Observations from the Coliseum and a few injury updates:
Mike Riley is a great coach: Riley proved once again that he is one of the most underrated coaches in the country. Why Tennessee (Riley has southern roots) or programs that have the infrastructure to be consistent top 15 teams have not intensely pursued him blows my mind. Riley and the OSU coaching staff had the Trojans number for the second year in a row on Saturday and he made one of the best defenses in the country look very pedestrian. Oregon State never quit and was one possession away from possibly winning the game.
The Rogers brothers aren’t too bad either. . .307 total yards and 2 touchdowns against the best defense in the Pac-10…
USC game MVP’s= Alan Bradford and Jeremy Bates: Is Lendale White back playing for the Trojans? Alan Bradford sure brought back memories of the former great Trojan tailback. The Trojans are starting to develop a mini Thunder-Lightning package which is going to really help keep opponents guessing. Bradford’s bruising style of running is complemented by deceptive top end speed that allows him to break off big runs like the 46 yard touchdown run in the second half. When Bradford is running hard it gives the Trojans offense a power mentality that fires everyone up and is the perfect compliment to a finesse style of offense.
Jeremy Bates called another fantastic game. With the exception of calling a long pass play in the 4th quarter up 13 points which was intercepted, Bates mixed up his play calling brilliantly and took advantage of a porous Oregon State pass defense. Bates continued to utilize the Tight Ends while allowing the running game to get into a rhythm.
(More on Bates and other observations after the jump)
When USC needed a 1st down to ice the game he called a great quick slant to get the Trojans in a 3rd in short situation and then a quick roll out pass to Williams for the 1st down.
With the Trojan defense struggling, it was the Trojan offense that won the game. I did not think I would utter that sentence all year since the Trojans offense is so young and under the direction of a 1st year college coordinator. Progress is a wonderful thing to watch.
Trojans need to learn to close: This is the second game in a row the Trojans should have won going away in the 4th quarter. Against both Oregon State and Notre Dame the Trojans threw a costly interception in the 4th quarter that allowed both teams back into the game. In both games the Trojan defense was on its heels in the 4th quarter and did not show the usual confidence Trojan fans are used to late in games.
Offensively, it is important for the Trojans to continue to be aggressive but with a solid lead they need to be able to put together a long 4th quarter drive that emphasizes strong running, short passes and dominant offensive line play.
The Trojans used to be the best 4th quarter team in college football and closing the door on opponents has to be a point of emphasis.
Special Teams bounces back: After a poor performance against Notre Dame, the special teams unit contained a dangerous Oregon State return unit and a Damian Williams punt return for a touchdown ended up being the difference in the game. Mistake free special team’s play is going to be a key factor in the Oregon game.
Consistency with Wide Receivers: The return of Ronald Johnson has had a major impact on the offense. Johnson, who roomed with Barkley in fall camp and spent lots of time throwing with him this summer, gives Barkley another receiver he has complete confidence in. The other thing the return of Johnson has done is solidify the wide receiver rotation. Brice Butler has quietly emerged as a very dependable 3rd receiver and it would not be surprising if David Ausberry’s opportunities are limited due to his inconsistent play.
*Tight End Anthony McCoy sprained his ankle in the second half and did not return to the game. Fortunately, it is not a high ankle sprain which can keep players out for an extended period of time. McCoy’s status for the Oregon is up in the air but the training staff will do everything they can to have him ready.
*Running Back Joe McKnight cut his hand in the 4th quarter and had to be taken out of the game. His hand was pretty swollen after the game and x-rays have been taken to make sure no bone damage occurred. He should be fine for the Oregon game.