The USC Trojans lost to the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday by a score of 10-6 in front of 69,959 at the Coliseum. It was not a terribly exciting game as both teams struggled at times on offense but it was a game the Trojans still had a chance to win . Carson Palmer completed 16 of 36 passes on the day but was also the leading rusher with 60 yards as USC was never able to get Sultan McCullough on track with the running game. Carson had some timely scrambles which kept the team in it but he went to the well once too often and Kansas State was able to force a late fumble and basically ran out the clock. Kansas State came into the game with a high ranking and it is frustrating to know that we had our chances, we played OK but if we had only played a little better this is a game we certainly could have won.
Notes from the Sidelines
Bernard Rileyand Lonnie Ford were the leaders on the dline. Riley was constantly double teamed but showed great lateral movement and was all over the field with a tipped pass while dropping back in zone blitz and a recovered fumble. Ford caused a fumble, batted down a pass at the line and his pressure caused the early throw on the Antuan pick…..19 of the 20 Kansas State first downs came via the run…..The fumble by Carson was the first fumble by the Trojans this season.
Looking for Mr. Chow
To say the Trojan offense was off on this day would be an understatement. The offensive play calling that worked so well last week to mix the run and pass and spread the ball around was nowhere to be found for the Trojans as Kansas State did a solid job of stopping the run and preventing the big pass. The Trojans came out throwing as Norm Chow was looking to soften up the Wildcat front which was designed to stop the run but the only problem was that the passing game which started off 9 for 9 last week was only 3 for 9 this week with an assortment of dropped passes and missed throws. By the time we tried to get Sultan going with a couple nice runs in the 2nd quarter it was an uphill battle as the Trojans gained five yards on the ground in the first quarter, only 20 in the whole first half. An immediate concern is the fact that the deep passes have yet to connect this season and the timing that Chow yearns for with the short passes will need plenty of work on the practice field in the next two weeks before we head to Eugene.
Kareem Kelly was challenged by the coaches to step up with a big game and he responded with 7 catches to move into 7th place on the all time USC WR list. He was matched up all day with a terrific corner in Terrance Newman but came up with some key 3rd down catches and averaged over 10 yards per play.
Pete Carroll said it was a great day to watch good corners as the Wildcats had Newman and the Trojans saw good play from Kris Richard with his closing speed to bat down a deep pass and the usual solid coverage from Cash.
Matt Grootegoed is starting to look comfortable at linebacker and he was the most productive player at that spot with 8 tackles.
Key to Game: Too much expected from defense
It was a valiant effort from the Trojan defense as they took on the potent option running game of Kansas State and kept their team in the game only to come up short on an exhausted final drive. Pete Carroll knew his defense would need to keep mistakes to a minimum against the precision option offense which takes advantage of little mistakes and his unit played fairly well, they allowed two Wildcats to rush for over 100 yards on the day but we shut down the passing attack and played physical football. They didn't help their cause on the opening Kstate drive with a couple offsides penalties that helped keep the drive alive which led to a field goal and it is easy to wonder how much of a difference Frank Strong would have made because Kansas State ran at his replacement John Cousins a lot with a lot of success. Losing guys like Strong and Chris Prosser, a bigger LB who is out with a suspension, doesn't help when you play a solid running team yet when all is said and done the Wildcats scored only 10 points and on most days when that is the case the Trojans will win. The defense was on the field for almost 36 minutes and when it came time for the final drive and a big stop was needed to get the ball back for the offense the tank was on empty and Kansas State was able to run the ball down the middle of the field to end the game. It would have been nice to see one last stand and although it wasn't meant to be on this day we did see signs that this defense will be a good one.
Special teams played a key role and Kansas State was able to make the plays when they counted. USC had an extra point blocked on a rush right up the middle and also came up short on a 42 yard field goal attempt.Kicker Jared Brite made his field goal and extra point which turned out the be the difference in the game. Brite is also a talented baseball player who chose Kansas State over the Trojans…..USC knew they had to contain Wildcat punt return man Aaron Lockett and they did a terrific job for much of the day. Troy Polamalu and Darrell Rideaux each raced down from the gunner spots to hold Lockett to short gains but Polamalu also had an unfortunate play when he arrived a split second before the ball and was called for an early hit. Troy immediately apologized after the game, saying the hit was "unclassy"….Polamalu had a solid game at his safety spot and led the team in tackles with 13…...Norm Chow has called plays from the press box for much of his career but has been on the sidelines for the Trojan games this year…..Carson Palmer scrambled three times for 1st downs in key 3rd and long situations. The fumble on the last scramble will stand out but that drive would have ended in Trojan territory if not for an earlier 27 yard Palmer run…...Dropped passes continue to be a problem but the throwback completions to Dickerson and Landrigan worked well.
It was a game we could have won, no doubt about it, but the nagging feeling for Trojans today is the fact that the loss to Kansas State looked too familiar, it followed too many patterns we have seen before, it was just too much like a Paul Hackett coached game. One of the most pleasant feelings after the San Jose State game was the knowledge that we had seen an innovative offensive plan and team that played with confidence and made few mistakes. It was not the most dominating performance in the world to beat the Spartans but we had seen progress and that was good enough for us. It would have been nice to beat Kansas State but Trojan fans were realistic for only the 2nd game under Pete Carroll and even if we didn't win as long as we continued to see progress it would have been fine. Unfortunately that is what's so hard about this game is we didn't see progress and yet we still had the chance to win but couldn't take advantage of it. One of the marks of a good team is the ability to steal a game when you aren't having your best day and one of the marks of a great coach is to make something happen to help your team when they are down. In this game we saw key penalties, we saw dropped passes, we saw missed kicks on special teams and, most surprisingly, we saw a lack of imagination with the offense. These were trademarks of the Hackett era