The heart and soul of the Trojans, Marqise Lee went down late in the contest against ASU on Saturday. Will his loss be huge for the Trojans?
Everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong for USC against Arizona State.
The Trojans turned the ball over four times, and each time the Sun Devils capitalized.
Coach Lane Kiffin—though he by and large called a good game—could not find a way to dig USC out of a big hole, and naturally, the talks of putting his head on a platter rose to deafening levels.
But worst all, USC's offensive captain and the heart and soul of this team, Marqise Lee went down early in the fourth quarter and did not come back on the field.
Lee tweaked his ankle on a punt return, and when a pained expression ripped across his face and a number of his teammates gathered around him, we knew it wasn't good.
Lee being put on a cart. He's done. Knee doesn't look good.— ESPN_Pac12blog (@ESPN_Pac12blog) September 29, 2013
Before he left the field, Lee had to be carried off the field because he could not put any weight on that ankle. He laid on a training table in obvious pain as they placed an ice pack on his knee, and he did not return to the game.
The injury looked bad, but Lee appeared to be upbeat as he left the field.
Marqise Lee being taken into the locker room on a cart. High-fives Victor Blackwell on his way off the sideline.— Daily Trojan Sports (@DT_Sports) September 29, 2013
USC would go on to lose 62-41, in a game where blame lies not just on the sidelines, but on both sides of the ball as well.
The Trojans did move the ball well against ASU: Tre Madden and Justin Davis both had 100-yard games, with 128 and 122 yards, respectively. They had four touchdowns between them, and Cody Kessler and the passing game added another 280 yards and two TDs through the air.
Coach Kiffin did call a good game, at the outset. He set up the running game to allow for play-action, and USC benefitted from it.
Then, the turnovers began. USC committed four of them, and each time, the Sun Devils turned them into points--20 of them, to be exact.
The irony of this is obvious: fans have been calling for Kiffin to open up the playbook, and when he does, the offense lays an egg.
The offensive line did nothing to help Kessler and the playmakers either, as their inconsistent protection left him flushed and vulnerable in the pocket.
But it wasn't just the offense that failed to execute. Clancy Pendergast's much-vaunted defense had absolutely no answer for Taylor Kelly, giving up over 600 yards of total offense to the Sun Devils. The secondary couldn't stop a nose bleed, and the defense line struggled to make any adjustments to the quicker pace that ASU employed as the game went on.
In their first true test, the Trojan defense failed the offense. The irony of that too, is obvious.
In light of all the wrong that went on for USC, what can't be said is that the players gave up. They put up 41 points, more than they have scored at any point this season. Cody Kessler played his finest game yet, completed 20 of 29 passes for nearly 300 yards and two scores.
The Trojans just couldn't make it work on both sides of the ball, and for that, they sit 0-2 in the Pac-12 for the first time since 2001.
With all of that weighing on the Trojans as they leave Tempe, the heaviest burden comes from the potential loss of Lee.
With him gone, USC only has three scholarship wide receivers available: Nelson Agholor, De'Von Flournoy and Victor Blackwell. With Flournoy a tad injured, Kiffin's outlook on the potential receiver lineup is less than ideal.
Asked where #USC goes from here, Kiffin says he lines up Blackwell and walkon Robby Kolanz.— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) September 29, 2013
The Trojans also lost Su'a Cravens against ASU, the Trojans' budding safety who recorded his second interception tonight. If the Trojans lose him too, it is going to be an unbearable fall in Los Angeles.
When Coach Kiffin said that the scholarship reductions and depth issues would be costly for USC, this is exactly what he meant. Interestingly, CBS's Doug Gottleib took to twitter during the game to discuss a conversation he had with former Ohio State Coach Pat Jones, who coached the Buckeyes through their own sanctions.
Pat Jones (ex-OSU coach during probation)told me when sanctions came down "No one wins when you have 20 less on scholarship,no one" #USC— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) September 29, 2013
Food for thought as the Trojans try to regroup during the bye week.
It was a hard, ugly loss for the Trojans, despite the fact that they shined at times. Going into the bye week, the biggest question hanging over USC will be the status of Lee, and what it means for the future of this 2013 season.