Dropping the Ball

Aaron Corp

Aaron Corp had a costly interception, while Stanley Havili and Stafon Johnson both lost fumbles in Washington territory, but the USC coaches are the ones that really dropped the ball.

Pete Carroll said after Saturday's game that losing the turnover battle will often result in a loss, and he is certainly right in his assessment.

Turnovers and Aaron Corp are the two most common reasons given for the Trojans' shocking 16-13 loss to the Washington Huskies.

And both are legitimate concerns.

But just like the USC offense that stumbled its way to just 13 points, the USC coaches also deserve a heavy dose of criticism for tripping themselves up.

Corp had a costly interception, while Stanley Havili and Stafon Johnson both lost fumbles in Washington territory, but the USC coaches are the ones that really dropped the ball this week.

With Matt Barkley unable to throw, it was apparent to everyone around the USC program, and the nation for that matter, that Aaron Corp was going to have to step in and start in the Pac-10 opener.

The same Aaron Corp that was named the starter at end of spring practice following weeks of mistake-free football, and the same Aaron Corp that would have likely been the starter heading into the season, if not for a cracked fibula.

But Pete Carroll never officially named Corp the starter for the Washington game and allowed the uncertainty to drag out all week, right up until kickoff.

Whether Carroll was hoping for a miraculous recovery from Matt Barkley or just looking to play mind games with his former assistants, Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt, it's still unclear why the coaches never let Corp know that he was the guy.

In the simplest terms, the job of a coach is to put his players in the best position to succeed, and Carroll and Jeremy Bates failed to do that in the days leading up to the Washington game.

The decision to not make a decision, which was uncharacteristic of Carroll, just added more uncertainty to an already difficult situation.

Corp was on the verge of making his first start on the college level and somehow Carroll didn't find it necessary to officially name him the starter.

Carroll is widely regarded as the top coach in college football, and rightfully so, but this week he completely mishandled the quarterback situation, which became a major factor in the Trojans dropping another Pac-10 road game, to an opponent with inferior talent.

When Matt Barkley was named the starter a little over a week before the season opener Carroll stated, "We'll utilize this weekend to have Matt learn what it's like to go through preparations as the starter. For our ability to perform at our very best next week, it helps us to express it now instead of game week.

"I thought we could take advantage of making the decision now and get this thing working into the weekend where it could enhance Matt's chance to get prepared knowing what's going on. And I think it would help the team as well."

Carroll's instinct to allow Barkley time to get adjusted to his role as the starting quarterback was correct, yet when it was obvious that Barkley's shoulder injury was going to keep him from playing, Corp was never afforded the same opportunity.

I am not making the case that Corp would have somehow been a young Matt Leinart, or even thrown for more than the 110 yards that he did, if he had only been given word during the week, but it certainly would have made the transition easier.

The coaches' indecisiveness showed a lack of confidence in their quarterback, so is it really all that surprising that he went out and performed like a player with no confidence?


Bates and Carroll mishandled the quarterback situation leading up to the loss at Washington.


*Discuss more on the SCPlaybook.com message boards

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at kevin@scplaybook.com


USCFootball.com Recommended Stories