I had the pleasure of watching the game at the Tilted Kilt Bar & Grill in San Diego. By coincidence, it happens to be the home of the Trojan Club of San Diego. Being a member of the Trojan family was one of the main reasons I chose USC, and today was a stark example of its beauty. I was standing up watching the game in my jersey, when Mark McCord, president of the club, approached me and offered me a seat in the reserved area. Although we had never met before, he was friendly simply because all Trojans stick together. The concept of Trojan family is alive and well.
To the game…
Congratulations to Lane Kiffin, who becomes the first USC coach since 1951 to begin his tenure 4-0. Granted, the opponents were nothing special, but he coached the games in front of him and has emerged victorious so far.
Offensively, the Trojans played three fantastic quarters of football. Stanley Havili shined today, piling up 80 yards on a meager 4 carries. His touchdown run on the first offensive play set the tempo for the rest of the day. Havili hasn’t been used much so far, but expect him to get more carries. Kiffin had mentioned that he had been holding out Havili from extensive reps in the game because he doesn’t want to overwork him too early. Havili is a valuable asset that will give opposing defenses serious trouble.
The offensive line opened up large holes for the backs to get through, and Bradford and Tyler were effective throughout. Towards the end, Dillon Baxter received extended carries and showed why he has been so highly touted. He ran with patience, vision, and athleticism. Watching him develop will be special.
For stretches, Matt Barkley continued to struggle. He threw two interceptions, and forced passes. The sophomore needs to relax and let the play develop by itself rather than try and create something that really isn’t there. He had some nice passes as before, but he needs to clean up the mistakes. Lane Kiffin did an excellent job adjusting to Barkley’s mistakes by creating easy dump-offs off of play action to regain the young quarterbacks confidence.
With the exception of two drives, USC’s defense posted another solid game. Nickell Robey jumped a route for a pick-six early and the Trojans forced three interceptions in total. The pass rush forced Tuel to scramble often and make bad passes. Each week, we continue to see improvement from this unit. They will need to tighten up with Jake Locker coming in next week, but they are headed in the right direction.
John Baxter finally receieved the recognition he deserved last Thursday in an article in the Daily Trojan. Special teams looked spectacular when they blocked a punt early in the game. They prevented Washington State from getting good field position to start drive, which is an important role.
Unfortunately, Joe Houston missed another field goal to fall to 1 for 4 on the year. In a tight game, the kicking unit is not something Kiffin can count on.
The score was exactly what USC needed to accomplish. The 3 turnovers were excessive, but they dominated in the second half. It seemed like the big first quarter brought a sense of complacency over the team in the second, but they were able to turn it back on. Though it may not have been perfect, USC played one of its most consistent games on the year. The Trojans now begin a tough stretch of game. So far, they have played down to their competition early, then won with their superior talent in the second half. Heading forward, USC looks as though it has the pieces to contend for the Pac-10 title.