USC vs Washington State: Report Card

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September 7, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans guard Marcus Martin (66) lines up before snapping the ball against the Washington State Cougars during the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

USC fell to Washington State 10-7 on Saturday with another Jekyll and Hyde performance. Here’s a look at which units made the grade and which were found lacking in the Coliseum.

Offense: F+

F is for failure. Complete and utter failure. The numbers speak for themselves — 193 total yards, 3.1 yards per play, 3-13 third down conversions, 7 points. The plus is for Tre Madden’s benefit, whose contributions will be discussed further down.

Quarterbacks: F

USC used two quarterbacks. Neither were close to effective. Cody Kessler managed a measly 41 yards through the air and his interception returned for a touchdown was the difference between winning and losing. However, Kessler did score the Trojans’ only points with a rollout touchdown run. Max Wittek featured in the second half with an even more paltry 13 yards passing and an interception of his own. With a combined 54 yards passing, it may have been the worst passing performance from USC since the invention of the forward pass. The play calling did neither QB a favor, but both were slow to make decisions and made poor choices and throws all night.

Receivers: F

Marqise Lee is an elite wide receiver, but his attempts to get into the game did more harm than good. He led the team with eight receptions and 27 yards, but cost his unit on key plays when he looked for bigger gains instead of taking the yards that were there. The key example of that was in the fourth quarter on a fourth and seven when instead of falling forward for a first down, he tried to juke a defender and came up short. In addition, Nelson Agholor was a non-factor and USC’s longest pass of the night was for eight yards.

Running backs: A-

Madden was the lone bright spot on a dismal day for the USC offense. His 151 yards accounted for 78% of the Trojan offense on the night and his successful running of the Wildcat represented the only ounce of creativity on offense all night. The only knock against the running game was that Madden and company were unable to put points on the board.

Offensive line: D

The line did a decent job opening holes for Madden and there were a few passing plays with good pass protection. But as a whole, the line did little to help the poorer-than-poor offensive display.

Continue on for a look at how the defense, special teams and coaches fared.

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Tags: USC Trojans Washington State Cougars

  • disqus_5mzWKSTg3O

    USC scored 7 points in 2 of their last 3 games.
    A little bird told me, Haden is compiling a ‘list’.

    Haden meets with Kiffin every Sunday after a game, so its no coincidence Kiffin will be selecting a starter today.

  • Al

    While I’m not Lane Kiffin biggest fan, I’m not ready to holla “fire Lane” just yet.

    • Trojan_SD

      I’m ready. I was open minded about Lane for a long time, even defending him and preaching patience. But I really don’t know what happened to him. He’s playing scared. He’s playing not to lose. That isn’t SC football, and that’s not how you win games.

      He’s scared of calling aggressive, long throws. He’s trying to play SEC football.
      I’ve lost faith in him making adjustments.

      • Michael Castillo

        Same. I tried to be objective as possible and gave him the benefit of the doubt in certain things, while criticizing him for things like jersey switching. But now, it’s impossible to rationalize what he’s doing. Playing scared is exactly it.

      • Matthew Moreno

        I agree with you, Trojan_SD and Michael. I too would defend Kiffin in the past, believing he would ultimately get it together and make up for his other shortcomings. After these past two games, I just don’t see it happening.

        But, the season is still young, right? I suppose *almost* anything can happen

        • Trojan_SD

          Matthew, the season is still young, and it’s possible that we turn it around somewhat, but it’s just hard to believe after this loss.

          Can’t imagine how the players felt when they saw the Coliseum emptying out during a tied game. I’ve never left a game before the end, period, even during the Stanford home loss in ’07. I left this past Saturday after Wittek’s INT with a few minutes left. I’m not proud of it, but I couldn’t take it anymore.
          How does someone on the team stay motivated after having the team booed on their home field? Sure, most fans were booing Kiffin, but not all of them. That performance was a disgrace to our program.

          How can you still believe in your coach after that if you’re an offensive player?
          The freshmen recruits must be thinking “How the h*ll did I end up in this mess?!?”

          There’s a chance our boys refocus and regroup, and come out swingin’ for the rest of the season, but Kiffin is going to have to unshackle the damn cuffs. How do you get an offense amped when you throw bubble screen after bubble screen?

          They’re young players, they want to go out and be explosive and they’re more than capable of doing so. Clancy’s scheme amping up the defense is proof. Let the kids be aggressive and showcase their natural talent, not try to protect a single touchdown lead all game by nursing and dinking the ball. Disgusting.

          Ok, sorry, rant over. :)

          • Matthew Moreno

            Yes, you definitely have to feel bad for the players.

            Now that Kessler has been named the starting quarterback, let’s see if Kiffin develops a better game plan

    • disqus_5mzWKSTg3O

      Lane, is that you?

      What would have to happen in order to justify his firing, in your opinion?

      • Al

        It’s only the 1st game, and while it was Wash St. SC has dropped at least one conference game going back to Pete Carroll’s regime. However they lose their next game I’m all in!!!

        • Matthew Moreno

          Yes, the Trojans would routinely lose a conference game or two under Carroll, but I believe this issue is more than just wins and losses.

          It was the second straight poor performance from the offense and Kiffin hasn’t shown any personal improvement from the debacle last season.

          If the play calling was better and the quarterbacks just couldn’t complete every throw or make the right read more times than not, then you live with that and chalk it up to growing pains.

          Kiffin admitting to not having a game plan and simply just coaching to not lose is alarming and unacceptable.

          USC isn’t the only school who has had to break in a new quarterback.

          • Al

            I agree totally. AD Hayden hopefully is making backup plans for this.

  • Michael Castillo

    I agree with all of the grades, except receiver. For me, the Marqise Lee effort didn’t both me. He was being penned up and Kiffin wasn’t allowing him to have any impact in the game, so he tried to take matters in his own hands. When the team lacks any sort of spark or rhythm, I’ll take that. Had is over-done effort killed drives that were moving, led to turnovers or killed momentum, that’s a different story.

    • disqus_5mzWKSTg3O

      What upsets me is that Kiffin stares at his play card most of the game, but his play calling does not seem to require a play card in the first place.

      Maybe its just me, but while I do see Kiffin uses multiple sets and player packages, it appears that we see the same 15 plays

      • Michael Castillo

        I think 15 is high-balling it.

        I agree though. He gets creative in in his formations with bunches, TEs split wide and putting Lee in motion, but it’s still easy to read right through that. Any time Telfer and Grimble are lined up as down tight ends, it’s going to be a run. That wouldn’t be a problem if there was an unstoppable running game, when it’s not working AND is predictable, there’s no opportunity for success.

      • Charles G.

        I would put it in the 10 play range. While he does have various formations, he only seems to have 1 play out of each of those formations. There is no attempt to hide what he is doing. Whenever the offense lines up in a formation you can tell exactly what they are going to do. This is where the issue is and we saw the same thing last year. In the Syracuse game he must have called 15 bubble screens.

        Typically you would call a high number of these plays to get the defense to bite hard or show something on film to your next opponent. Once they think they have the play down you burn them by giving them the same look and hitting them over the top. Kiffin does call plays to set the next play up or to get the defense biting. He calls them for the sake of calling them.

  • disqus_5mzWKSTg3O

    Did anyone notice wazzu executed their bubble screens more effectively than USC?

    While Haden will not come out and publicly say that Kiffin’s tenure is close to ending, the fact that wazzu is better at Kiffin’s ‘favorite’ play, should be reason alone to start calling candidates.

    • Matthew Moreno

      Funny you should mention that. I actually did and made a joke to the group I was watching the game with that perhaps Leach was taunting Kiffin with the way he was dialing up their more successful screens

    • Michael Castillo

      WSU’s offense is designed to spread out the defense, so there was room to target the short-range game. USC’s game plan was so limited that it hemmed them in and allowed WSU to box in the defense and suffocate the passing game, so the bubble screens didn’t work.

      Bubble screens are great, when you have room and variance in the offense. Norm Chow’s bubble screens to Mike Williams were huge for SC back in 2002 and 2003.

  • chuck howard

    Thanks for a fun evening! As we watched Stanford yawn their way past San Jose, we were in the stands laughing about the pathetic USC stats. The baby raccoon that ran into the stands during the game had much better moves then either Wittek or Kessler! Go Cardinal!