Oldtimer's Take: Must Limit Mistakes

Pete Carroll

If the USC football team was a new house under construction they would be way behind schedule. That's not the best of news with a crucial game coming up this Saturday against the Cal Bears at Berkley. A game that I believe will set the tone for the rest of USC's football season.

Great teams and players eliminate mistakes

Saturday night was another Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde performance by the USC Trojans. Pete Carroll said in his press interview, "USC has a lot of work to do. The game tonight was full of stuff that is not indicative of good football. There is a lot of room for improvement."

Carroll went on to say, "The great majority of things tonight were self inflicted. That's the good part of it. We have to seize control and start playing ball. We are going to give more games away if we continue to play like this. The USC football team is an unfinished product."

Pete is right. If the USC football team was a new house under construction they would be way behind schedule. That's not the best of news with a crucial game coming up this Saturday against the Cal Bears at Berkley. A game that I believe will set the tone for the rest of USC's football season.

I thought quarterback Matt Barkley played very well last night as well as the Trojan defense. I was encouraged as well by the punting and onside kick of Jacob Harfman. But the constant and inexcusable mistakes by a veteran offense were disheartening.

And I'm afraid if USC keeps repeating them and the Trojan don't change their ways, they are going to find these mistakes fatal on October's road trips to Cal, Notre Dame and Oregon. Pete Carroll said after the game, "We are stopping ourselves and if we don't eliminate these mistakes, we will continue to give games away."

Wide receiver Damian Williams made several big plays Staurday night. He is a hard worker and a team captain and a sure handed playmaker. Damian's one of the smartest members of the Trojan football team. But along with the big plays Williams made last night he also muffed a punt, fumbled, and had two costly penalties.

Players like Jordan Campbell, Nick Perry, Allen Bradford, Stanley Havili, P/K Jacob Harfman and others had big games last night and deserve to receive recognition. USC's defense continues to stifle their opponents only giving up 10 points a game so far this year. The USC defense had 8 sacks.

USC did a lot of good things Saturday night. But good things can be overshadowed by costly mistakes when you are playing top flight opponents. USC has got to eliminate these mistakes. That's what practice is all about. Practice doesn't make perfect. It's perfect practice that makes perfect. And the USC football team is far short of perfection right now.

Great teams and players eliminate mistakes. If you're a concert pianist and play 50 right notes and 5 ringers you've had a bad night. It would be the same with a singer. You can't say I hit 50 notes and only missed 5. USC has been preparing, practicing, and now the Trojans have played a third of their games and continue to make more mistakes than an average high school team.

How can an offense that started the year with 9 returning starters be 3-of-23 in their last two games on 3rd and 4th down conversions?

USC scored 40 points this year against Washington and Washington St. Last year they scored 119 points. I'd call that a drop off in production.

I have so many questions:

What happened to the QB sneak within the two yard line?

Why did USC go to play action inside the 10 yard line all spring and fall instead of saying, "Here we come defense, try to stop us." Linebacker coach Ken Norton would taunt the offense in practice to see if they could stuff it in. It's a mistake not to develop that toughness.

Why does the USC Trojan offense have so much trouble finishing a drive without stopping itself with costly mistakes?

Why is USC's defense so aggressive on first and second downs and then so passive on third downs?

Why does the Trojan defense go into that soft zone where they allow their opponent to catch the ball and then tackle them? USC's got the best secondary in the country.

Why not man up, lock up on the opposing offense's wide receiver and keep pressuring the opposing QB with the blitz. Man up and go get them? USC has got all this great talent, use it on 3rd down. Get Taylor Mays out of centerfield with his back against the wall and let him make some plays.

Why isn't this team improving? I thought Matt Barkley played well. But USC's offense was up against a defense that's giving up 577 yards a game and almost 400 yards of passing a game. USC had 150 yards of total offense over the last three quarters. It was feeble.

The Trojans had only 29 rushing plays and 22 passing plays. WSU had the ball for 36:09 and USC 23:51. The Trojans let Washington State control the football. When you subtract USC's 115 yards of penalties you can see why the score was USC 7 and Washington St 7 over the last three quarters.

Carroll summed it up like this, "This is not stuff indicative of playing good football. We have to stop making these mistakes. They are unacceptable." Carroll said, "Gosh, it's not all the satisfying win you would like to have."

USC has October road games at Cal, Notre Dame and Oregon this month. If the Trojans can eliminate penalties, dropped balls, turnovers, the abundance of special team's mistakes, they will win all three games.

If the Trojans continue to make the same mistakes, October is going to be a disaster, because as far as I know there is no cure for making the same mistakes over and over. It's a fatal disease.

USC has to correct these mistakes before Saturday, and so far the USC Trojan football team hasn't shown me they can do that. But I'm hoping they will. Carroll said he wanted to start practice right after the game last night. If anyone can set this Trojan football team on the right track it is Pete Carroll.

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