The good, the bad and the ugly
Last night with 7:13 left in the 4th quarter I stood up with my family as we watched Trojan QB Matt Barkley get up on the 5 yard-line after being sacked by Ohio State defensive lineman Devon Torrence. USC RB Joe McKnight whiffed on his block and it was 2nd and 18 with 7:13 to go in the USC/ Ohio State football game.
I was over at my oldest daughter’s and son-in-laws house. They are both graduates of USC. Mrs. SColdtimer, SClittletimer and SCtinytimer, my wife and my two granddaughters were there. We all just looked at each other as we stood up and said, “We believe!”
Then USC behind the leadership of true freshman Matt Barkley drove 95 yards down the field to defeat the Ohio St Buckeyes 18-15. I just fell back in my chair.
Probably the only part of the game I enjoyed Saturday night was the last 22 seconds. USC’s offense had been frustrated all night by OSU’s defense and it was obvious the Buckeyes were daring USC to pass.
But unlike what USC was able to do in the 2007 Rose Bowl game against Michigan, when they came out just throwing in the second half. USC didn’t have the mature passing game to respond like that. The Trojan’s also suffered from poor field position all night. It was frustrating; you knew USC had snatched victory from the hands of defeat.
So what do you take out of a victory like last night's?
Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.
I don’t think any of us that were not sitting in the Horseshoe Saturday night can fully appreciate how tough the game really was. Alex Parsons said it was the most physical game he had ever played in. The entire Trojan football team said it was the most hostile and noisy environment they had ever faced.
USC’s defense played a magnificent game. Except for a misread by FS Taylor Mays on the 56-yard pass to Dane Sanzenbacher, the Trojan defense made one great stop after another and contained QB Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes running game.
After OSU picked up 145 yards in the first quarter the Buckeyes only gained 121 yards in the rest of the game. OSU’s offense managed only 6 points after their first TD. DE Everson Griffen saved the night with a big sack right before USC’s final drive. MLB Galippo had a great interception and runback. SS Josh Pinkard, DT Averell Spicer, NT/DT JurrellCasey and SLB Michael Morgan all had outstanding games.
After two games USC’s defense is giving up 9 points a game. That is the same as last year. They are 12th in the country in total defense at 193.00 yards a game. That’s better than last year. The Trojan defense has only given up 48 yards a game rushing. And USC is not playing against cupcakes.
USC played hard and tough against a team playing for their school, conference and state’s pride. Taylor Mays said the game was about tradition and respect.
Reporters said the USC locker room was quiet afterwards and the players as well as the coaches seemed subdued. The Trojans were spent.
Hey, I was asleep by 10:00 pm Saturday night. When Taylor Mays and Brian Baucham knocked down Pryor’s last pass my blood pressure dropped 100 points. It wasn’t joy I felt as much as relief, and I went to bed early.
It was a great Trojan victory. To win on the road in front of 106, 033 fans, with a true freshman at QB leading the team from second-and-18 from their own five yard-line, is a miracle. Miracles are always good.
One telling quote last night was from Jeff Byers in the OC Register. He said, “They didn’t come with the stuff we practiced against.” I watched the game on slow motion Sunday afternoon, and you could see USC struggled all night trying to adjust to what OSU was doing up front. OSU was mixing two fronts, a bear front and an under front.
Solid front is another name for a bear front, and what they were doing was putting eight men between the two tackles and in the bear it looks like LB, DE, NT, DT, DE and the front with the WLB and MLB up in the box. The under front is DE, DT, NT, DE and SLB backed up by the WLB and MLB.
USC’s zone blocking was hampered and their guards couldn’t pull so they couldn’t run outside. OSU saw how simple USC kept its offense against San Jose State and dared USC to open up and throw the ball. But USC didn’t dare do that with a young QB like Barkley. It isn’t good to be playing the big boys like OSU with one hand tied behind your back.
OSU said all week that it was hard to believe a true freshman QB could beat them and ran their defense accordingly. One saving grace was that OSU opened up their defense on USC’s last drive to try to prevent a long play, and USC was able to move the ball.
Except for USC first drive that started on the Buckeye 2 yard-line, their own 26 yard line was the best field position they had all night. On the other hand OSU got the ball in USC territory on 4 out of their last 9 possessions.
USC lost field position on the exchange of punts, kickoffs and kickoff returns. They lost 50 yards of field position when Barkley's pass was intercepted. They stopped OSU on tgree downs, but the punt moved them back from OSU's 35 yard line to their own 15 yard line.
The Trojans had to kick a FG after a first down on the 4 yard-line at the end of the half, because they had used up all three of their timeouts. OSU only had 10 first downs all evening and yet dominated field position. It was ugly.
USC is 93rd right now in the country in net punting at 32.64 yards a punt. UCLA and USC’s punting game are bad. I don’t know of any other way to say it. USC airmailed a snap over their punter’s head and out of the end zone. Counting last year’s Rose Bowl that has happened twice in the last three games.
OSU’s punter kicked 4 punts inside the USC 20 and none were returned. USC’s longest punt was 41 yards and it rolled into the end zone. USC’s special teams were a weakness last night not a weapon. It was deflating to see a 43-yard FG fall short, hitting the crossbar. USC’s one scholarship kicker Jacob Harfman was used after the safety to put the ball in play from the 20 yard line, but also got off a weak punt.
USC will not be able to continue to win tough road games with only 2/3 of its game working. The special teams need to be special.
The good far outweighed the bad and ugly:
USC players believe in Matt Barkley after last night. You could hear their faith in their words and admiration after the game.
I remember when John Elway drove the Denver Broncos 98 yards at Cleveland to win a playoff game back in ’87. That was a great drive. But Matt Barkley and Joe McKnight moving the ball down the field for 95 yards behind USC offensive line was one for the ages.
It doesn’t matter where USC has been. It’s where they are going. And Matt Barkley showed Saturday night that he’s a QB that can take the Trojans a long way in his tenure at USC. If ever two people were on the same page it’s Matt Barkley and USC head coach Pete Carroll. And I’ve got a feeling the two of them are going to take this USC football team a long way this year and all the way in the years to come.