Unlike last week against Cal, USC quarterback Cody Kessler was not able to find time to go through his progressions. Sure, there were a handful of plays that Kessler could have performed better on and gotten rid of the ball sooner, but for a majority of the night, it seemed like the junior was under constant pressure.
So who is to blame?
Well there’s plenty of blame to go around on the offensive line and Kessler himself, but maybe UCLA isn’t getting enough credit here. The Bruins were prepared heading into the crosstown rivalry and Kessler saw it all over the field.
“I felt like they were in the right spot a lot, yeah,” Kessler said. “They did a really god job game planning us. They covered a lot of our plays that we’ve been working on all year. They did a really good job, so hats off to them on that. But at the end of the day we have to execute. Me, up front, the receivers, we got to execute all the way around.”
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian stated first and foremost postgame that him and his staff had to coach better. Many fans blamed the USC coaches, and they weren’t out of line doing so. It didn’t seem as if many adjustments were made and when adjustments aren’t made, the same things keep happening.
“I don’t know,” Kessler responded when asked why they couldn’t make adjustments. “I think at the end of the day, it’s all about execution. The plays are there and it comes down to the players. The coaches can only call so many plays or do so much and even if it’s not there, it’s up to us to make plays happen, make guys miss. For me, if I have to move around and make plays downfield, that’s something I had to do this game and we weren’t able to do it… When the pocket break down and I had to move around and try to make something happen, they still did a good job of covering downfield. Our guys had trouble getting open tonight, but like I said, hats off to them.”
Sarkisian also said that the Bruins did a great job of pushing USC players off of their spots and not letting them go where they wanted to go. Again, UCLA may not be getting enough credit in this situation. When players aren’t getting to the right spots on the field, it’s tough to go through your progressions quickly.
“Yeah they (UCLA) did a good job,” Kessler said. “It was tough. In this offense, it’s all progression and when I got to my first progression there was already a guy in the backfield. It’s hard to get to the second and third without having to take off or try to make something happen. Like I said, you can’t take that away from them. They did a really good job of getting me to have to move around and not be able to set in the pocket and go through progressions.”
As unbelievable as it may seem, USC was only down 10 points heading into halftime and the Trojans still had a good chance of winning the game. Even though UCLA was going to get the ball out of the break, if the defense could get that one stop, the whole momentum of the game was going to change. The Trojans couldn’t get that one stop and it proved to be lethal.
“They got a lot of momentum early, especially early,” Kessler said. “First half, it was a close game and we came out in the second half and they scored a touchdown which obviously gave them a lot of momentum. We weren’t able to capitalize on offense. You can’t have that, especially when a team is playing at home. It’s tough to beat a team when they have a lot of momentum and when the crowd is into it. You got to take the crowd out of it.”
The Bruins have won the crosstown rivalry for three years in a row now by a combined margin of 49 points. To many fans, that would look like a huge disparity in talent between the two teams, but Kessler doesn’t agree.
“No,” Kessler responded. “They were the better team tonight, at the end of the day. But, no I don’t think so. I think if we made some plays here and there it’s a close game, but we didn’t and the scoreboard is going to show that. We got to learn from it and we have a big game next week. We got to bounce back and keep working hard. It’s the 24-hour rule. It’s going to hurt, but there’s no excuses. We got to send these seniors out on a good note.”
Speaking of seniors, next week, shockingly, is the last time Hayes Pullard will run out of the tunnel onto the Coliseum. It will also be the last trip down the tunnel for Randall Telfer and others. Kessler wants to make sure they go out the right way and it’s time for the team to shake off their loss. Notre Dame is headed to the Coliseum in less than six days.
“We’re excited,” Kessler said. “It’s going to be a fun game. This one hurts, obviously, and you never want to lose to your rival, but guys have to realize that it’s been a long year and we have to end it on a good note. Hopefully go to a good bowl game after that, but we’re not playing for ourselves next week. We’re playing for guys like Randall Teller and Hayes Pullard and guys that stayed through the sanctions and were leaders through this whole time and worked so hard and kept this team together. Me personally, that’s what I’m playing for. I want to win it for Randall and Hayes and for the other seniors that have been here through all the tough times. Next week is going to be real important for us.”
Marshall Cherrington will be attending USC and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism beginning in January of 2015. You can follow him on Twitter @MWCherrington.