Stanford had a total of nine possessions and scored points on seven of those, punting just twice with no turnovers on the night.
“We just didn’t execute," Anthony Sarao said outside the USC locker room. "In critical times and critical plays we didn’t get those done. They beat us on third down today, they beat us on first down which gave them third and shorts, something the Stanford offense likes, and we had to execute.”
Third downs were a real problem for the USC defense with Stanford converting on 8 of 12 (67%).
“It’s just as simple as executing, you got to make your plays when you have to make them," he said. "On third and eights, or any of those types of downs, you can’t let the quarterback get out of the pocket which we did and he hurt us.
“Playing a team like Stanford, they like a lot of third and shorts so if you don’t win on first down, it makes the third down short and that’s what they like. We didn’t get that done. Their runs were bleeding for four or five yards [each time], and that’s not acceptable.”
One criticism of this USC defense after the game was the lack of physicality, but Sarao does not agree with that assessment.
“I don’t think it was that at all, I think we’re physical," Sarao said. "There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re physical as Trojans. It was key plays that we had to execute on down the stretch, which we didn’t do.
“I think leading up to the game we were as focused as I like to see, from the team. Energy was great, we just didn’t execute on the key plays and that’s what happened.”
Sarao ended up making one of the biggest plays of the game early in the second half when he blitzed and sacked Kevin Hogan.
“Blitzing is kind of to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and just to give him some pressure," he said. "When you can get that sack it’s great, but sacks come down to just beating your man one-on-one. We look at NFL tape, and a lot of sacks, in general, it’s just about beating your man.”
As disappointing as this loss is for Sarao, he knows the team goals are still attainable.
"Technically it hurts us as a team, it just hurts us mentally right now," he said. "It hurts right now, it’s going to hurt tonight when we try to sleep, but it’s just a North [division] game not a South [division] game. To get to the Pac-12 Championship we have to win the South and then we get to that. In the grand scheme of things this is not acceptable tonight, we’re going to get back and win the South.
“Everybody that plays USC is going to treat this like a championship game. They come to the Coliseum and they’re going to play their best. We know that, and that’s why we don’t care about our opponents; We worry about us and playing the best we can.”
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more player reaction to the Stanford loss and what preparation is like this week for the tough road test at Arizona State.
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Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at email@example.com.