The Trojans had to face Stanford without their star center, Khaled Holmes, and the results were disastrous. USC’s offensive line got absolutely no push against Stanford’s more than capable defensive line and the casualties were a completely stagnant running game and a vulnerable Matt Barkley.
Kiffin noted that going against Stanford without a veteran line would spell trouble, and spell trouble it did indeed. Having shrugged that loss off though, the Trojans must again prepare to go against another conference opponent with a less than ideal O-line situation.
Whether they sink or swim will say a lot about how this team goes about the rest of this season.
Sure, Holmes is listed as the started on this week’s depth chart, but we have seen in the recent past that what the depth chart lists isn’t necessarily set in stone. USC K Andre Heidari is also listed to be back this week, but if the rumors surround his knee surgery are true then he should still be out another week or so.
Either way, the Trojans need to prepare for Cal without Holmes, as there will be no excuses this time if they drop this game. At Left Tackle, Aundrey Walker gave an underwhelming performance against the Cardinal and in the wake of that he will now compete with Max Tuerk for the starting job. Over the next two practices, both of them need to greatly step their game up, as Cal will be no walk in the park and it is likely both of them will need to see the playing field.
Cyrus Hobbi took a lot of flack on Twitter for his poor performance, but he did all that was asked of him on such short notice. There were indeed times where he got the snap count wrong or blew an assignment and the Trojans suffered for it, but inexperience is a bug that bites everyone. He must now shake that performance off and give a stellar performance this week.
Cal has been inconsistent over the years and Barkley has exploited that to his benefit: he averages 276.7 yards through the air during his three wins over Cal, throwing seven touchdowns and only one interception. All three of those contests came behind an experienced O-line, and if the line does not come through for him again this week, his stat line will not be nearly as impressive this year.
Cal’s defense held Ohio State to 412 yards in front of a sold-out crowd at the Shoe, showing that they can hang on the road. But with Cal being Cal, they managed to falter when it mattered most, something they are prone to do. If the Trojans want to keep this game out of reach, the USC offense cannot give the Bears the confidence that they can slow the Trojans down.
Aside from protecting Barkley, the O-line really needs to start establishing holes for Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd to get through. We haven’t seen anything close to spectacular from these two yet; some of that can be attributed to their own inabilities to get the ball rolling, but most of it stems from not having a strong front line to give them gaps.
Having Khaled Holmes back would obviously be ideal for USC, but gameplanning without him is essential to not being caught off guard two weeks in a row. The offensive line was not USC’s only problem against Stanford–Barkley in and of himself struggled to command as he needed to–but they were the main cause of Kiffin calling Stanford’s game “the worst offensive performance in nine years” from USC.
If the Trojans want to reach postseason glory, they better hope Kiffin doesn’t ever say those word again.