Petros Report Card - Kansas State review

I've seen some hostile crowds before, like the night I brought whiskey to my Mormon ex-girlfriends birthday party, but that awkward and inflammatory reception was nothing compared to the Trojans greeting at Wagner Field in Manhattan. This was perhaps the toughest place the Trojan program will ever see.

I've seen some hostile crowds before, like the night I brought whiskey to my Mormon ex-girlfriends birthday party, but that awkward and inflammatory reception was nothing compared to the Trojans greeting at Wagner Field in Manhattan.  This was perhaps the toughest place the Trojan program will ever see.  With a fourth quarter rally that restored good faith in the most irritated USC fans, The Trojans proved they would not end up another early season victim to the hype machine.  However, the Trojans did not escape from perhaps the loudest stadium in the Midwest without some mental casualties.  The bottom line is some of SC's freshmen could not adjust early enough to that crowd and a great (and I mean GREAT) Kansas State Wildcat defense. 


QB (B)


Carson was face down on the ground more than the new guy in jail.  He showed more poise in this game under constant pressure, however, than he has shown in the past.  He is mature enough now to secure a Pac-10 championship but we'll have to put the Heisman talk on the shelf now.  On Saturday dropped balls and a fierce KSU pass rush did not allow him the hero role.  He did become USC's most prolific passer by pushing past Rob Johnson in both completions and yardage. 


RB (B)


Sultan McCullough and Hershel Dennis were most impressive running fearlessly into a vaunted Wildcat front seven.  Malaefou MacKenzie showed some mortality but still looks like the athlete we need him to be.  Justin Fargas seemed to gain confidence as the game went on, look for him to make bigger and bigger impacts as the games pile up.  Though Fargas ran diligently, Sultan appears to be the Trojans most impressive back right now.  The RB's had the ability to help the Trojans win but the youthfulness of Dennis did not help them in blitz pick-up.


WR (D)


Despite a heroic effort by Keary Colbert late in the game (and he was not without his transgressions) the Trojans receiving corps was really the personnel group that (no pun intended) dropped the ball.  Freshman Mike Williams, though young, may have been a touched overly hyped going into this contest and we are all to blame for that.  Mike dropped balls and seemed confused and extremely frustrated with himself.  This is a tough player with all the ability in the world and he will hang in there.  Kareem Kelly added a fumble on what was a very dark day for the USC receivers.  It seemed as if they all dipped their hands in hot margarine during pre-game because the ball was sliding up and down Wagner Field.  Tight ends Gregg Guenther and Alex Holmes were a non-factor in part because the K-State linebackers, led by the impressive Terry Pierce, would not allow anybody out on routes.  Hopefully all the receivers will take what happened in Manhattan as a learning experience as they move on to Pac-10 play.  


OL (C-)


Winston Justice, Zach Wilson and Fred Matua made up the battered right side of SC's offensive line on Saturday.  The young guys showed the inexperience when facing one of the best defenses in the country during a tight and competitive match-up.  You just can't expect a true freshman to be Brad Budde in his third game out.  Forgiveness all around for an OL that has improved greatly since last season but it was just too good a defense to face at this point in the year.  The best case scenario for the Trojans is that they use this beating as motivation for a lighter, less angry Pac-10 schedule. 


DL (A-)


I can't give anybody a straight A in a loss but these guys are still our greatest unit.  They showed more courage than I've ever seen from a defense and never gave up even when the chips were stacked almost insurmountably against them.  Cody, Udeze, Patterson, Riley, Nazel, these are men who went to war on Saturday.  Unfortunately, even the toughest walls fall down as a very tough KSU running attack and too many 3 and outs from the USC offense simply wore them down.  Ed Orgeron told me and has announced in public that this is the best defensive line he has ever had.  Be proud of these guys Trojan fans, they will save our season time and time again. 


LB (B)


With 7 tackles Matt Grootegoed had the breakout game at LB that he has been waiting for all season.  Though the K-State offense was tough and the option that is designed to wear you down was eventually successful, Champ Simmons, Mike Pollard and Oscar Lua were very solid.  One thing you cannot control defensively is fatigue, you need to offense to make first downs to let you rest off the field, and this proved to be the most daunting task for the Trojans on Saturday.  Like the rest of the defense, the linebackers eventually broke down under the pressure of the experienced OL, a tough running QB in Ell Roberson and a Chad Morton-like running back in Sproles.  The move that Sproles put on the first play of their final drive was like a magic spell, he just made everybody fall down around him.


DB (C+)


Ronald Nunn went down with what looks like a serious knee injury which leaves the Trojans very bare at corner.  William Buchanan gave it his best shot in his first real action but he has a lot of growing up to do on the field.  Marcell Allmond and Justin Wyatt will team with William to try and fill a hole in the secondary that should scare any Trojan supporter.  Troy Polamalu, after dealing with what appeared to be an immature, ridiculous spin from Coach Snyder regarding talk of a bounty that swirled around Manhattan, played one of the games of his life.  With Most Wanted posters all over the place and the normally responsible nationally media picking up on the bounty story, it was certainly the best game of 2002 for Troy as he was his usual disruptive self.  Let that be a lesson to coaches in the future, Troy Polamalu is far too mentally strong to be rattled by a smear campaign. 


Special teams (D)


Tommy Malone was not mentally ready to play Manhattan.  I feel for the young man because I know he feels as though he let his teammates down with a couple very poor efforts punting the football.  As long as he doesn't take off on a fake that he manufactures in his own mind though, I'm sticking with Tommy and guaranteeing his improvement.  Trojan fans, don't get down on the young man, he will be the punter we need this season and for many to come.  Dave Davis seems to have momentarily lost his field goal kicking job to Ryan Kileen, the kickoff specialist, but look for Davis to sort out his timing problems and make some big kicks for us this year.  Of course, it doesn't matter if Adam Vinateri is kicking if we can't protect for an extra point.  This is something that has gone on for too long and is embarrassing for the program.  If you can't make an extra point it destroys your momentum, especially on the road. 


Coaching staff (A)


The Trojans valiant fourth quarter comeback says it all about the coaching job in this game.  Pete Carroll kept these boys in the game and somehow was able to re-inflate a completely flaccid and deflated sideline in the fourth quarter.  With coaching and senior leadership this team was able to will themselves back into contention when it seemed to be a lost cause.  There was very little negativity in the post-game locker room, disappointment is different from discouragement and despair.  This coaching staff is a very hard working group that will have your team ready to go next week. 


If we were having a conversation over a glass of Capari in late August and I told you USC would be 2-1 through this rugged early season schedule, I'm pretty sure you would've smiled and ordered another drink.  The fact that the Trojans looked so good against a pretty good Colorado team gave us all high hopes and planted seeds in many of our minds of national championships and BCS dreams.  This loss should not invoke a feeling of despair in Trojan fans.  I have seen many USC teams fall apart due to a sputtering offense and lack of execution on special teams but on Saturday this team did not let those two detriments destroy their day and behind a mature, great senior leader in quarterback Carson Palmer they almost came all the way back.  Be proud of your Trojans, there will never be a tougher place to play.  I'm looking forward to staying home for one weekend.  I was in Boulder, St. Louis, Topeka, Dallas, Kansas City and Manhattan within the last 8 days and that is too much even for the P-Daddy.  I'm looking forward to hanging out in LA and waiting on the Beavers.  Good luck and Fight On.


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