Category Archives: USC

Cougars Top Trojans


September 8th, 2013

I think Mike D’Antoni just sent Lane Kiffin a fruit basket.  Kiffin just experience that awkward moment where your team loses its first home opener in 10 years, to Washington State.  The Trojans lost to the Cougars 10-7 on Saturday night at the Coliseum, and the fans let Kiffin know about their displeasure after the game, as they booed him coming off the field.

USC had a 7-0 lead late in the first half, but Damante Horton intercepted a Cody Kessler pass, and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown.    The score remained tied until the 3:03 mark of the 4th quarter, when Andrew Furney kicked a 41 yard field goal to put the Cougars on top for good, 10-7. Horton secured the win for WSU by intercepting a pass from Max Wittek with 2:18 left to play, and the Cougars won their first game over the Trojans since 2002.

Once again, the USC offense was nowhere to be found.  Kiffin used two quarterbacks again, and neither one was effective.  In the first half Cody Kessler was 8-13 for 41 yards with an interception. He did score the Trojans only TD of the game, with a 4 yard run in the 2nd quarter.  Max Wittek came for the 2nd half, and he was even worse, going 3-8 for only 13 yards and an interception.  Even Marqise Lee was bottled up, as he had 7 reception for 27 yards.  Then again, it’s pretty hard to have a big game when neither of your quarterbacks are completing a pass for more than 8 yards.  The Trojan offense managed just 193 total yards, while missing a field goal and having another one blocked.

The only two bright spots for USC were Tre Maddon, who rushed for 151 yards, and Trojans dominant defense.  Southern Cal held the Cougars to just 7 yards rushing, while forcing 3 turnovers.  It was their effort that set up the Trojans only touchdown of the game, as they forced a fumble, and gave them the ball at the Cougars 22 yard line before Kessler scored.

The Trojans have looked dreadful in their first two games.  They escaped Hawaii with a win, and seem to have been exposed early by Washington State.  The offense is going to have to improve, or else this is going to be a very long and ugly season for USC.  After watching Kessler and Wittek’s pathetic performances on Saturday night, Kiffin will probably not be any closer to committing to a starting quarterback moving forward.  That’s probably because he barely lets these guys play quarterback when they are in the game.

The expectations this year were much lower for Lane Kiffin coming into this season.  However, even Pat Haden did not expect a loss to WSU at home.  Last night may very well have been the beginning of the end for Lane Kiffin.


Too Many Mai Tais


August 30th, 2013

Happy College Football season everyone!  I’m not so sure how happy last night’s win over Hawaii was for Trojans fans though.  It was uninspired and unimpressive at times, but the Trojans defeated the Rainbow Warriors 30-13 on Thursday night in Honolulu.  The best news for USC is that they are 1-0, which is probably the most important fact for them at this point.  But there’s still much to be concerned about.

Midway through the 2nd quarter, the Trojans were so underwhelming, I was definitely wondering if USC athletic director Pat Haden would allow coach Lane Kiffin to return to the main land on the team flight after the game.  This team must have spent too much time at the beach, because they were losing by a score of 5-3 halfway through the 2nd quarter.  This was a game in which USC was a 23 point favorite coming in.  Fortunately, the Trojan defense helped break the game open, as Josh Shaw intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.

The quarterback situation was easily the most concerning issue for Southern Cal.  Cody Kessler started, played the entire first half and the first series of the 2nd half.  He was a pedestrian 10-19 for 95 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.  Early on, he looked more shaky than Dwight Howard at the free throw line, but redeemed himself slightly, with a 19-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor .  Meanwhile, Max Wittek took most of the snaps in the 2nd half, and wasn’t much better.  Wittek was just 5-10 for 77 yards, and was sacked twice.  The Trojans went three and out on two straight series before he started to move the ball late in the 3rd quarter.  In the 4th quarter, he led one drive that ended in a field goal, and another that ended on a 3 yard run touchdown run by Justin Davis.

The good news for USC is that the defense looks very good.  The Trojans intercepted four passes, including Shaw’s pick 6.  The defensive line was excellent, getting consistent pressure on Hawaii quarterback Taylor Graham, while limiting the Rainbow Warriors offense to just 23 yards rushing and a total of 231 yards.  The Trojans will have to rely on this unit early on this season, until Lane Kiffin figures things out on the offensive side of the ball.

There were some bright spots on the offensive though.  Sophomore Tre Maddon rushed for 109 yards on 18 carries, and freshman Justin Davis ran for another 74 yards on 14 carries, to go along with his 4th quarter TD.  The great Marqise Lee caught 8 balls for 109 yards, although he did drop a couple of passes early on that stalled drives, and fumbled as well.

More than anything, the offense just looked completely disorganized and lacking chemistry.  The offensive line looked unsure of many of their blocking schemes, causing some running backs to run into their own tackles.  Outside of Lee, there wasn’t another receiver that really appeared to be emerging as a solid number 2 threat.  The Trojans also took 9 penalties that cost them 75 yards. If Taylor Graham hadn’t had one of the worst performance by a division 1 quarterback I have ever seen, the Trojans might have suffered an embarrassing loss.

It’s becoming clear now: two quarterbacks equals no quarterbacks.  The USC offense needs leadership in order to develop chemistry, and it can’t do that with their QB situation in flux.  Although neither Kessler nor Wittek look great, their lackluster performances can partially be attributed to being in limbo.  It seems like Kiffin might be leaning toward giving the job to Kessler, who completed his final 4 passes and played slightly more than Wittek.  However, Kiffin said “Neither of them separated themselves”, which makes you think we’re going to see both quarterbacks next week against Washington State.  In any case, the Trojans better iron out some of these issues over the next 9 days, because they are going to start facing some real competition next Saturday at the Coliseum.


Will The Trojans Rebound?

Colorado v USC


July 27th, 2013

There’s no denying it.  Last season, the Trojans performed about as poorly as a busted condom.  USC came in with national championship aspirations, and a #1 preseason ranking in the AP poll.  The team crumbled under the weight of those expectations, finishing 2nd in the Pac-12 south at 7-6, and losing in the Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech.  Naturally, Trojan alums have been calling athletic director Pat Haden for months, and bitching about head coach Lane Kiffin, in hopes that he will be ejected from the universe soon.

Kiffin received a vote of confidence from Haden on Pac-12 media day, as Haden tried to assure everyone that his head coach “is not on the hot seat”.  That’s about as believable as Ryan Braun not taking PED’s, but at least Haden tried to take some pressure off of Kiffin to start the season.

The Trojans still have a very talented team heading into 2013, but have a major question mark at a very key position: quarterback.    Max Wittek played in 8 games last season, and started the last two with Matt Barkley injured.  He did a serviceable job in his first two games, but during the bowl game, he struggled more than a sorority girl stumbling home on a drunken Thursday night.  Wittek will face stiff competition in camp from sophomore Cody Kessler, and true freshman Max Browne.  Kessler is largely unproven yet known for his cerebral talents at the position, while Browne was considered the best pro style high school quarterback in the nation last season.  It’s difficult to know exactly what the Trojans will get out of the position with such a small sample size.

The good news for whoever wins the starting quarterback job, they will be surrounded by some potent offensive weapons.  Silas Redd returns at running back for USC, and will be entering his senior year.  Redd rushed for just over 900 yards last season, and scored 9 TD’s but was slowed by injuries.  He’ll be backed up by juniors DJ Morgan and Tre Madden, who missed all of last season with a foot injury.  Two promising freshman will also be in the mix in Justin Davis and Ty Isaac.

At receiver, USC has one of the best in the country in Marqise Lee, who was named last years Biletnikoff award winner, with over 1700 yards and 14 touchdowns.  Sophomore Nelson Agholor is expected to step into the #2 receiver role after Robert Woods departed for the NFL.  The Trojans also have a solid 1-2 punch at tight end with juniors Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer.  This group should be one of the most talented in the country.

Last year’s offensive line struggled with a very inexperience unit.  They also failed to protect Matt Barkley, which resulted in him taking punishment throughout the season.  The group is deeper this season, as the only loss is 3 year starter Khaled Homes.  The depth should help in the event of injuries, but the key will be having more consistent pass protection.

Last season the USC defensive line was easier than Paris Hilton after happy hour.  The Trojans allowed 167 rushing yards per game, which was their highest total given up since 1996.  However, they did have 45 sacks, and will be returning senior defensive end Morgan Breslin, who had 13 sacks.  Senior George Uko will also be counted on for his experience at defensive tackle, but the real question here is whether new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast can develop a better scheme than Monte Kiffin did last year.

The defense does have solid linebacking core, with a great deal of depth.  Senior Hayes Pullard returns after leading the team in tackles last season and earning All-Pac 12 honors.  Senior Devon Kennard returns after missing last season with an injury as well.  Kennard was moved to linebacker after playing defensive end, and he’ll be joined by sophomore Jabari Ruffin, who should help this group cover a lot ground quickly.

However, the secondary will be very inexperienced.  The Trojans lost two all conference performers in safety TJ McDonald and cornerback Nickell Robey.  They will have 4 of their top 8 defensive backs returning, but they’ll need to hope for a big improvement from the defensive line pressuring opposing quarterbacks in order to take pressure off of the defensive backfield.

The good news for the Trojans, the schedule will be easier and the team will be deeper.  Here’s my prediction:

@ Hawaii- Win

vs Washington St  -Win

vs Boston College- Win

vs Utah State- Win

@ Arizona St – Loss

vs Arizona- Loss

@ Notre Dame – Loss

vs Utah- Win

@ Oregon State- Win

@ California – Win

vs Stanford- Loss

@ Colorado – Win

vs UCLA – Loss

The Trojans finish 8-5.  They should be in the mix for the Pac-12 south title with ASU and UCLA, and they’ll have the luxury of lower expectations.  However, those lower expectations are the result of having inexperience at key positions including quarterback, and their defensive backfield.  Improved play at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball will be imperative for USC to get back to its winning ways.  As for Kiffin, he can probably survive an 8-5 season with these type of expectations, but no worse than that.  Last season, he mismanaged his relationship with Barkley, and ultimately crushed the confidence of his starting quarterback.  Even though Marqise Lee exploded, Kiffin also failed to utilize Robert Woods as an effective complement to Lee.  Without a doubt, AD Pat Haden has taken note of these things, and the pressure is on for his head coach to deliver.  Even with the scholarship reductions USC is facing, the Trojans must show improvement, or a change in leadership will be coming.