The Trojans have had two undisciplined performances in the last two weeks against inferior opponents and are lucky to have only one loss. Turnovers and mistakes are a part of football but when a team has 24 penalties in two games that shows that the coaches aren't getting their point across to the players in practice. This team has lacked a true identity all year, and that has to rest on the shoulders of the coaching staff.
In Saturday's game against Stanford, Pete Carroll made some calls that will be rightfully scrutinized by the media and fans. The decision to go for it on 4th and goal to end the 1st half up 9-0 was the most questionable call of the game. Pete Carroll has always been aggressive, and that is part of the reason USC has been so successful. But in this situation a team has to take the points and end the half on a positive note. By failing to score the touchdown the Trojans gave the momentum to the Cardinal heading into the locker room.
Carroll also made some questionable decisions with personnel and clock management. All this being said Pete Carroll is still the best coach in the business and if past seasons are any indicator he will have this team ready to rebound against Arizona this weekend.
John David Booty has struggled all year to get in sync with his wide receivers, and that was on display once again Saturday against Stanford. Booty passed for 364 yards and 2 touchdowns, but his four second half interceptions are what most people will remember. Booty's play has been heavily criticized this year, and in most cases, it has been justified. But in all fairness the Trojans wide receivers haven't given him much help, and Booty still gives the Trojans the best chance to win.
Running Backs: C-
The Trojans running backs came into the game banged up. C.J. Gable is out for the year, and leading rusher Stafon Johnson was sidelined with a bruised foot. The absence of Johnson's playmaking ability was evident throughout out the game. Chauncey Washington got the majority of the carries but averaged just 3.3 yards a carry. The Trojans gained just 95 yards rushing against the worst rushing defense in the Pac-10.
Wide Receivers: D
The wide receivers have really struggled to develop this season. Coming into the year it looked like Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazleton would step in as the top two guys, but that hasn't happened. Turner suffered a shoulder injury before the season opener and has looked timid at times, while Vidal Hazleton and David Ausberry have struggled to find their roles in the passing game.
Against Stanford, Turner had 9 catches for 83 yards but also dropped some passes in critical situations. On the positive side freshman Ronald Johnson scored the first touchdown of his career and looks like he could be the deep threat that the Trojans desperately need.
Tight End: B+
Fred Davis continued to put up huge numbers for the Trojans. Davis had five catches for 152 yards and a spectacular 63-yard touchdown. The big tight end continues to be Booty's favorite target. Davis would have received an A but he did have a fumble in the third quarter.
Offensive Line: D
The offensive line had a tough week of practice shuffling guys around to fill the void caused by the injuries to Kris O'Dowd, Chilo Rachal and Alatini Malu and it showed against Stanford. The Trojans running game which has been the strength of the offense only managed to gain 95 yards. The offensive line also gave up a season-high four sacks.
Defensive Line: B
The defensive line had a solid but not spectacular outing on Saturday. Sedrick Ellis continues to have a monster senior season sacking Tavita Pritchard three times. Kyle Moore also had a productive night recording six tackles. The defense limited Stanford to just 86 rushing yards.
The linebackers played well against Stanford led by Rey Maualuga, who had a team-high 10 tackles and a sack. Thomas Williams and Keith Rivers each had six tackles. The linebackers along with the defensive line kept Stanford running game quiet for most of the night.
The USC secondary held Stanford to just 149 yards passing and played good football for the majority of the game. But in crunch time the secondary didn't step up and make the plays needed to win the game. On the last drive Stanford converted on a critical 4th and 20, and Mark Bradford caught a 10 yard TD pass over Mozique McCurtis to win the game.
Special Teams: D
Special teams is an area that should be a strength for a team stocked with top flight talent. But the special teams has been average at best this year and the blocked PAT proved to be the difference in Saturday's game. The coaches need to put more of an emphasis on special teams in practice to avoid making mistakes that can cost teams games.
It's hard to find many positives when you lose to a 40-point underdog. Luckily next week is a new game and a chance for redemption.