It's a matter of trust, Steve Sarkisian says.
It's a matter of trusting your talent, Sark said Wednesday, and your teammates, your preparation, your coaching, your instincts and ultimately, your ability to make the right play at the right time.
But in allowing a perfectly schemed Stanford team to roll up a 31-10 edge over the last 34 minutes Saturday at the Coliseum, a then sixth-ranked USC team seemed to have none of those qualities.
What USC will be doing is staying the course as it heads to the desert for its road and Pac-12 South opener Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN) against a dangerous Arizona State team (2-1, 0-0) that has handled the Trojans rudely their last two visits to Tempe, scoring 105 points on them after USC had racked up 11 straight wins on the Sun Devils.
No big personnel changes for USC this week. No scuttling the basic defensive schemes of coordinator Justin Wilcox, they say. Just doing things better.
Sure, USC lined up in its three-man front until late in the game when it was, indeed, too late against six or seven Stanford blockers.
And sure, that wasn't the way Northwestern did it in holding Stanford without a TD two weeks earlier with a five-man front and a couple of linebackers blitzing every play to keep the Cardinal from getting to the edge.
And as much as Su'a Cravens, USC's defensive standout in ths Stanford game with a team-leading 13 tackles and the lone pass breakup, says he's not talking about either that game or letting it affect him this week as the 19th-ranked Trojans try to take the lead in the Pac-12 South, it's hard not to.
Delvon Simmons wasn't looking back, however. "We just have to win," the USC D-lineman said of this Saturday. "It's all about us, not the coaches."
Even against the double team?
Even against the double team. "We have to win every down -- every play," Delvon says. It's that simple. "We've worked on everything . . . it's my job to get it done."
If only it were that simple. But it's a start, that commitment.
But when it comes to trust, there's this. Trusting the calls, the in-game adjustments. They weren't there.
And despite the Northwestern scouting report, USC "played our base [defense] against their run game," Wilcox said, "we thought we'd do a better job . . . we didn't . . . hindsight is always better."
And there's been a ton of hindsight this week. So much so that Sark addressed what a head coach has to do when that sort of criticism is raining down on a coordinator. He said he's been there as a coordinator himself.
"You continue to support him as a coach the way I was when I didn't do my best," Sark said. And there's no question about that "doing my best" thing. This wasn't anyone's best on defense.
"Could we have adjusted quicker?," Wilcox said against both the basic stuff Stanford was doing and the new looks and formations it hit USC with. "Yeah," he said, USC could have.
But it's more than adjusting. "We have to be physical on every single down," Wilcox said, "we have to make plays on the football."
Seems like pretty basic stuff. But it didn't happen. Now it must.
"Every South game is a 'must win,' " said Su'a, who won't talk that Stanford game as he focuses on Arizona State.
Jake gets his 1st shot
In a big moment. long-snapper Jake Olson got his first chance to snap live in 11 on 11 but without contact on Jake and Matt Boermeester hit one from about 40 yards out after a perfect snap and it was all back slaps and hugs for Jake from his teammates.
Sark said that moment shows how "life's pretty good" and it will probably happen in a game when he makes the decision to go ahead with it. But it would have to be with an agreement with the other team and it "would be a great story" and one showing the "sheer sportsmanship," of it all.
WEDNESDAY QUICK HITS
Highlight of the day had to be the return/homecoming of five very special Trojan D-linemen -- All-Americans and/or national champs and NFL alums La Juan Ramsey, Fili Moala, Lawrence Jackson and Shaun Cody with USC strength coach Kenechi Udeze, who initiated the get-together with an invitation to the first three while Cody, USC's radio postgame host, was there as part of his media duties . . . the group concentrated their time with the D-line guys on Brian Kennedy Field . . . CB Kevon Seymour coming back with his knee and doing more work but still a good bit away from being game-ready . . . Thursday's practice will be big for him in determining his availability for Saturday . . . NT Antwaun Woods (bruised shoulder and tailbone) still limited . . . Scott Felix (sore shoulder) back and not much limited . . . Adoree' Jackson says if it's his call, he's always going to vote to play as much as USC can use him on offense . . . How much that will be against an ASU team with its uptempo offense is the question . . . Claude Pelon, Noah Jefferson, Delvon Simmons and Cody Temple, who's down to a svelte 283 now, stood in at nose at times for Woods Wednesday . . . Dominic Davis hit it inside then outside with a terrific cut past an air-grasping Jonathan Lockett for a 40-yard TD in 11 on 11 run work. Just outstanding . . . He wasn't alone. Fellow freshmen Ronald Jones and Aca'cedric Ware also had good days . . . how to get enough plays for them is one of those questions Sark says USC -- and its defense -- must be able to answer. CHECK THIS OUT: For more details on Wednesday's workout, check out WEDNESDAY ASU WEEK GHOST NOTES.
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