Take Antoine Cason off the defense and are there any consistent play makers? Spencer Larsen had a terrific game, but he could not cover Fred Davis on his 25-yard touchdown catch and missed some tackles on the Trojans' final drive that all but sealed the game.
The offense is in the same boat. Not many players have stepped up and made plays when it counted. Nick Folk had the game winner against BYU and is still winning games in the NFL. You can credit Cason with the biggest play in the Cal game and most close games have gone against the Cats.
No one I have spoken with had any confidence that the Cats could march 70 yards to tie up the game.
Size vs. Speed
Speaking of linebackers and pass coverage, I have to wonder if part of the reason the linebacking corps seems to be having trouble in pass coverage is due to their size. Starting linebackers Dane Krogstad, Larsen and Ronnie Palmer are all listed at weighing over 240 pounds. Could it be they have bulked up too much? The strength and conditioning coaches have done an amazing job at making this team strong enough to go up against the likes of USC and Cal, but have they sacrificed some quickness, and more importantly, some flexibility?
I know the strength program does plenty of speed and conditioning work, and there is plenty of team speed, but it just seems as if a few players are bigger, but not as fast as they were a year ago.
I speculated in Pt. 1 that the Cats quit going to Gronkowski after his first half fumble. After talking to some folks at the game, it seems as if the Trojans really made an effort to cover the big tight end. In fact, USC really made an effort to cut down the middle of the field all day long. That left single coverage down field and the frustrating short passes that were open all day long.
Meanwhile, after his fumble, Nicholas Grigsby was not heard from again. At his weekly press conference Mike Stoops said that there has to be "consequences" for running backs who fumble. I agree with this but I also think you have to cut the true freshman some slack. While he should have held on to the botched handoff, Willie Tuitama did not do a good job with the exchange. Chris Jennings came off the bench to do some good things, but in my mind Grigsby has a better burst in the open field. That and I don't want a freshman worried that he will get benched anytime he makes a mistake. You don't want him playing scared.
I don't know whether to be excited or frustrated by the play of Louis Holmes. Holmes had one of the best games of his Wildcat career. I don't know whether I should be pleased he is starting to figure it out or upset that he hasn't done it sooner. I also have to wonder if he was motivated by the fact he was playing USC, a team that made a huge push at acquiring him in the recruiting process.
I really like what I saw from the D-Line for most of the game. Jason Parker continues to player really well, so much so that pro scouts are calling to ask about him, and I think Lionel Dotson played a very good game. Better yet, the whole unit was able to put plenty of pressure on USC.