Beatdown at BC: Ugly and embarrassing

The answers were few or nonexistent, the questions many and serious. Just who is this USC team that got run over by underdog Boston College Saturday and can Steve Sarkisian come up with any answers after the 37-31 beatdown at BC?

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- You can't beat 9,000 red bandanas and a team playing with the kind of heroic spirit they stood for -- and a stadium full of the same -- with nothing, really.

USC's young team learned that lesson Saturday night in front of a joyous, if disbelieving, Boston College Alumni Stadium crowd,

You can't win this week's game with last week's press clippings -- or last year's gameplan

You can't win those one-on-one battles you have to win to win a football game by waving your high school star recruiting rankings at the guy across from you. Did Boston College have any five-star players on the field? The Eagles did not.

But they had 37 points on the board, the only numbers that mattered here, to ninth-ranked USC's 31. Although it wasn't anywhere near that close.

You want some numbers. How about these? BC piled up 452 yards rushing to USC's 20 . . . yeah, 20, the fewest for a USC team in 13 years. And it took 29 attempts for USC to get those 20 yards. Sure the Trojans lost 52 yards rushing on 16 tackles for losses including five sacks, so maybe that skewed the numbers. But really, nice gameplan, there, when you have that many plays blown up.

Buck Allen gained 154 yards last week at Stanford and was limited to 31 this week -- and on 15 carries. An almost unbelievable turnaround. But maybe not so unbelievable as USC trying to run him 15 times even though he made up for it with 118 yards on nine catches including a 51-yard TD from Cody Kessler.

Here's a thought. On a night like this, reverse those numbers. Throw it 15 times to Buck until they stop him.

As a team, USC tried to run the ball 29 times -- including sacks -- and averaged 0.7 yards a carry.

"That starts with me," Steve Sarkisian said, as if it could be on anyone else other than the guy making $3 million a year to coach this Trojans team. "I've got to figure it out, that's for sure."

Indeed, for sure. One troubling issue had to be how USC looked so ill-prepared to handle Tyler Murphy, the running Eagle quarterback who carried the ball 13 times for 191 yards -- a 14.7 average. USC had no idea where he was most of the time. Or who was supposed to tackle him."

"The high-low assignments," Su'a Cravens said, that the Trojans couldn't seem to get right. "A lot of miscommunication," he said.

Luckily for USC, when middle linebacker Hayes Pullard returned from his first-half exile after last week's ejection, he gave USC someone with an idea on outside contain.

Before Hayes, you couldn't even find a USC defender in the picture with Murphy. Or whichever BC running back he chose to hand it off to. In forgetting who had which guy, USC defenders often had neither.

But this was about more than assignments no matter what Sark said. This was about effort. And hustle. And game prep. And game planning. And an involved home stadium crowd. USC had none of those going for the Trojans.

Sark praised BC by saying the Eagles were "starting to figure out who they were." And yet, Sark couldn't say he knows who this USC team was after watching it get pushed almost into the parking lot in a game that saw BC average 8.4 yards a play on the ground to USC's 0.7.

That's right -- 8.4 yards per rush to 0.7. You simply cannot play that bad unless you try to -- or don't try at all. This is Washington State 2013 bad, Stanford in 2007 bad. Or just plain bad.

At least Su'a said he learned something: "Don't look too far into the season," Su'a said.

But we're not sure about his solution. "Just continue to play SC football."

But the question now is just what is USC football? And who is this USC football team? Is it the team that got lucky last week and not so lucky this week?

No doubts about who this BC team was on this night. "They played really, really hard," Coach Steve Addazio said of his Eagles. And did so against a team that hardly played.

It was a mismatch from the moment USC got up 17-6 to start the second quarter. It was all BC to the tune of 31-14 from that point on and could have easily have been 38-14 had the Eagles not gone into the victory formation at the USC 6 to end the game.

"We just kept believing," Murphy, the grad student transfer from Florida said. "The guys did a great job of putting it on the line."

It helps when you do that. It also helps when you can say, as Addazio did, that "we sacked them, we harassed them, we played relentlessly on defense." USC did none of those.

But in losing their first game ever in six matchups to BC, USC did manage to allow the most rushing yards in 37 years -- since the Texas A&M Bluebonnet Bowl matchup in 1977.

And the last time USC allowed five rushing TDs came in the previous embarrassment for the Trojans in last year's loss to UCLA. And USC's 20 yards rushing was the fewest since the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl when they got just 1.

So maybe it's not the worst ever, not the most embarrassing ever, not the most worrying ever, but this game is in the ballpark on all of those. What this game tells everyone who watched it, or who will watch the film, is that this USC team is beatable by anyone it plays.

This effort, this gameplan, this execution, will lose in Pullman, in Salt Lake City, in Tucson and obviously in the Coliseum most every game out if the problems exposed here continue: The lack of edge contain, the lack of a pass rush, the inability to tackle in space, the inability to play as fast as a team with less talent, the inability to get it together between players and coaches, all of those will be deadly.

Tyler Murphy isn't the last athletic quarterback this USC team will face, even if the Trojans do lead the Pac-12 South going into Game 4 after a needed bye week off. There are a handful of these athletic QB's ahead. And this team had zero answers on this night.

Was it effort? USC had better hope it was. You can maybe fix effort. If it's the schemes and the talent, well, you can't change the players or the coaches at this point. Although that thought has probably crossed more than a few of the minds of Trojans fans during this long, ugly night.

Who could blame them?

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