Oldtimer's Take: Emerald Bowl

Last Saturday the Trojans ended their regular season with a loss at home to Arizona, 21-17. After the Arizona game, you had to ask yourself the question: Have the 2009 Trojans made lemons out of lemonade?

2009 could be called a season where the USC Trojans have made lemons out of lemonade. The Trojans got off to a sweet start in 2009 under the leadership of freshman QB Matt Barkley.

USC beat San Jose State at home, and then Barkley led USC to a last-minute touchdown at the Horseshoe to beat Rose Bowl bound Ohio State. But Barkley sustained a shoulder injury and things soured with a loss up at Washington with Aaron Corp at the helm.

USC seemed to get things going again with Barkley back and a home victory over Washington State. USC then won a big game up at Cal, a road win against Notre Dame and a home victory over a good Oregon State team.

The season then seemed to go sour for USC with big losses against Oregon and Stanford sandwiched in between a couple of wins against Arizona State and UCLA. Last Saturday the Trojans ended their regular season with a loss at home to Arizona 21-17.

After the Arizona game. You had to ask yourself the question:

Have the 2009 Trojans made lemons out of lemonade?

Right now the answer would have to be yes. It's hard to believe that a Trojan offense that started the year with nine starters off a 12-1 season could finish the season 4th in the Pac-10 in rushing offense, 8th in the Pac 10 in passing offense, 6th in total offense and 6th in scoring offense.

Losing Mark Sanchez was a blow before the season started but USC did have Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp with two years in their system. Mustain was the Parade High School player of the Year, and Corp was the California State Player of the Year.

But the USC coaching staff decided to go with true freshman Matt Barkley who struggled greatly in the second half of the season. It was apparent Saturday that he's is still having problems with his reads and decisions. The USC offense looked slow and hesitant and it's frustrating to watch.

You always want to see progress. They say the quickest way to drive a man crazy is to get him to dig a hole in the morning and fill it up in the afternoon. No one wants to take two steps forward and three steps back, but that's what the Trojan offense did in 2009.

USC's 2009 defense actually lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense for the entire 12 game season at 20.42 pts. However in the Pac-10 they allowed the greatest point total ever scored against USC in 121 years in a 55-21 loss to Stanford. The Trojans also allowed 47 points against Oregon.

USC finished 1st in the Pac-10 in pass efficiency defense and 2nd in sacks. But the play of the defensive line dropped off in the second half of the season. There also the memory of the USC defense allowing two long game winning drives at the end of the Washington and Arizona games.

How could a secondary with all seniors allow the Huskies and Wildcats to drive all the way down the field in the closing minutes? How can such a promising defensive line not manage a single sack against a team like Arizona who couldn't run the ball at all? Why couldn't anyone make a play on all those third- and-long situations during Washington's and Arizona's game winning drives?

USC finished 7th in the Pac 10 in pass efficiency. Is that a result of true freshman QB Matt Barkley or a result of the USC coaching staff in failing to develop Mustain or Corp? Did USC's coaches crown Matt Barkley too early?

Has USC made lemons out of lemonade so far in 2009? I would have to say yes. Take a look at USC's last 5 recruiting classes compared to other teams in the Pac-10. Take a look at what they accomplished with 9 starters from a very good offensive team in 2008. Take a look at USC's failure to develop Mustain and Corp. Take a good look, and you would have to say yes.

Can USC make lemonade out of lemons against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl?

Pete Carroll said this week, "I think it's a good matchup with BC, and a good chance to get a new setting for us. We are going into this with an opportunity to get a couple of more weeks of practice in. It's a chance for us to play together and play well."

I saw Boston College play three times this year. Under first-year coach Frank Spaziani the Eagle were 5-3 in the ACC and 8-4 for the season. They have a fine running back in Montel Harris who gained 1,355 yards. Quarterback Dave Shinskie is a freshman who played 6 years of minor league baseball. He had a lukewarm 2009 season with 14 TD passes and 13 interceptions.

I don't expect BC's offense to give the USC defense a lot of trouble. Eagle QB Shinskie doesn't run the ball. Shinskie finished the season with -75 yards rushing. USC defensive line should give him trouble.

Despite Montel Harris' 1,355 yards rushing BC finished 70th in the NCAA in rushing and 97th in total offense. USC's defense should be able to stop BC.

BC has a good defense and finished 23rd in the nation in total defense at 318 yards a game. The Eagles were 15th in rushing defense at 114 yards per game and 54th in pass defense at 214 yards a game. They did not force many turnovers. If Barkley doesn't hand the ball over to BC on turnovers USC should win this game.

BC did not play the kind of schedule USC faced during their regular season. The Eagles common opponent with USC was Notre Dame. USC beat the Irish at South Bend 34-27, and BC lost at home to ND 20-16. USC beat BC in '87 and '88 23-17 and 34-7.

I expect the Trojans to beat BC and put forth a good effort Dec. 26th in the Emerald Bowl. Pete Carroll said, "We're disappointed in the way we played in the second half of this season, so the Emerald Bowl gives us a chance to finish the year on a positive note."

I agree! If USC QB Matt Barkley and the Trojan offense could finish the year with a good performance against a fine BC defense, it could give them a boost going into the 2010 season. It would be good to send a message to a BC team the Trojans will play in the 2013-14 season.

Would a victory over BC in the Emerald Bowl remove the sour taste of a 2009 season that started with so much promise? Is all well that ends well? Probably not!

BC fits the profile of a team that the Trojans should beat. And that's the kind of team USC should be playing right now. A good performance by Barkley could instill some hope for USC in the 2010 season. Some progress after a dismal second half of the season for Barkley and the USC offense would be encouraging.

Whatever happens in the Emerald it doesn't change my love and passion for the USC Trojans. That will never change. But I would like to go into the 2010 season believing that Matt Barkley and the 2009 Trojans made some progress during their time of practice for the bowl game.

I want to see some sand taken out of that hole the Trojans dug the first half of the 2009 season and then filled up in the second half.

A victory would be sweet in the mouth. It won't take away the bitterness in the stomach the 2009 season has brought. But it could bring some hope for 2010.


Matt Barkley and the Trojans hope to finish the season with a win over Boston College.

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