Petros Report Card - Washington State review

Former Trojan running back Petros Papadakis gives his report card for the USC overtime loss to Washington State:

I'm a little frustrated and this week it's not just sexually.  I'm frustrated because once again the Trojans have seemed to misinterpret the strength of this football team which is defense and the run game.  I'm frustrated because I'm one of those people who didn't want to see Carson Palmer throw the ball 50 times a game ever again.  I'm frustrated because I saw USC come out to Martin Stadium and dominate the line of scrimmage with a well calculated run game and then basically abandon it to be special and fancy with an anomaly of a halfway efficient, five wide receiver passing scheme.  I'm frustrated that a 10 oz. steak cost $30.95 in Idaho.  I'm frustrated because USC feels it must pass the ball on 3rd and one.  I'm frustrated by people in John Deere hats and beards wearing flannel screaming insults at me and proclaiming how much colder it could be.  I'm frustrated because USC may be missing an unbelievably great window of opportunity with three great senior tailbacks.  I'm supremely frustrated with the kicking game.  Here are this weeks grades:

 

QB (C+)

 

Carson Palmer made some plays that were unexplainably great.  His physical skills allow him to do unbelievable things on the football field but we shouldn't have to put the ball in his hands 50 times per game and ask him to win the game for us.  I believe Carson puts far too much pressure on himself.  If he thinks he needs to be the one to make a play for us to win the game that is when can he can hold the ball too long or take a sack when he is trying to make something happen. He knows the 3-step drops are designed to get rid of the ball if nothing is there and how devastating it can be to take a sack in overtime but when they are calling on him all day to carry the offense on his shoulders it puts him in a tough position and sometimes he tries to do too much.  Carson is a very good leader of a very good Trojan team although once again it seems as though his amazing skills have cast a long shadow over the run game and confused our offensive identity.  It's awfully hard for a college coach to see his talent and not want to put the emphasis of the offense on Carson.  For all of his skills, however, it has been proven that Carson is a better quarterback when he has a run game, when we're mixing it up, when the offense is working for him and he can work within the system. 

 

RB (B)

 

I feel for the running backs this week. These senior backs should be the heart and backbone of this team and we should be depending on them completely.  Sultan McCullough, Justin Fargas and Malaefou MacKenzie (who doesn't get run plays from scrimmage anymore) were all underused and turned into receivers at the end of the game.  Sultan runs a lot better isolation play then he does a screen pass.  The strength of Fargas is not when he is split out past the hash.  USC opened the game with a heavy dose of Sultan.  He ran the ball on the first drive and got a touchdown, he ran the ball on the second drive and got them inside the ten before we threw a fade.  When you have a great defense you need good running backs on the other side of the ball to keep them off the field.  We have that but sometimes we forget to use them and this was the case on Saturday. WSU is a gambling defense, they move the line, they bring backers and do different things to keep you guessing.  They guessed right many times but that is no excuse for abandoning the run game.  A banged-up Chad Pierson had a very good game and Brandon Hancock has skills but is still in too much of a learning curve to see much action. 

 

WR (B+)

 

These men were designated to be the stars of the game and they were.  The year of the pretty wide receivers with wristbands, towels and high-jumping athletic ability is still alive and well at the University of Southern California.  Kareem Kelly had his most consistent game of the year by showing much more courage going across the middle and popping up after tough catches.  He looks as if he finally understands his role within this confused offense.  Mike Williams is quite possibly the most frightening receiver for opposing Pac-10 defensive coordinators to watch.  He is the Freshman of the Year for any program.  I can only hope he will improve throughout his USC career, with hard work and a humble nature this is possible (why is it that you always have to worry about receivers getting too cocky?).  Keary Colbert makes catches at the most oblique angles and is the most altruistic player on the roster. He has emerged as the go-to receiver on the receiving corps.  It is still frustrating to see all this weapons yet the Trojan offense is still not as efficient as it could be, I'm sure we will adjust after Washington State.  

 

OL (B)

 

The OL played well sporadically but they couldn't get any rythm run blocking because of so many 5-WR sets that we used to start so many drives.  When we give up sacks on 3-step drops it is normally because the ball is supposed to be gone.  Any confidence that may have been gained by the line early in the game can disappear when you go away from them.  This OL is not the best in USC history but it is a manageable group of good players which is more than I can say of years past.  Winston Justice continues to perform very well and I'm shocked at the young freshman's ability to start on the OL. We also need better blocking from the TE position.  It's time for Alex Holmes to use his big body and athletic ability to be more physical. 

 

DL (B-)

 

A banged-up Omar Nazel made the d-line just a little bit softer than they would normally be.  There is no doubt Omar played courageously with an injury yet his hesitation helped allow the Cougars to get a major spark on a 75-yard td run off a simple counter play.  Counter is a base play and there is no excuse for it ever going 75 yards, that is the kind of play that loses football games.  The Trojans know how to defend counter but a few missed tackles and the result was bad.  It was also difficult for Patterson, Cody and Udeze to get to Jason Gesser with his 3-step drops and excellent scrambling ability and creativity.  Gesser is the closest thing the Pac-10 will see to John Elway in a long time, a gutsy leader who should get credited with the victory.

 

LB (B)

 

The Trojan defense was physical and opportunistic as always but it was just a different kind of game against a different kind of team with an offense that harkens back to the Run-N-Shoot days.  This was a tough game for any linebacker who likes to play the run.  Mike Pollard and Oscar Lua both had trouble dropping in their zones against the short passing game that Jason Gesser masterfully ran too well down the stretch. Despite dropping an interception, Champ Simmons kept his cool and had an above average performance in his return to Pullman.  Matt Grootegoed once again made plays all over the field, he's an invaluable addition to any defense. 

 

DB (B)

 

Losing Troy Polamalu early in the game to an ankle injury, which looked a lot worse than it actually is, threw a wrench in the Trojan defensive plan.  They were not able to use their nickel package or move Troy around to get him closer to the line of scrimmage.  Troy returned to the game but it was only because he forced himself onto the field, we don't know the status yet but it may be a couple weeks before we see him at full strength again.  Jason Leach did a pretty good job in his absence and had what looked to be a game saving interception.  Jason is a good player with a good attitude, he will be a fine replacement for Troy next year.  DeShaun Hill played well for the second week in a row and had a terrible call against him on the head hunting penalty. I don't know how else you go about defending that play in the game of football.  DeShaun made the right play and was unjustly punished for it.  William Buchanan had a rougher outing than he did at Kansas State.  He was beat deep a couple times but he always popped back up and got to the huddle, he is gaining confidence each and every week.  Marcell Allmond got his first extended action and though he gave up a TD pass he was aggressive and athletic out on the football field.  This looks very good for the future and for Marcell's future.  Darrell Rideaux was in and out more than usual because of the tall WSU receivers but when in the game he was consistent as always and played his heart out.   

Special teams (D)

 

Once again I would like to say that I've never kicked a ball in my life.  I don't know what it is to kick a ball, I don't know what it is to hold a ball, I don't know what it is to snap a ball.  All I know is that most teams, I mean most top teams (with the exception of Michigan), have someone who can do the job consistently.  I'm not talking about a 90 yard field goal with a Latin man jumping around doing headspins on the fifty yard line, I'm talking about extra points, I'm talk about short field goals.  I'm talking about the things that ball control offenses need to win games.  Right now we don't have that or at least we don't have anybody who seemingly can do it.  All Trojan fans feel his frustration right now but Ryan Kileen missing an extra point and then hitting the crossbar cannot be excused.  There is no way that we can win on the road against a team picked by many to win the conference if we miss scoring opportunities like that.  No coach should be forced to spend this much time worrying about extra points, it should be close to automatic, but the situation is one that Pete Carroll must deal with.  One bright spot was the play of Tom Malone.

 

Coaching (no grade)

 

I'm not a football coach and I've never been a football coach.  Sometimes I feel awkward critiquing these men because I understand the dedication that is involved, the neglect of family, the complete immersion in what they are doing.  I also have faith in Pete Carroll and the type of coaches he has brought in to restore this program, they are good men.  However, I do feel that we got away from the strength of this team which is the run game and the defense.  In the Pac-10 you have wide open offenses and when we try to play the game of the other team we can end up in a shootout but that's not what we do best.  A five point lead in a ball control game can feel like 30 if you are playing well but a two touchdown lead in an up and down game is never safe.  The Trojans were able to destroy the will of Oregon State last week by controlling the ball but trying to get in an air war against the run-n-shoot Cougars is like me trying to win a race against Michael Johnson….I'm fast but I know he's faster.  Throwing the football is what they do and we let that become the football game. 

 

There was a time in my life when I let a girl dress me in Armani, I had frosted tips in my hair and hung out at the coolest clubs on Sunset.  It only took me a month or two to realize I was trying to be something I'm not.  Now I'm back to being ugly and dirty and drinking in only the finest watering holes of San Pedro, California.  I hope USC can realize the same thing and go back to being ugly and dirty and using the run game and defense to win football games. 

 

Petros Papadakis is a former USC tailback and the sideline reporter for Trojans football on KMPC-1540. He also hosts the Trojans pregame showand Tuesday night's USC Insider on KMPC-1540. On television, Petros is an analyst for Fox Sports Net's Southern California Sports Report and he's the sideline reporter for Fox Sports Net's "High School Game of the Week." When Petros is not doing television or radio he's waiting tables at his family's Greek restaurant, Papadakis Taverna, in San Pedro. Petros has no free time.


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