Boston College vs. USC: 10 Things We Learned in Trojans' Win
The USC Trojans defeated the Boston College Eagles at home, 35-7. In stark contrast to last week, USC gained over 500 yards of total offense in a game that they dominated from start to finish.
So what now?
USC improves to 2-1. While that's not quite the 3-0 most expected, an impressive win over a much-improved Boston College today poses a few interesting questions. What questions were answered today against the Eagles?
Let's take a look at 10 things we learned about the Trojans today.
USC Fans Are Fickle
Off the field, there were quite a few signs that things still aren't right at USC. One only needed to look at the stands today to see that the Trojans fanbase is still pretty peeved.
A more-than-half-empty Colosseum in LA today looked really bad on television, and only underscored how upset fans are at the state of their program.
Adjustments Are Possible
We mentioned Marqise Lee being moved to the punt rush, away from returning. That may not have been the best adjustment USC made today, but it certainly wasn't the only one.
Clearly USC is cognizant of how ineffective the bubble screen has been thus far. On Saturday, there wasn't a single bubble screen called in the first half. While it made an apperance in the second half, it was still very limited in its use.
USC also made a return to its past today with repeated run calls, and we saw flashes of brilliance from ball-carriers.
Maybe Kiffin and his staff can adjust away from poor performances after all.
Special Teams Aren't so Special
In one of the more curious decisions made by the USC coaching staff today, the Trojans moved Marqise Lee from punt returns to punt rusher.
While that shows some ability to adjust personnel packages and learn from past mistakes, it also leads to a game in which USC had just 16 punt return yards on a day when the opponent punted the ball eight times.
Boston College isn't a lock-down defense kind of program. But there are Pac-12 teams that are, and USC can't continually start with the ball backed up inside its own 10 and hope to score 35 points each and every week.
Penalties Will Kill You
Of all the great things USC did today, there was one very ugly part to the stat sheet: 10 penalties for 95 yards.
The most frequent offender was the USC defense, often extending Boston College drives unnecessarily. Again, it's Boston College, so the damage wasn't that severe. But against teams like Arizona State and Stanford, that kind of bone-headed nonsense won't only drive coaches nuts, it could cost USC the game.
Depth Will Be a Problem
It's easy to look at USC's lack of success and blame it all on Lane Kiffin. But let's not forget what the head coach is up against.
USC is still suffering under the weight of NCAA sanctions, namely those that limit the number of scholarships that the Trojans can hand out in any given season.
In the "good old days" at USC, there was an entire second team and most of a third team on the depth chart that could have started at almost any other program in the Pac-12. hat's just not true any more.
At many positions, the Trojans are only one deep when it comes to scholarship players. When injuries inevitably occur, it's going to have a major impact on the level of on-field talent. Don't forget: without a scholarship, USC is a very expensive place to play football.
Kiffin Don't Know, or Does He?
Head coach Lane Kiffin made so many changes with his program today that it's not possible to continue to believe he's oblivious to things that go on outside of the walls of USC football offices.
A lack of bubble screens, play action and a penchant for running the ball belies his desire to prove to everyone—particularly USC fans—that he is able to adapt. Even from the first play—a long pass attempt up the seam to Marqise Lee—it was evident this week was going to be different that last Saturday.
The real question is whether or not this this new USC shows up again next weekend.
Play Action in the New Bubble Screen
So the play action pass isn't exactly the bubble screen. In the case of USC, the major difference this week wasn't the frequency of the play call—the play action was certainly a cornerstone of the offense this week—but rather its success.
Kiffin seemed unwilling to move away from his "go-to" bubble screen play call last week. Considering how unsuccessful the play was last week, that was as confusing as things get. This week, Kiffin seemed unwilling to move too far away from the new "go-to" play action pass.
Again, the difference this week was the fact that the P.A. pass was working.
Justin Davis Has a Future at "Tailback U"
USC has been known for a long time as the national "Tailback U." In our humble opinion, sanctions haven't changed the outlook for the future of running back stardom at Southern California.
The next star in the making at USC is freshman Justin Davis. While his 103 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries is impressive in and of itself, the method used to gain those yards was just as noteworthy.
In a slashing, junking, spinning style we've come to love at USC, Davis weaved his way through, around and over the Boston College defense to cement his status as the primary back of the future at "Tailback U."
Cody Kessler a Starter in the Making
The big story leading up to this season, and even after the first couple of weeks, was that USC didn't have a starting quarterback. Both Cody Kessler and Max Wittek were taking snaps, and the old adage "if you have two quarterbacks, you don't have a quarterback" never seemed more true.
Today, Cody Kessler was unquestionably the starter, and he performed not only well but great.
Kessler was 15-of-17 for 237 and two touchdowns. After missing his first toss of the day, Kessler didn't have another incompletion until the second half. Good decisions with the ball and impressive accuracy ruled the day for Kessler, and it payed off big time for the Trojans.
Improvement with Playcalling
Of all the adjustments made today by Lane Kiffin and his staff, the biggest had to be the opening of the play book (or is it the play card?) by the Trojans.
Before any of us really knew what we'd see today from USC, Kiffin's Trojans won the toss, promptly took the ball on offense and Kessler slung the ball deep down field in the direction of Marqise Lee.
That play call was immediately met by cheers from the sparse USC crowd—the same group that was booing their own team and chanting "fire Kiffin" only a week ago.
Maybe, just maybe, Lane Kiffin has figured out that ultra-conservative play-calling on offense won't win you many games.