counted.
Like the year itself, USC's offense finds itself in the loser category for this game.
Loser: USC's Defense
Completing the "loser trifecta" are Monte Kiffin's boys on defense.
Like the misleading stats for the Trojans' offense, the defense's bottom line isn't told by the numbers.
If one didn't know better, the 406 total yards USC surrendered doesn't seem bad, but it looked much better on paper than it did on the field of play.
USC missed tons of tackles, gave up many third- and fourth-and-longs and just generally did not rise to the occasion when it needed a stop.
The Trojans also only forced one turnover, and even that one, which went for a touchdown, was handed to them when UCLA fumbled the center snap.
Like the rest of the Trojans' units, the defense earned its "loser" label.
Loser: Lane Kiffin
Having resisted the growing calls for Lane Kiffin's dismissal by a dissatisfied Trojan fanbase, I am now at least pondering the benefits of a coaching change.
While I am in no way in support of this notion, it at least now makes sense to contemplate after Kiffin's team has fallen on its face for the fourth time in a season when many expected them to run the table.
A recurring problem has been a tendency to start slowly. Once again, this was the case against UCLA. The Trojans found themselves down 24-0 midway through the second quarter.
Adding to Kiffin's woes was a suspect offensive game plan that didn't take advantage of a hot Trojan tailback (Curtis McNeal) who averaged more than seven yards a carry in favor. Instead, USC relied on a sloppy passing attack that just couldn't put it over the top.
Should Kiffin be fired after such a disappointing year? No.
But should he now relieve himself of the offensive coordinator position so he can focus on the myriad of other problems facing his team?
Yes, and that is something that wasn't even fathomable a year ago.