The Skinny: Trojans Can’t Escape the Minefield in Seattle but a Silver Lining Exists

The tension and anxiety amongst the coaching staff in Heritage Hall this week ended up spilling onto the field and sidelines Saturday as the Trojans lost to the Washington Huskies 16-13 and dropped to #12 in the AP poll.

Despite an early touchdown drive where the offensive line opened up huge holes, the Trojans reverted back to the same recipe for disaster that annually costs them a game in Pac-10 play: Turnovers, Penalties and Questionable offensive play calls. It is very difficult to overcome these problems when you are playing the second of back-to-back road games and are without your starting QB Matt Barkley and All American Safety Taylor Mays.

The Trojans had the ball within or near the red zone six times and only walked away with 13 points and turned the ball over 3 times. They were a combined 0-11 on 3rd and 4th down and could only muster 110 yards passing, the lowest in the Pete Carroll era.

The offensive coaching staff botched an attempt to get a field goal off at the end of the first half by running the ball with no timeouts left and played not to lose at the end of the game instead of rolling Corp out and trying to attack the end zone.

(Potential offensive solutions after the jump)

With all of the mistakes the Trojans made, they probably would have won the game if they scored a touchdown on their final drive.

The defense is simply fantastic and will keep the Trojans in every game they play. However, the offense has to get going and not much time exists as the Trojans play #6 Cal in two weeks.

Ideas to get the offense rolling:

#1- Don’t coach and play with fear: When Coach Carroll first came to USC, he brought a no fear mentality with him. “Big Balls Pete”! USC played not to lose at Washington and lost.

Despite turning the ball over 3 x’s against Washington, SC gave up only 16 points. Ohio State had the ball 5 x’s in the second half on USC’s side of the field and only had 3 points.

This might be the most dominant defense in the Pete Carroll era and they can afford to take some calculated risks and not worry as much about interceptions. The Trojans are so concerned about turning the ball over they handicap themselves and sports psychologist’s would say that you make that fear (turning the ball over) into reality in stressful situations.

USC will have to make plays offensively to go 4-0 against the murderer’s row schedule of at Cal, at Notre Dame, Oregon State and at Oregon.

#2- Better ball distribution on offense: The SC offense resembles a struggling pro offense that is predictable and scared to throw down the field. When was the last time USC attempted a pass for over 20-25 yards? It is frustrating when Idaho throws for over 350 yards on Washington and USC throws for only 110.

The Trojans need to periodically open up the offense and not be so focused on getting the ball outside of the hash marks on short throws. Better distribution of the ball around the whole field, more play action fakes and looking to one side of the field and throwing to the other or down the middle should create more functionality on offense (see the 2003 and 2004 Trojans).

Despite having inexperience at the Quarterback, USC is very talented at the position and should have more success offensively especially with such a great offensive line.

#3 Utilize the Tight-end: Anthony McCoy only had 1 catch against Washington. Corp missed him a couple of other times but SC needs the Tight End to have at least 5-7 receptions a game to keep Linebacker’s honest. It would be nice to see Blake Ayles get more involved as well.

#4 Get De’von Flournoy on the field: If you look at tape, the WR’s are doing their jobs. However, without Ronald Johnson they are lacking a legitimate deep threat/game breaker and it is time to give Flournoy a chance to play. In the fall, he was one of the only offensive players that consistently made big plays against the #1 defense yet the coaches have said he is not ready. If Bates has simplified the offense it should be easier for a freshman to get on the field. Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett didn’t have a problem getting on the field as true freshman and it is worth giving him a shot.

#5 Give Alan Bradford a real chance: When was the last time Bradford fumbled the ball? When was the last time Bradford didn’t hit the hole hard and carry a pile? When was the last time Bradford got more than 5 carries in a non-blowout situation? Stafon Johnson is a solid all-around back but if you are looking for thunder to add to McKnight’s lightening he might be your best option and is deserving of the opportunity based on his practice effort and appearances in games.

The silver lining is that despite playing and coaching a very poor game, the Trojans still had a shot to win against a talented Washington team. USC has a great coaching staff and Coach Carroll always seems to get the Trojans to bounce back in a big way.

If the Trojans can survive a brutal mid-season schedule and get the offense rolling, the Trojans will be right back in the national title picture and nobody will want to play them. It is scary how good this team can be with any type of offensive production.

The question is whether they can figure it out offensively in the next two weeks. . .


0 thoughts on “The Skinny: Trojans Can’t Escape the Minefield in Seattle but a Silver Lining Exists

  1. So what if the offensive calls weren’t always good; Corp should have been able to identify the simple defensive schemes UW was running. Heck, Ohio State was doing everything they could to disguise their schemes by running in and out of position.

    Was Corp on a short leash that prevented him from calling an audible? If so, I’ll blame coach Bates and Carroll for it. Otherwise, all I saw was a quarterback that just wasn’t mentally in the game.

  2. That’s an amazingly weak arm that Corp has. Again and again he threw short out passes with so little zip that gave the opposing cornerbacks the time to make plays on the ball. It’s no wonder that they don’t want him throwing the long balls out there. Where the hell is Mustain in this picture? There’s no way that he should be third in line. Corp’s legs might make up for some of what his arm lacks, but surely that’s not the case in this offense.

    The kick that they got off late was just inexcusable. Forget all of the fumbles and failed third downs, that turned out to be the game right there. That’s where the OC just blew it! I am now growing a lot concerned here. Wondering if PC has always been reliant on OC talent and now he just doesn’t have the same level with Bates.

    That’s two easy calls he missed as far as I can tell.
    1. Someone really should have seen in practice that Corp doesn’t have the arm to play college QB at USC. That should have been clear in Spring practice to anyone with a brain.
    2. How can you be the playcaller and manage the time so poorly. That was screwed up two ways. Even if you were going to try to squeeze out a play. Run the ball??

  3. Bottom line: this looked like a Paul Hackett coached game. If THAT doesn’t give anyone cause for concern, I don’t know what will.

    Pete has surrounded himself with a bunch of morons. Particularly on the offensive coaching staff. I really feel for Pat Ruel…he must be pulling his hair out.

  4. Game tested, 8-0 as a freshman Mitch Mustain rides the pine, while Corp obviously cant get it done. I love Pete, but his stubborness in making changes cost us Washington, and Stanford in 2007. (Remember Booty and his broken finger.) Mustain deserves a shot. Yet no one talks about it.

  5. Overall I felt our offense looked completely flat and was waking far to many mistakes to be able to beat any PAC-10 team on the road (with the exception of WAZZU but we are playing them at home this season.) But I definitly think we really need to get the offense rolling or I don’t see us beating Oregon or ESPECIALLY California. Maybe Cal hasn’t played anyone good yet, but to me they look like the best team in the PAC-10 this year by far.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s