Questions, Ryan has Podcast questions, so many this week there was no way to answer them on Monday's show so here we go. Time to man up and handle these.
But with this caveat. There are limits to what we can or will say when it gets into job situations and potential outcomes for anybody here, even if we know something specific. This isn't the place for that. And we will not be personal or insulting -- unless the questioner is asking for it. Just kidding. We'll give you our best shot here.
Q: I just saw a 10 and 4 team become a 7 and 4 and maybe even a 7 and 5 team. There is no discipline, no leadership, no adjustments at any time and right now. even though our players are just as good, UCLA is flat out a better team. I wish I could be patient with Coach Sark, but I've seen enough after losing games to Utah and Arizona State because we call conservative plays at the end of the game trying not to lose instead of to win. Passing up a field goal and giving UCLA momentum and then running the ball when we're down by 25 points was too much for me. I know Haden's not going to get rid of him, but I'm done. Hopefully Sark will make me eat my words next year, fight on and beat Notre Dame. -- Earl in West LA.
A: Actually there's no question from Earl in there but we get the sentiment and can't argue the numbers and we sure won't dispute how smart it was to pass up the field goal. It wasn't. And we do hope you have to eat your words next year because no head coach is getting let go after a year here -- unless you count CEO last year.
Q: I don't even have the words. This has been the toughest game to watch in a long time. Poor play calling and horrible defense. Playing 3 D-Linemen all game meant UCLA ran right over USC and O-Line was just horrible. Having better players doesn't mean anything when you have bad coaching. It appears that the USC coaching staff is not ready for the big games. Something has to change or USC will become the other team in LA. Though right now they are the other team. -- Frank from Orlando.
Sark admitted over and over USC "played a bad game." And the schematic matchups on offense and defense all seemed to go to UCLA. They didn't play a bad game and did have good coaching almost every way you looked at it -- and when things went bad for the Bruins, it didn't seem to bother them a bit. They were convinced "the other team" wouldn't be able to lay a glove on them. And they didn't.
Am I missing something? Are we totally predictable on both sides of the ball? -- David From behind the Orange Curtain.
David, you're not missing anything. USC has become pretty predictable. Don't believe me. Ask UCLA.
Q: We got out-coached, UCLA offensive coordinator runs the offense . . . Sark runs offense and is head coach . . . one would think that Sark would have learned from Kiffin's mistake... and why did we get beat so much on bubble screens . . . sheesh . . . -- Charlie from Carson.
A: Never been a fan of the head coach calling the plays on offense, especially with a young staff. As to the bubble screens, UCLA runs them differently with more power and blocking at the point of attack so maybe USC didn't recognize them.
Q: Thank God I didn't watch the game! I told everyone before the season: "7-5 staff, 7-5 program, 7-5 team." There was no way Sarkisian should have been hired. This is all on Haden. We had a head start on hiring the right guy and still managed to mess it up. It's a tragedy. -- Jamaal.
A: Way to step on your argument by admitting you didn't watch the game, Jamaal, but your point is well-taken. This season does have a whiff of the way things went down at U-Dub in recent years. Not sure it reaches the level of "tragedy" although would prefer it not to be "comedy" either. And sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry.Q: It seems like Cody has padded his stats with big games against Fresno St., Washington St., Colorado, and Cal. But as Josh Webb pointed out, Kessler is now 6-6 as a starter when USC is ranked and he's 0-3 in the archrivalry games. I know he's not a bad QB overall, but it seems like he is not a difference-maker who can lead USC to a Pac 12 title. Is there any reason why USC fans can hope for something different next season? . . . Sincerely, -- Disappointed (Chad).
P.S.: I know the O-line and Nelson didn't do a whole lot to help Cody either.A: They did not. Not sure anyone did from the playcallers to the defense. I know it's tempting to put it on the quarterback and say "Cody didn't . . . " But do you think Cody was responsible for the last-second losses this year to ranked Arizona State and Utah? Really? That'd make him a really respectable 8-4 against ranked teams. Not bad for a QB with a young team still under sanctions. And you might have a point if Cody were calling his own plays but he isn't. So no, Chad, Josh Webb hasn't got this one right. Notre Dame last year? With no receivers left in the second half? C'mon. Way too simplistic. Now if you're looking for a QB to tuck it under his arm and run it in from the 50 when all else has gome wrong, well then that is on Cody. Just as it would be on Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham and all those guys who didn't run it like . . . ohhh, maybe Matt Leinart. Football is a team game, the ultimate team game.
Q: DAN, Love the podcast. Thanks for answering our questions. My question is for Dan. I think the most disheartening aspect of the game was that UCLA was by far the more aggressive and physical team. That used to be the calling card for Pete's teams. Is there any hope of USC becoming a physical team again under "Seven Win Sark"? Or are we stuck with what we've been seeing until Sark gets fired three years from now? Thanks and fight on! -- Chad in Riverside.
A: Sark addressed that on his Sunday conference call. He knows his team has to be much more physical and he knows they have to practice that way in order to play that way and he knows this USC team hasn't. It's finishing up on the practice field much the way Lane's teams did, looking too much like an NFL team just playing out the string trying not to get hurt.
Q: DAN I was wondering if there is any chance that Coach Sark might fire Coach Wilcox and make a run at Will Muschamp and try and bring back Coach O. These are two defensive minds that love to "win" and will get the Trojans D back on track next season. I think bringing in two big names on this side of the ball would be the right move for the program going forward. If Sark wants to bring USC to the forefront of college football, he needs to start there and also think about giving up the playcalling. Theres nothing wrong with a head coach that doesn't call plays but "oversees" the whole game. We as fans always have something to say even though we're not the ones on the hot seat, but when my wife is calling out the short throws and running plays before they happen, I know that there is something wrong. Thanks for the time, -- Fight On! Richard.
A: OK, everybody knows I was an advocate for last year's staff after the job they did and wanted to see them extended at least through this year to see what they would do. Do I think USC football would be in a better place right now if that had happened? I do. But if they'd stumbled the way this staff has and were 7-4 the way this team is, then that would be it. No problem. Go out and hire Sark & Co. if you determine they are absolutely the best choice in the entire nation to get USC football back to the top. But that's not how it went down. And USC's options are limited significantly right now. Will there be some movement on the staff? Probably. That's how it usually goes. But we're not getting into the specifics on that. The season isn't over. It wouldn't be fair. Imagine this were your job. So let this play out.
Q: DAN The coaching in tonight's game made me long for the Paul Hackett era. Unfortunately I think it will take another year before Sark is inevitably shown the door. However, my question for Dan is if he thinks there is a chance Ed Orgeron could be brought back as an assistant coach? Obviously some changes are going to need to be made this off season and Ed was recently quoted (LA Times) as saying he misses SC and would come back as an assistant if offered. From Pat Haden's perspective, that would provide a spark for the program and fans, as well as give him someone capable in the wings if/when Sark is dismissed next year. -- Chris in Cambria.
A: I think he could and it would be the kind of boost you describe and I'd look at it more as an insurance policy for the head coach not a threat. And a chance for Pat to make up for what happened in the way Ed departed last year. It's a win-win-win-win-win deal for all involved -- Ed, Sark, Pat, the USC players and Trojan fans.
Q: DAN, Thanks for the work you and your crew (if you have one) do! I'm a fan of your work! But do you think Sark will adjust his coaching staff -- especially Wilcox -- and his own responsibility next season? I think this season clearly showed that the current form is NOT working. Any consolation for the Trojan fans? We are all hurting. -- Thanks, Jong.
A: There will be changes. This isn't working. Not saying it has to be one or another just that the way it all works together has to -- and will -- change. Give it time.
Q: DAN, What does it say about a coach who always tries to be cute? He called for a play action to Randall Telfer . . . Also, with everyone calling for Sark to get fired, who was considered for the job? Chris Petersen is getting drilled in Washington and no one else wanted Coach O . . . Can you share any other names who were considered? Thank you and Fight On, -- Randall.
A: Not sure "no one else wanted Coach O" since we called for extending that staff. But we agree on Petersen. We know Jack Del Rio was interviewed but was anyone else on the serious short list? Doesn't look like it with all the talk of Charlie Strong and Kevin Sumlin.
Q: I've taken the whole day after and still cannot make sense of what we saw from our team on Saturday. Seems like we played with no heart or urgency the entire game. I'm still beside myself on how this coaching staff cannot or isn't able to make adjustments at any point of the game. UCLA came in with an obvious plan and executed it to the teeth. Stop Buck Allen and pressure Cody and take Nelson away! Hundley sat back there with endless amount of time and picked us apart. What happened to our DBs? You would think after McQuay got burned twice, something would change! The O-line, as bad as it looked, I'll give them a pass, it's a veteran front seven taking advantage of a very young and inexperienced unit. Why not bring in Walker and put Lobendahn back at OG? Anything to switch things up! I'm just frustrated up here in the Northwest. Hope we clean it up for the Domers game! I'm sorry for the long rant and negative stuff, but it's getting ridiculous already with this team being unprepared and uninspired by its coaching staff. Thanks for all you do, love the show. Fight On, BEAT NOTRE DAME! Jesse Rodriguez, US Army Ret.
A: Jesse, thanks from all of us for your service. But you're right. USC got out-schemed and the kids knew it. UCLA got the jump on them and it looked like they didn't think they could get it back. As to Walker, he has to earn his way back. As to Lobendahn, as we've said all season, he's a natural center. Would have liked USC to go that way and figure out a way to get the line calls made.
Q: I would imagine your inbox is insane right now, I'll try to make my question brief. All these people calling for Sark to be canned are correct in their intentions. We are seeing Lane Kiffin 2.0 (just with a better personality), but if the fans and alumni want to see a real change their focus should be on Pat Haden. I think Mr. Haden is a classy and nice guy, but nice guys finish last. We need a John McKay, a go-getter, ball-buster, take-no-prisoners mentality in our AD. Football, baseball, basketball are all suffering, the man doing the hiring needs to be held accountable. Thank you, -- Steve in San Diego.
A: It's going to be interesting to see how long Pat hangs around and what he decides he needs to get done before he moves on as he said he would. But you're right, Steve, that may be where the fans' focus should be.
Q: Once all the fire Sark talk dies down, we need to discuss why SC got beat. Mora is a defensive expert with two weeks to prepare. They doubled Nelson A with few openings for our other weapons. Every pass rusher came through with their hands up and batted down or tipped half a dozen passes. That was a great defensive effort . . . In addition, the blitzs were timed perfectly. That's film study and good defense. -- Frank in Sacramento.
Q: Yep, you'd have thought USC would have anticipated some of that and figured how to take advantage -- rolling the pocket with Cody, getting USC's other speed guys deep away from Nelson, running quick stuff they could use against the blitzes although just standing off a D-line that didn't show much ability to pressure the quarterback would have been a help.
Q: I noticed we, for the fist time this year, [USC] utilized the corner blitz, and safety blitz, when the safety was lined up like a corner many times in this game. It was very successful in the Carroll years and I am an advocate for it, but it would seem to me that this would be the absolute wrong game to use it with UCLA being a perimeter throwing team. Often the corner came in to rush and they threw right that way for an easy seven to 10 yards repeatedly. Am I missing something here? That is UCLA's game, and they execute it well, and it would seem we played right in to their hands. And whats up with so many opponent receivers, game after game after game, being wide open for touchdowns. HELP!! Chris
A: Good point on Hundley handling the blitzes fairly easily.
Q: I understand that we need to praise in public and keep criticism private but isn't Coach Sark dangerously coddling his players by always speaking to how "awesome" they're practicing or how proud he is of them . . . Now more than ever after this UCLA loss, I'm ready to hear about accountability or changes to the lineup because guys aren't playing as good as they should. Am I off base here?Thanks for your time and Fight On!Regards, -- Eric Corpus, Virginia Beach, Virginia
A: You don't always know how to evaluate practice until the game gets here and so if you're Sark, you have to hope they're practicing well. And given what they're asked to do at practice, they are. We see that. It's just that maybe the season catches up to the coaches and players right now and the caution in keeping guys healthy may have overtaken the push to keep them physically on top of their games. They're not working like they did in August.
Q:> Do you think that Sark is overcompensating for Kiffin's failures by taking the blame for too much? Seems like every game he says "I have to coach better." He asks/demands his players to get better, so does he think he is getting better? I do not think he should be fired. But I just want him to coach better . . . David
A: I just think that's Sark's personality. It's the way he works. It's a good question. What does he demand? He says he's demanding, very much so, in his coaching of the quarterbacks. But you're right, David, this doesn't look like it's been a demanding tenure thus far.
Q: Re: Coach Sarkesian . . . If you rank all of the Pac-12 coaches, there is no doubt that Sarkesian would rank in the bottom two . . . although I can't think of who would be below him . . . In the UCLA game he was obviously outcoached as a head coach and outcoached as an offensive coordinator . . . He would probably do well at Div. II coach but not at our level . . . I know nothing will be done about his tenure but at the time of his hiring there was a story that he was not Pat Haden's first choice but that Pat was told by Max Niklas to hire him . . . Do you or Dan have any information re this? Thanks for a great job. -- Jim in Oregon.
A: Jim, can't be easy being a Trojan fan in Oregon these days. Hang in there. I will say this, we always heard that Max really liked Sark from his days as an assistant at USC. Not sure who Haden's first choice might have been. Never got the sense that he wasn't on board with the Sark hire.
Q: Like many USC fans, I’ve been disappointed by the team’s performance this year. And I think we owe it all to Pat Haden’s poor judgment and stupid decisions. First of all, he should have fired Kiffin at the end of the 2012 season, after USC’s shameful defeat by an inferior Georgia Tech team, when Kiffin failed to prepare his players for the Sun Bowl. And if Haden had fired Kiffin then, USC could have begun the next season with a new coach and a clean slate. But Haden, our Rhodes Scholar genius, waited for another humiliating defeat at Arizona State, the next year -- and then, showing complete lack of class, he fired Kiffin immediately after the game, on an airport tarmac, instead of in his office the following day, which is what a gentleman would do. Then Haden hired Steve Sarkisian, an undistinguished coach with a mediocre record at Washington. And Sarkisian came on the scene, a very glib and articulate guy with a lot of bluster, claiming this would not be a rebuilding year, but that USC was going to go for a national championship right away. Well, we’ve seen what happened. But for me, the most telling moment that revealed Sarkisian’s lack of character was when, in the middle of a game, he called Haden on his cell phone to complain about some bad calls by the referees, which caused Haden to run down to the sidelines to support Sarkisian. And in that moment, Sarkisian seemed like a wimpy boy in a Pop Warner football game complaining to his daddy on the sidelines to come and help him. It was embarrassing. And that’s when I lost respect for Sarkisian. Bottom line: Sarkisian is no leader, Haden is a fool. And we’re screwed. -- Joe in LA.
A: Joe, love your passion although I see things a bit differently. Thought the Kiffin firing, considering all the circumstances, was one of Pat's better moments. And the calling of Pat to the Stanford sidelines was one of Sark's -- and Pat's -- better moments considering the way USC has suffered under Pac-12 officials and taken it for too long. Just my thoughts. USC won that game and came away from the Kiffin firing a winner for the rest of the year. So I'm a results kind of guy for those kinds of things.
Q: Sure looked like 22 on D got worked for three TD's yesterday. Fell down on the first one after taking a bad angle, whiffed on coverage on the second TD, and took another bad angle for the Hundley rushing TD. What's the scoop with him? G-Mart says he's better at playing a true Free Safety a la Troy Polamalu. Is he just not good enough to play? -- Kevin in South OC.
A: He did. Agree with GM on this. When LM3 could play a roaming free, make-a-play position ala TP in high school, his athleticism allowed him to be effective. As part of a tightly controlled scheme, he seems to not get to the right place or take the right angle after maybe spending more time analyzing the call before starting to react. Might be just a matter of time. Might not. We'll see.
Q: If anyone mentions anything other than the Trojans getting their collective butts kicked on the offensive and defensive lines as the reason for the loss they are completely delusional. -- Mark
Maybe not "completely delusional" but the mismatch up front both ways was a big part of 38-20.
Q: THE question a lot of us are asking is this: Is Sark the future? We let Coach O and what he had going go in order to reach a loftier goal (I assume). Do we see that happening? Sure, more scholarship players will make a difference . . . with the RIGHT COACH. Most of us have been through long periods with USC football with a full complement of scholarships but with the wrong coach and it’s not pretty. I’m ready to be patient -- see Pete’s first year -- IF it feels like the right guy is at the helm. -- Tyler in Seattle.
P.S.: Full disclosure -- I was a 60-40 percent advocate of keeping Coach O and seeing where it went. Seemed like a Sark-level coach would be available any year. I’m afraid that another season with multiple losses and “I need to coach better” comments from Sark will get old fast.
A: They will get old indeed -- and already are. It's the exactly right question. Sark will have to come up with the answer. That's what great USC-caliber coaches do.You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.