It’s been almost 7 hours since this USC/UCLA game ended, but I still have no words for how this game ended up. Losing doesn’t bother me because SC has been losing since 2009. It’s not a big deal, but the way USC lost today will sting me for a long time. It’s one thing to lose your crosstown rival, but it’s another thing to come out the way they did today. Flat, uninspired, and frankly, just bored. This team thought it was gonna be a cakewalk, didn’t regard the fact that UCLA was 8-2, and didn’t realize how UCLA would come out at least inspired after being beat 50-0 last season. To me, USC today was a team that wasn’t prepared. A team that didn’t want to compete, and a team that thought everything would be given to them. But in reality, it’s been like this all season.
In August, SC was preseason #1. Did they earn that? I’ve been on record plenty of times saying they didn’t, but embrace it because it’s there. In September, SC didn’t have Khaled Holmes in a game against Stanford, and lost to a team that they haven’t beaten in 4 years. In that game, they thought that Stanford would just lay down, and they would win by 30. I know it. I believed it. Against Arizona, maybe it was probably the same way, as they thought they could have countless amount of stupid penalties on defense, and terrible turnovers on offense. I’m not even going to talk about the Oregon game because the defense’s effort (or lack thereof). Today was just…. I don’t even know. I still don’t know what to make of today’s game.
SC was down 24-0 before they wanted to play. In fact, I think Lane Kiffin told them that the game started at 1:30 pst, not 12:05. Like, the whole “let’s get down in a big hole, then let’s play” act is hilarious to me because this team, to me really thought that this game would be easy, and that they could walk in, and UCLA would lie down. USC hasn’t scared teams like that since 2004, Kiff.
Speaking of Kiffin, how the hell do you regress as a coach? Last year, Lane fooled a lot of people (myself included) as a guy who could somewhat coach, but was a very talented recruiter. Now? I’m not sure because this USC team isn’t a 4 loss team, but yet… they are. Kiffin’s offensive play-calling has always been a topic of subject by USC fans, and I never really made a big deal out of it until this afternoon. USC was down 17-0, and driving to score. So why, on 3rd and 5, would you call a toss play? Then go for it on 4th down, and call a 1 receiver set play on 4th down? Then, USC has the ball at the 12. It’s 24-20 early in the 3rd quarter. Kiffin calls three straight pass plays, and doesn’t even look to run the ball while Curtis McNeal ran hard and well today. I don’t understand this, at all. When it comes down to situations, Lane Kiffin has no idea what he’s doing, and this has happened plenty of times this season. Now it’s not all on Kiffin. He’s not turning the ball over.
Matt Barkley has as many picks as he’s had his freshman year, and some of these picks are mind-bogging to me. First play of the game, Barkley throws a terrible, and I mean TERRIBLE pick. Then, to make things more hilarious with my dude is that he threw one when USC was driving to score in the beginning of the 4th quarter. It wasn’t like he threw one, and it happened to be a good defensive play. He threw it to the UCLA defender. Maybe it was miscommunication with Marqise Lee, but that’s inexcusable. I’m not sure if Barkley will play next week. Rumor has it, he has a separated shoulder, so he could possibly end his USC Trojan career with a loss to UCLA, a team he’s never lost to. It sucks because I know Matt had high hopes for himself this season, and I’m not trying to dog him because I know in my heart, he wanted to end his last season as a Trojan as the greatest USC QB ever. In fact, he read my blog when I wrote to him, so he’s truly one of my favorite people of all-time. But at the same time, these interceptions are just strange from a 4th year starting quarterback. It’s sad that his career will end like this.
The true question is: What will Matt Barkley’s legacy be? If he can’t play next week, this question will be very very interesting to everyone who’s a USC fan. We all know he’s the Pac-10/12 record holder in TD passes, yardage, and I believe completions. But really, this will be an interesting discussion over the next few weeks, and months.
The major problem for the USC Trojans is really due to one man: Monte Kiffin. Sure, he’s not the one playing on the field. Kiffin is in the box, and in reality, he’s not even the defensive coordinator. Ed Orgeron is. But at the same time, this “Tampa 2” defense experiment is over. Well not just over, it’s DEAD. The idea of it is dead. The yardage that USC’s defense has given up in November have been absurd. I’m amazed to see how Notre Dame and their freshman quarterback Everett Golson dominates us. It’s not even like USC has bad athletes on this defense. This defense is still partly young, fast, and talented. Morgan Breslin is gonna be an All-American I believe. But the problem with USC’s defense all season long has been 3rd down and long. I wish I counted how many times USC let UCLA convert 3rd and long into 1st downs (I think it was 3 times today). The biggest one of the game was in the 4th quarter. SC just scored a touchdown, and if they get a stop, and make UCLA kick at least a field goal, they possibly could win the game. But nope, 3rd and 13. UCLA gets it, and the game is over. That’s been the story of USC’s defense this year. Average. Sometimes good, a lot of times bad, and you can never rely on them to do anything special to win a ballgame.
USC hasn’t had a defense that has been dominant since 2008. You know, that defense with Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga, and Brian Cushing. This team didn’t even need a defense that was dominant. Just an average defense to hopefully play well at times, and well it, as we all saw today, that wasn’t the case. To me, it’s mostly scheme, failure to make adjustments, and missed assignments. The Tampa 2 scheme doesn’t even work in the college game, and I think after 3 years , it’s time to get rid of it. Is Monte the scapegoat? Possibly, but on the field, this defense against spread offenses is terrible.
Next week’s game against Notre Dame is on national TV. Primetime audience, and before the season, it was supposed to be Matt Barkley’s last shot to win the Heisman Trophy and him getting a national audience chance to win the award. Now? Notre Dame will come in #1 (Funny right? Notre Dame is gonna be #1 in the country, who would have thought this back in August?), and USC is currently sliding in an downward spiral. If Barkley’s injury is serious, Max Wittek or Cody Kessler will get to face one of the best defenses in the country with the best defensive player in the country in Manti Teo. USC’s advantage is on the outside with Marqise Lee, and Robert Woods. Will Kiffin use Woods more? Will Lane let Curtis McNeal get more touches when he’s running well? Will the defense actually step up and make plays against another rival, or will they falter, making this season end in even more disappointment?
If USC loses next week, a lot of soul-searching will happen before the end of the season, and I expect a lot of changes to take place because today’s game might have been the final straw. Sure, USC is about to reach the deep part of the sanctions, but things need to be taken into account. Now as a fan, I’m always gonna be around because during the tough times, you still have to fight on no matter what. But still. This loss hurts because honestly, it might be the end of a lot of things in the USC program. Might be the end of the dominance in LA. The beginning of being average until 2016. Or possibly, the worst possible thing ever: losing more than 5 games in a season.
But who knows?
It’s hard to predict the future. If you would have told me in August that USC would have 4 losses heading to the Notre Dame and that Matt Barkley has thrown 15 interceptions, I would have laughed at you. But hey, it’s the beauty of college football. Losses happen. Wins happen. But no matter what, you gotta fight on.
Fight on. Beat the Irish.