Now what, indeed?
We said they had to win. We said they had to play well and get on the track last week against Arizona State. And they did.
Now it’s Colorado playing the same unexpectedly high-flying opponent’s role for USC’s hoping-to-get-back-to-.500 Trojans. So now what . . . once again?
Play well, of course. Win, of course.
But now this is getting into style points as this team, and these coaches, show they have what it takes to keep improving every week. No days off. No plays off.
But it will take more than that.
It will take this, as we get through Game 6. It will take playing with a sense of what it means to be USC.
Of what it takes to play with the confidence that you know what you’re doing and exactly how you’re going to do it.
That you have this all figured out, No more hoping that you’re doing the right thing but that you absolutely know you are.
And then even if you know you’re doing the right thing, you’re no longer merely hoping you can actually do it. No to all of that.
This is where this USC football team has to be headed. On third or fourth and short, no more having an O-lineman tossed back into the lap of the running back. What’s with that? You’re USC. Play like it.
And you want to go for it on fourth down, be our guest and go for it. And go for it for the right reason. Because it’s the right thing to do. Not because you didn’t go for it the two weeks before.
Or don’t go for it. Punt it and nail a team deep in its own territory knowing that your defense is going to stop them cold there and get the ball back.
Because that’s what you do. You’re USC.
And you’re going to play like it.
Sure, Colorado comes in here with one of the more impressive stats we’ve seen in a good while. Going into this season, through some admittedly tough times, the Buffs had amassed for this team, a total of 412 career starts.
That’s what Clay Helton meant when he said Colorado coach Mike Macintyre had “done it the right way” in his four years in Boulder, “recruiting West Coast guys” like Shay Fields, and then developing them over time. Some tough times, for sure.
But there’s something you really notice about college football in general and USC football and the Pac-12 in particular. When USC shows up and plays like USC historically has. Like Marcus Allen and Anthony Munoz and Troy Polamalu and Leonard Williams did, it pretty much doesn’t matter what the other team does.
DO that and the historical memory kicks in. That happened a great deal in 2011, for example, when that USC team turned it around after a couple of losses to finish 10-2. And did so behind tough guys Matt Kalil and Rhett Ellison and with mostly Marc Tyler running the ball, just lined up and knocked people off the line of scrimmage.
It happened in Tucson and then in Eugene. Both Arizona and Oregon fan bases were all fired up. This was going to be their year to knock USC off. They were sure of it.
And then out came this USC team that looked, uh oh, like those old USC teams. And played like them. And acted like them. And those places got very quiet. Not this year, they seemed to be telling themselves.
That’s a USC football team. And we’re not.
Which is what you want to do this week and next and next. Against Colorado and Arizona and Cal. You play in a tough, confident, physical, dominant way that allows all those memories of all those USC wins to return to your opponents as they tell themselves, “Not this year. This is a USC football team. And we’re not.”
It’s all up to the Trojans and their coaches. It’s in their hands. Now they just have to do it.
They have a swashbuckling quarterback who makes you think: Now that’s USC football. Even if Sam Darnold isn’t like any USC QB we can think of – a hybrid of Carson Palmer and Rodney Peete, maybe, if he keeps this up.
Anyway, great place to start. Now it’s up to the rest of this team to make it their business on offense to get all the little technique things right on every play that allow USC’s athleticism to make those explosive plays that change games.
But that must be a technique that starts with toughness. That’s the USC element that’s been missing for too long.
On defense, of course, it’s about being tough and aggressive but it’s also as much about shutting down the explosive plays. No more busts. The more you look back at it now, the Stanford giveaway game should make these guys cry.
And that includes the coaches. Make teams earn every inch on every play. No freebies. Punish them along the way, play after play after play.
Make them realize, the way Utah did not a couple of weeks back, that USC is not giving in. You will have to beat us down, the Trojans must communicate in every way you can say that and in every way USC did not do that against Alabama, Stanford and Utah, to get what you want. And from the first kickoff, USC must make absolutely clear that that’s not happening.
It’s really simple. When you’re USC and you play like you know exactly what that means, it is.
Because if you do, the other team will too.
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