From Exuberation To Devastation In A Week

A week ago the Trojans took the field at Loker at about 5 p.m. PDT two days after an epic 16-13 come from behind victory over the Buckeyes in front of more 100,000 hostile Ohio State fans. Today they took the field after a devastating 16-13 loss to Washington, a team that didn't win a game last season.

Sure, USC's starting quarterback was injured and couldn't play. Neither could consensus All-American safety Taylor Mays. Ronald Johnson is still out for a few more weeks, starting cornerback Shareece Wright is academically ineligible, starting strong-side defensive end Armond Armstead is out, nickel back Brian Baucham didn't make the trip to Seattle because he was involved in a traffic accident and Joe McKnight was hobbled with an ankle injury -- but USC had no business losing to another inferior opponent. Washington is just the latest and there have been too many such as this the past four years.

USC lost to Oregon State and UCLA in 2006, Stanford in 2007 and now the Huskies in 2009. The question is, why is it happening? The Trojans clearly have, even with key players injured, a huge talent gap over a team such as Washington. Why is there a game every year where USC turns the ball over three to five times? From 2001-2005 the Trojans had one of the top turn over margins in the nation. Now they barely end up with a positive ratio at the end of each season. What has changed?

"I haven't been able to figure out why we have games like this," said Carroll after the loss to Washington.

If he doesn't figure it out, USC's chances to win another national championship will be weakened severely, if the Trojans continue to have hiccups as they had last Saturday.

Yes, USC has won all of it's bigger games the past five years, but in order to win national championships, it's imperative to take care of business against teams such as UCLA in 2006, Stanford in 2007 and a team such as Washington in 2009.

And don't blame Aaron Corp for the loss to Washington, either. He may not have been productive in throwing for only 111 yards, but the coaches did nothing to help Corp succeed. Wouldn't you think a quarterback such as Corp would have plays calling for him to roll out more often? One of Corp's biggest assets is his ability to run, and only once, maybe twice, did we see that happen. Nope, Corp didn't lose this game, the USC coaching staff did. Carroll said so himself after the game.

"This loss is clearly on me," said Carroll.

The decision to run the ball with 14 seconds left on the clock was clearly the biggest blunder the coaching staff made. Carroll assumed they would get the first down, the clock would stop and they would get set up for a field goal. That assumption may have cost USC a chance at a national championship this year.

Carroll was clearly upset with himself after the game, but praised Sarkisian and his staff for preparing his team for the game on Saturday. But this loss was a tough one for the coach with the best winning percentage in college football. It was tough, because there's been a pattern of losing to teams USC shouldn't have lost to, and Carroll said he doesn't have an answer as to why it's happened.

As difficult as this loss was for Carroll and the USC fan base, imagine how difficult this loss was for Matt Barkley. He was helpless on the sidelines, watching the team he led to victory the previous Saturday against a much tougher foe, and in front of a much more hostile crowd. Barkley had, according to Joe McKnight, "become a man." If there was any doubt who the starting quarterback should have been before the season, there was no question after the final drive of the game in Columbus.

"It was frustrating at times, not being able to do anything" said Barkley about watching the Trojans lose while sidelined by a shoulder injury. "There was nothing I could do, but I supported my teammates the best I could. I was pushing the guys on, but it was just tough."

At one point, Carroll asked Barkley to warm up and be prepared to enter the game to replace Corp.

"All week we had been talking about how when it comes to game time, that feeling (pain) kind of goes away, and that's how great players play through that," Barkley said. "During the game we talked about that and he said it was about that time. I thought I was going to get that chance and I was ready if they needed me."

We asked Barkley if he didn't play because his shoulder was just too sore.

"No, not all, I felt like I did during the last quarter of the last game, but there was nothing I could have done this game," said Barkley. "So, it was frustrating, but I hadn't practiced all week and didn't get the reps....it was frustrating."

Of course, before I even finished asking Barkley if he would play this week against, Washington State he replied.

"I'm playing next week, I'll do everything I can to get back," said Barkley. "I don‘t care what it takes."

Chris Galippo, another hero a week ago, was equally devastated, but tried to keep things in perspective.

"It's always gonna be tough, but you got to remember that's sports," said Galippo. "You're not going to win every game. It would be nice if you could, but it's just not realistic. We'll break down film, figure out what went wrong and go from there. What's important is that stay strong."

And where do the Trojans go from here?

"Obviously having Matt back will be nice, but Aaron went out there and played his butt off and there's nothing more he could have done," said Galippo. "It just turned out they scored more points than we did. Like I said, we need to break down film and figure out what we did wrong and fix it."

USC has been very good in the past at fixing problems after a loss such as the one to Washington. The problem is, USC has been very good at fixing problems AFTER a loss to a team like Washington.


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