USC

 

This Comeback Falls Short For USC

March 19, 2017

The Trojans NCAA tournament run came to an end on Sunday night against Baylor, after losing 82-78 in the round of 32.Johnathan Motley had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and King McClure added 17, as the Bears advanced to the Sweet 16 to play South Carolina.

Chimezie Metu scored 28 points and Bennie Boatwright had 16, as the Trojans bid to make their first Sweet 16 since 2007 fell short.

A four-point play from Manu Lecompte put Baylor up 69-67, and was his first points of the game.  He then scored 8 points in 45 seconds to give the Bears a 73-67 lead.  Lecompte would finish the game with 12 points, and all of them coming in the final five minutes.

Metu summed it up nicely.  “Lecomte,” forward Chimezie Metu said. “Or whatever his name is.”  “He kind of took over in the last couple minutes,”

USC had won 13 games after trailing by double figures.  They nearly did it again.  The Trojans scored 10 points unanswered in a run that started the end of the first half and the start of the second. 1:16 into the second half, the score was tied.

“This was a game that was there for the taking if we would have executed down the stretch,” USC Coach Andy Enfield said.

“I actually joked with Andy,” Baylor Coach Scott Drew said. “I said, ‘Do you want to be up at halftime?’ He said, ‘No, no, we like being down.’”

However, it was Lecomte who made the big plays in the final five minutes to help Baylor avoid the upset.

USC can’t be too disappointed with how their season turned out despite the loss.  The Trojans lost quite a bit of talent after last season, yet Enfield led the team to an unexpected run in the NCAA tournament.

Trojans Rally Again To Knock Off SMU


May 17, 2017

The Trojans pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the NCAA tournament on Friday, defeating #11 SMU 66-65 in Tulsa.

Elijah Stewart buried a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left, and the Mustang’s Shake Milton missed a floater at the buzzer, sending USC into the round of 32.

Stewart scored 22 points in the game, while Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu scored 14 apiece.  Semi Ojeleye had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Sterling Brown had 17 points for SMU,  which had won 16 straight coming into the game.

For the 2nd straight game USC rallied from a double digit deficit.  Throughout the entire game, they had the lead for just over a minute.  SMU built a lead as big as 12 points, and used a 14-3 run in the 1st half to take a 38-30 lead at halftime.  After the Trojans got a pair of 3-pointers from Boatwright and Stewart, the game was tied four minutes into the 2nd half.  However, SMU went on a 10-1 run, and looked like they would put the game out of reach.

Over the next 6 minutes, the Trojans would fight their way back, tying the game on a Stewart dunk with 7:33 left.  It wasn’t until Boatwright’s 3-pointer with just over two minutes left that gave USC their first lead of the game.

Even after Stewart’s big 3-pointer in the final minute, the Mustangs had their chance.  SMU’s Ben Moore drew a foul with 12 seconds left, and his team down by 1.  However, he missed the first half of a one-and-one foul shot.  Chimezie Metu was fouled after that, but missed his free throw as well, setting the stage for Milton’s final opportunity.  Milton’s shot bounced off the rim and the Trojans prevailed.

Trojans Rally Past Providence To Advance


March 16th, 2017

USC came back from a 17 point deficit in Dayton on Wednesday night to defeat Providence 75-71, in a First Four game and advance in the NCAA tournament.

Bennie Boatwright scored a career-high 24 points and the Trojans got some payback for losing to Providence at the buzzer in last year’s opening round of the tournament.

The Friars used a 15-0 run and a stifling zone defense in the 1st half to jump out to a 44-29 lead at halftime.

However, USC would put together a furious comeback and close the deficit to five points by the 10-minute mark.  Chimezie Metu finally gave the Trojans the lead with under 7 minutes left after making a jump shot.  Metu finished the game with 15 points and 8 rebounds.

The big surprise of the night was freshman Nick Rakocevic, the 6’11 forward scored 9 points off the bench in 19 minutes, but provided a great deal of energy for USC to feed off of and get back in the game.  He also had the best plus-minus in the game, finishing with a +10.

“This win’s probably his,” guard Elijah Stewart said. “Honestly, we should be at the crib right now.”

After digging themselves a whole in the first half, USC coach Andy Enfield fired up his players, but was also displeased according to several of them.

“I think it’s just — give Coach a heart attack or something,” Rakocevic said. “I don’t really know why we do it.”  According to Elijah Stewart, Enfield said “What are you scared of?”

It turns out in the 2nd half they weren’t scared of anything.  The Trojans will now face #6 SMU in the opening round of the tournament on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  USC defeated SMU earlier in the season, but they’ll be facing a much improved team since then.

Bruins Edge Trojans In Pac-12 Quarterfinal

March 9th, 2017

The Bruins came into the Pac-12 tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning 9 straight games.  However, they looked nothing like that team, despite barely getting by the Trojans 76-74 in their quarterfinal matchup.

UCLA shot just 41% from the floor, and lacked the consistent energy on the defensive end that they had shown in the last month.  Isaac Hamilton scored 22 points to lead the way for the Bruins, who stepped up when Lonzo Ball got into foul trouble.

Ball had 12 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds, but TJ Leaf helped do some damage in the paint in his return.  Leaf had 14 points and 5 rebounds.

UCLA will now play Arizona on Friday night in the Pac-12 tournament semifinal.  “We know we’re going to have to be better [Friday] night than we were tonight,” said UCLA Coach Steve Alford.  The Bruins can expect the Wildcats to have quite a few fans in attendance based on Friday’s turnout.

The Trojans only shot 38% from the field, and Chimezie Metu was held to just 8 points, although he did have 14 rebounds.  Bennie Boatwright scored 11 points, but was only 3 for 11 from the field.

“Even in a game where we were a little bit off, you look at the numbers and it was still pretty convincing that way,” Alford said. “It was only a two-point win, but it was tied for 20 seconds and we led the rest, so I’m really proud of our guys. We’ve had very, very few nights where we haven’t shot it well or scored in the 80s-plus and this was one of those nights and yet we find a way to get a win.”

The Bruins tried to pull away with a 12-0 run in the 2nd half, but the Trojans slowly fought back.  They even got within 71-69 with 4:23 left.

In the end, USC had their chances but failed to capitalize.  Boatwright missed a three-pointer that could have tied it with 37 seconds left.  Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart later missed layups that could have made it a one-point game.

Despite the loss, USC should still be in good shape for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament next week.  “You don’t get 24 wins if you’re not a good team,” USC Coach Andy Enfield said. “And I’m going to remind you, Bennie Boatwright was out 18 games. If we were on the East Coast, that’s all we’d be talking about. But because we’re on the West Coast, no one even mentions that.”

Trojans Beat Huskies & Get Bruins Next

March 8th, 2017

The Trojans got a scare in their Pac 12 Tournament 1st round matchup against Washington on Wednesday night.  However, USC managed to get by the Hustkies, 78-73 in Vegas, likely securing themselves an NCAA tournament bid.

Chimezie Metu had 24 points and 9 rebounds to lead the way for USC.  The Trojans we’re able to overcome a slow start and a sloppy finish.  The Huskies came out out fast, as Matisse Thybulle hit three straight 3-pointers, helping Washington jump out to a 37-27 lead.  Thybulle scored 14 points and had to step up in the absence of freshman star Markelle Fultz.

However, the Trojans switched to a zone defense and Metu helped spark a 10-2 run to end the 1st half.  USC took over in the 2nd half, sparked by two straight dunks from Metu, along with four straight free throws from Bennie Boatwright, who scored 13 points on the night.  The Trojans found themselves with a 14 point lead.

The Huskies wouldn’t go away though, and put a scare in the Trojans in the final minutes.  Up seven points with 45 seconds left, USC avoided disaster on a missed three-pointer by Washington that would’ve tied the score.

“I thought our players did a great job of coming back,” USC Coach Andy Enfield said. “We have to play smarter offense, We have to come out of the gate and play well.”

USC was the second-to-last team in the field in the bracket of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi on Wednesday morning.  This win should certainly further strengthen their position.  However, cross-town rival UCLA awaits them on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

For the third season in a row, the Bruins and Trojans will meet in Vegas in the conference tournament.  USC split two games with UCLA this season, but the last matchup was a 102-70 Bruins win.  The Bruins are looking to secure a #1 seed in next week’s NCAA tournament, in the West Region.  Meanwhile, the Trojans would most certainly cement their at-large bid if they are able to beat the Bruins again.

Trojans Take Down Huskies

March 4th, 2017

USC closed out the Pac 12 regular season Saturday night with a 74-58 win over Washington at the Galen Center.

Jordan McLaughlin had 22 points and 9 assists, and Chimezie Metu had 17 to help the Trojans finish in a tie for 5th place in the Pac 12.

USC outscored the Huskies 44-20 in the paint, and they shot 59% from the field.  The Trojans have won two in a row heading into the next week’s Pac 12 Tournament, after losing 4 consecutive games prior to that.

The Huskies have lost 12 in a row, and finished the regular season in 11th place in the conference.  Washington played without star freshman Markelle Fultz, who sat out for the 5th time in 7 games with a knee injury.

Noah Dickerson had a career-high 27 points for the Huskies in a losing effort, and Matisse Thybulle had 19.

USC will get a re-match with Washington on Wednesday night in Vegas, during the 1st round of the Pac 12 Tournament.

 

Trojans Snap Skid


March 1st, 2017

USC got a much needed win on Wednesday night.  The Trojans took down Washington State 87-64 at the Galen Center.  Jordan McLaughlin had 16 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds to lead the way for Southern Cal.

The Trojans had four players in double figures and opened up a 20 point lead by halftime.  Much of that was the result of outscoring the Cougars 17-0 off of turnovers.

USC used a zone defense for much of the night to frustrate Washington State.  They were up by as many as 28 points in the 2nd half.  McLaughlin fell one rebound short of just the second triple-double in USC history.

WSU was led by Robert Franks, who scored 20 points off the bench for the Cougars.  The win snapped a 4 game losing skid for the Trojans, who also received 15 points from Chimezie Metu, and 14 points from Bennie Boatwright.

USC will wrap up the regular season on Saturday afternoon against Washington, at the Galen Center.

Trojans Let One Get Away

February 26th, 2017

The USC men’s hoops team looked like they had this one in the bag, but Arizona State shocked the Trojans in the final 30 seconds.  The Sun Devils defeated the Trojans 83-82 on Sunday in Tempe.

The Sun Devils rallied from 6 points down in the final 30 seconds, capped off by Tra Holders two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to play.

Trailing 82-76, Holder made a layup with 28 seconds left.  USC’s Elijah Stewart missed the front end of a one-and-one and Kodi Justice followed with a 3-pointer to cut the Trojan lead to 82-71 with just 14 seconds left.

Then the improbable happened.  Bennie Boatwright  turned the ball over on the inbounds pass, which resulted in Holder driving the lane and getting fouled.  He made two free throws, and just like that the Sun Devils were up 83-82.  Boatwright had one final chance to win it, but his 3-pointer missed at the buzzer.

USC Coach Andy Enfield wasn’t as concerned with the final play.  “That play shouldn’t have determined the game.  We missed open shots, turned the ball over,” He said.  “We were up eight and just threw it to the other team, we missed a front-end of a one-on-one, we missed a right-hand layup and we missed another free-throw.”

Justice scored a career-high 22 points, including 6 three-pointers.  Boatwright led the way for USC with 22 points of his own, but it wasn’t enough.

The Trojans lost their fourth in a row, and fell to 8-8 in Pac 12 play.  USC will try to snap out of their slump next week against the Washington schools, before traveling to Vegas for the Pac 12 Tournament.

Trojans Hot Early But Wildcats Hotter Late

February 23rd, 2017

The Trojans looked poised for an upset of #4 Arizona in the 1st half on Thursday night.  However, Lonzo Trier scored a season high 25 points, which included four three-pointers, as Arizona defeated USC 90-77.  The win keeps the Wildcats in 1st place in the Pac 12, and completes a season sweep of the Trojans.

Bennie Boatwright scored 23 points and Chimezie Metu had 15 for USC.  It wasn’t enough though, as the Trojans lost their third in a row to the top three teams in the conference.

USC was shooting 58% at point in the 1st half, yet only led by only 9 points.  The Wildcats closed the half on a 12-2 run, and took a 44-39 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Arizona pulled away in the 2nd half, leading by as many as 16 points.  USC finished the game shooting 52% from the field, but the difference in the game was the 11 three-pointers the Wildcats hit, and the Trojans 14 turnovers.

USC will try to get back in the win column on Saturday at Arizona State.  The Trojans took down the Sun Devils at home last month, and will be going for the season sweep.

The Trojans are fading in the Pac 12 standings, but should be in good shape to make the NCAA Tournament.  They’ll need to build some momentum though heading into the Pac 12 Tournament in two weeks.

Bruins Snap Skid Against Trojans

February 19th, 2017For the first time in about two years, the Bruins looked like a basketball school against their cross-town rivals. #6 UCLA routed the Trojans 102-70 on Saturday Night at Pauley Pavilion.The win snapped a four game losing streak against the Trojans on the hardwood, including an 84-76 loss at USC last month. The Bruins improved to 14-1 at home, and are now 5-0 in the month of February.Bryce Alford led the way for the Bruins with 26 points, including 10 straight in the second half, along with 5 three-pointers. All five starters were in double figures for UCLA, including Lonzo Ball, who had 15 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, as well as TJ Leaf, who scored 19 points to go along with 8 rebounds.   Thomas Welsh contributed a career-high 16 rebounds too.Not much went right for USC, who was led by Bennie Boatwright’s 20 points and 10 rebounds.   Boatwright, who didn’t play in the first meeting between the Bruins and Trojans, didn’t get much help from his teammates. USC shot only 34% from the field, and got crushed on the boards by a margin of 50-33.“We beat them the first time by making it tough for them on offense; we challenge shots,” USC Coach Andy Enfield said. “And tonight they did make some tough ones, but our defense was not as exceptional as it was the first time we played them.”With 8 minutes left in the first half, UCLA went on a 17-3 run. That run was capped by a deep Lonzo Ball three-pointer, which gave the Bruins a 46-34 lead at halftime. That’s the fourth time this season that Ball has hit a deep three-pointer in the final seconds before halftime. The Bruins have won all four of those games.UCLA appears to be locked into 3rd place in the Pac 12, but is gaining more momentum heading into March. “Coach always says February sets up March,” said Lonzo Ball. “So that’s what we’re trying to do.”Everyone will look at the 100 points and believe the Bruins won this game with their #1 ranked offense in the nation. However, it was really the effort on the defensive end, and on the glass that was the biggest difference in UCLA’s win, as well as in the last three weeks. Those are things the Bruins will need to continue if they expect to compete for a National Championship.

Oregon Top USC

February 11th, 2017

Tyler Dorsey hit two three pointers in the final 3 minutes of the game, and #5 Oregon defeated USC for the 14th straight time, 81-70 on Saturday night.

 

Chimezi Metsu scored 16 points for the Trojans, while Bennie Boatwright and Elijah Stewart had 15 in a losing effort. Turnovers were a problem for USC. They committed 16, which comes after committing 17 in their 1st game against the Ducks this season.

 

USC took their first lead of the game early in the 2nd half, and a Boatwright 3-point play gave the Trojans a 50-46 lead.

 

However, the Ducks went on a 22-8 run, which gave them a 68-58 lead, led by the strong play of star Dillon Brooks. Brooks scored 21 points before fouling out, while Dorsey added 19.

 

It was a tough shooting night for the Trojans. Boatwright was only 3-15 from the field, and 1-9 from behind the 3-point line. As a team, USC shot just 37% in the game.

 

Oregon’s win streak is its longest ever against the Trojans, and the Ducks’ longest against any Pac 12 opponent.   They also held on to second place in the Pac 12, keeping pace with Arizona, who defeated Cal on Saturday night.

 

The Trojans now have a week until their next game at UCLA on February 18th. USC upset the Bruins last month, which extended their winning streak to four straight games over their crosstown rivals.

Trojans Crushed & Kiffin Canned

Kiffin hands

September 29th, 2013

You knew it was coming.  You just didn’t think it would be so sudden, or this season.  Lane Kiffin was fired as head coach of the USC Football team on Sunday morning.  This firing came after the Trojans were spanked at Arizona State 62-41, dropping their record to 3-2 on the season, and 0-2 in Pac-12 play.  Kiffin will be replaced by defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, on an interim basis.

Let’s start with the on-field disaster first.  The Trojans actually looked decent for the first 20 minutes or so, taking a 14-7 lead on a rushing touchdown from Justin Davis, and a big TD reception from Tre Madden.  However, things got ugly shortly after that.  The Sun Devils closed the 2nd quarter with an 11 yard touchdown pass by Taylor Kelly to Marion Grice, and then followed that up with a pair of field goals to take a 20-14 lead into the locker room.  Although Madden put USC ahead with an early touchdown in the 3rd, ASU pounded the Trojans from there.  The Sun Devils would score two touchdowns 47 seconds apart, which included an interception thrown by Cody Kessler, which was returned 46 yards for a touchdown.

Davis and Madden tried to rally the Trojans, as each of them found the end zone again, but the defense couldn’t stop Taylor Kelly, who racked up 351 yards, and 3 touchdown passes.  Sun Devils running back Marion Grice also scored 4 touchdowns, and USC gave up a whopping 612 yards in total offense.  A shocking amount for a team, whose strength was supposed to be its defense.  At least the offense was consistent though.  Consistently terrible that is.  The Trojans had more turnovers than Betty Crocker, giving it up 4 times, including two interceptions thrown by Kessler.

So the Trojans lost, and once they returned to Los Angeles, athletic director Pat Haden informed Kiffin he would be relieved of his duties.  This occurred at the airport terminal, but not before Kiffin tried to change Haden’s mind during a 45 minute meeting.  Haden had actually met with a few advisors during the ASU game, which was when he reached his decision, according to the LA Daily  News.  ”I haven’t felt particularly good even from the Hawaii game,” said Haden.  ”I just felt like we haven’t been the consistent team that we need to be at USC.”

Kiffin’s compiled a record of 28-15 overall during his 4 seasons at USC, but they were filled with turmoil and off the field distractions.  He was hampered by sanctions that were handed down by the NCAA just a few months before taking the job, which cost the school thirty scholarships over three years, and two years without a bowl appearance.  The end of the 2011 season looked promising, and USC looked poised for a run at a national championship at the beginning of 2012, when they were the pre-season #1 ranked team in the AP Poll.  However, the Trojans finished a disappointing 7-6, including losses to rivals UCLA, Notre Dame, and a loss in the Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech.

More than anything, Kiffin demonstrated that he could recruit great talent, but that talent seemed to regress over time.  Matt Barkley looked great in his first couple of years, but by his senior year, Kiffin appeared to crush his confidence, which ultimately ruined his NFL draft position.  Robert Woods emerged as a great wide receiver in his sophomore year, but by his junior year, Kiffin stopped utilizing him.  This year, Kiffin has found a way to stunt the growth of quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, while failing to consistently utilize the talents of talented wide receiver Marqise Lee.

This doesn’t even mention all the off the field turmoil that Kiffin brought to the program.  He closed practice to the media, he gave up his vote in the coaches poll after some public drama with another Pac-12 coach, and more recently, he lied to the media about a players only meeting taking place.  Kiffin has also been known to simply rub people the wrong way.  He was not well received in Tennessee, and lasted only twenty games with the Oakland Raiders, and even feuded publicly with owner Al Davis, before being dismissed.

So where does this leave the USC Football team? Considering the timing of the decision, I think even Pat Haden thinks this season is over.  There’s still 8 games left in the Trojans season.  However, this was a smart decision, because it gives the Trojans time to save their recruiting class, and to take their time finding an elite head coach.  USC also doesn’t play until October 10th against Arizona as well, so Ed Orgeron will have plenty of time to prepare.

So where will this elite coach come from?  I think most Trojan fans are hoping for Rams coach Jeff Fisher, or Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, both of whom are alums.  The big issue with both of these coaches is the timing that the NFL season finishes, and them taking over a college program.  I would imagine that there would be some interest from both of these guys, and USC would love to re-produce what they had in the Pete Caroll era with another NFL guy.  Some other possibilities could include Kevin Sumlin, Bobby Petrino, or even Chris Peterson.  The Trojans have their work cutout for them in order to rebuild the program, but they definitely took some steps in the right direction today.

Trojans Bounce Back

Cody Kessler

September 14th, 2013

What a difference a starting quarterback decision makes.  The Trojans hammered Boston College on Saturday at the Coliseum by a score of 35-7, to improve to 2-1 on the season, and rebound from an ugly loss last week to Washington State.  It appears for now, USC alums can put away their pitchforks and tiki torches.

After Lane Kiffin finally named Cody Kessler the starting quarterback, he performed much better. Kessler completed 15 of 17 passes for 237 yards, and 2 touchdown passes.  One of his two incomplete passes was on the first SC drive of the game, where he over threw Marquise Lee on a long pass, which actually got a standing ovation from USC fans.  The fans were obviously happy to see Kiffin take the leash off his quarterback, and stop micromanaging his players.  Kessler connected with Tre Madden late in the 1st quarter for a 5 yard touchdown pass.  Then in the 2nd quarter, he hit Lee for an 80 yard touchdown pass, and USC was up 14-0 at halftime.

Southern Cal’s running game took over in the 2nd half, as Madden and Justin Davis got loose for long touchdown runs.  Max Wittek finished things off with a 2 yard touchdown run late in the 4th as well.   For Madden, it was his 3rd straight game rushing for over 100 yards, which made him the 1st Trojan player in 32 years to open the season with such a feat.

The Trojan defense had another strong performance.   The Eagles were held to just 184 yards in total offense.  Although they didn’t force any turnovers, the SC defense was finally supported by an offense that had over 36 minutes of possession time, which kept them off the field and well rested.

Kiffin and the Trojans seem to have stabilized the situation for the time being.  He’s also stabilized the quarterback position by committing to Kessler, which seemed to give the sophomore a renewed sense of confidence.  This may be somewhat surprising to some fans, who were speculating that Kiffin may have had a players mutiny on his hands.  Several players mentioned to the media that they had called a players only meeting, but Kiffin tried to deny that this every took place, which fueled this speculation.

Pat Haden is still watching Kiffin closely.  The Trojans still committed over 100 yards in penalties,  which is typical of a team that lacks coaching discipline.  They’ll get another chance to further stabilize things next week against Utah State at the Coliseum.  In the meantime, hopefully Kiffin won’t create any more drama.

Cougars Top Trojans

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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

Kessler

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.

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