One could say that this most recent loss to the University of Oregon was devastating and I would not argue. One might also say that with USC starting its last Offensive series with less than 2 minutes to go, and with Sultan running the ball up the middle, the results were all too predictable. In my own personal opinion, the worst part of this scenario, other than the obvious fact of the defeat itself is that USC did not do what Pete Carroll promised in his very first news conference. USC did not attack at the end and USC did not play aggressive football when that was the only thing that could have given the Trojans the victory.
The most obvious disaster that comes to one's mind about this game was that USC did not get a first down to enable them to run the clock out late in the game. Once Oregon got the ball with about 50 seconds or so left, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that USC would unfortunately lose. The Trojans did not get anywhere near Harrington and when he has time, the Ducks are hard to beat. How many times over the past several years have teams just moved the ball right down the field on the Trojans late in the game? Some will point out that SC did bring a corner in the last series. Well, the D was not aggressive enough as evidenced by the fact that nobody got near Harrington and the Duck receivers were open and it wasn't even close. Time and again it has been shown that the only defense that wins games in the end of the games against a fine passing team are those that get the QB and put him down. End of discussion. Give the guy time and just watch him shred the DB's. History repeated itself and that is borne out by the score.
Of course, when one thinks about this game in its entirety, it becomes painfully obvious that the last two minutes are hardly the crux of the problem. This is not a supremely talented Duck defense, yet USC could not and did not run the ball with anything resembling success. That only made the last offensive series all that much more inexcusable. Combine that with the fact that even though this quarterback threw the ball for many yards, his mistakes absolutely killed the team. One simply can't turn the ball over on three picks against a quality opponent and expect to come out with a victory. Are those picks something that can and will be remedied? I have no idea, but each will have his own opinion. Most importantly, the staff will have to make the final calls on that point, but unless something very strange happens, I would be shocked to see anyone other than Carson Palmer take so much as a game snap with the game still in doubt. Quarterback seems to be a position that is not really open to any changes and it is a matter of some debate amongst most that I have talked to as to whether or not is should be. Of course, it is only the opinion of the staff that counts, as should be the case.
David Davis had a fabulous game kicking the ball and he should have been the unsung hero of this one. For the first time in what seems like forever, USC had a reliable offensive weapon in its kicking game. However, if he was that good , the rest of the special teams, with the possible exception of the punter, were THAT BAD. I have personally, never seen a worse effort by kickoff cover teams and punt cover teams in my entire life and that is to be taken literally. I had hoped that this version of USC kick coverage teams would be an improved unit. Well, forgedaboutit!! These guys simply did not tackle or play good football. Time and again, the kickoff and punt returns killed USC and in my opinion, it was the special team disasters, along with the turnovers that cost the Trojans this football game. I don't know why these units played so poorly and why they were consistently awful, but their play was an aboslute travesty. If this is not rectified, USC will lose more games that it could have otherwise won.
For the most part, this defense played hard, inspired football. The 4th down stop was terrific, although it was negated by the next play being taken back for a Duck touchdown on a bad thow by Palmer. For a kid who has never played much football for USC, DeMars played well and SC did not seem to suffer much by playing him. The play of the linebackers, with Pollard and Prosser in particular looked better than it had in the first two games. (of course this was the first game for Prosser and he looked like he belonged out there) If there was a consistent fault on the Defensive side of the ball, it appeared that nobody was wrapping up their tackles with consistent authority. I might be the only one who feels this way, but many many tackles were simply missed. Yet, the Trojans D played well enough to win most games, and with the exception of the Ducks' last possession, they seemed to play pretty tight and attacking football. I could hardly be disappointed in the way this unit performed as a whole.
The offense was an unmitigated failure in the first half, but it did come to life in the second half. For the first time this season, the offense was able to make use of its speed and the opponents were unable to handle that aspect of the USC team. The next question that comes to one's mind might be why we don't use this speed more often and I suppose there are as many answers as people who try to give them. Obviously this team still does not handle blitzes well and running up the middle or just about anywhere is not something that gets done very well. Personally, I could not care less about how the team moves the ball so long as it moves. It is precisely for that reason that it is particluarly hard to swallow that Norm Chow chose to become so conservative at the end when that play had not worked at all during the game and the only real chance we had to get the first down was to continue with what got us there in the first place--AND THAT WAS NOT THE RUN UP THE MIDDLE. Another turnover through a pass was no more likely than a failed possession secondary to the run and handing the ball over to a very hot and experienced qb for the Ducks.
To be sure, there were some other positives in this game. The Trojans came from way down to take the lead. That in itself showed that the team does not quit and that there might be signficant hope . Up until the last minute it looked like SC had found a way to win a big game and that is a mountain that must be conquered before this team will ever be good. There were less dropped balls and some of the big guns made big plays. There was enthusiasm up to the end and for much of the game, the coach did play attacking football on both sides of the ball. There are obvious deficiencies on the Oline and in the wide receivers' game, but for much of the second half, the plays were called that seemed to help neutralize those problems and if that effort can be continued till the last play of the game, there might be hope for some important wins before the season is over. One might get some consolation that USC has played two top teams nose to nose in consecutive weeks and made a resepctable showing. Considering that USC was a last place finisher in the Pac-10 Conference last year, that might be consoling to some. Yeah, it mig