Quick Thoughts: Washington-USC


Ladies and gentlemen, we could be in for a very long season. After such a dismal performance, it is hard to sit here and imagine that USC will bounce back and remain competitive throughout the year.

After four games against relatively easy opponents, USC returned home to face a team that probably will finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10. This was their toughest test to date, and they failed. The Trojans fell at home by one point in a game that brought back memories of 2009. Now, USC looks very vulnerable. Before today’s contest, they seemed to be in a position to contend for the Pac-10. After tonight, there don’t appear to be any guaranteed wins, and the games at Stanford, Oregon, Arizona, and even Oregon State seem daunting.


On two possessions, USC came on to the field on first down unorganized. The first sequence, they were flagged for delay of game and then they were forced to call a timeout the second time (which drew boos). When the offense is coming on the field to start a new drive, being unorganized is inexcusable. The offense has plenty of time to think about what they want to do and decide which play to call. The confusion is either the result of miscommunication or poor coaching, neither of which are viable excuses.

Allen Bradford is a beast. He ran for over 200 yards with impressive power and speed. The offensive lines opened up huge holes for him to run through and he took advantage. He was the bright spot in the Trojan offense as he was a man among boys tonight. Bradford wasn’t the starting tailback, but he took advantage of his carries.

Marc Tyler turned in a mediocre performance and debuted as the quarterback in USC’s Wildcat formation. Notably, Tyler fumbled in his own territory, but it didn’t prove disastrous as the USC defense was able to force a three-and-out on that possession.

Matt Barkley had decent stats, but his performance wasn’t anything special. Sure, he evaded a sack and made a great throw on a spectacular play, but he was off with his accuracy tonight and it cost USC dearly. At one point, the sophomore quarterback had David Ausberry open in the endzone and Barkley overthrew him. It was at a crucial juncture in the game and it left points on the board. Barkley has shown flashes of brilliance, but his overall play for the season isn’t anything special. He needs to find his accuracy if USC is going to rebound.

Ronald Johnson did an excellent job of finding seams in the defense when Barkley was under pressure, and David Ausberry found a way to get open often. However, the passing game sputtered and USC had to rely on the running game to carry the team.

The offense scored enough points to win the game, but when they start near midfield with 6 minutes to go, they need to come up with points in the clutch.


The secondary was torched and wide receivers had huge seams to catch the ball and run. Nickell Robey was replaced in favor of Brian Baucham, who seemed to be near every play and covered well. However, TJ McDonald was beat often, including for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. On that play, McDonald could have made an interception, but he failed to recognize the ball was in the air and didn’t even turn around to play the ball. On top of that, USC missed a lot of tackles and allowed Washington to extend plays. Granted, Locker did an excellent job with misdirection and scrambling, but the defense didn’t have good penetration and had lax coverage. The defense hadn’t proved they could get a stop in the final stages of the game, and that continues to be the case. Locker was able to orchestrate a drive and the defense couldn’t hold. On 4th and 10, USC had an excellent chance to put the game away but the coverage collapsed and they weren’t able to bring down Locker when they should have.

For the second year in a row, USC’s defense looks vulnerable. Given that the Pac-10 is an offense oriented conference, the upcoming schedule seems as though it will yield a lot of points for the opposition.

Special Teams

Robert Woods put a spark into USC with an excellent kick return. The true freshman has tremendous speed and he is a joy to watch on every possession.

Joe Houston missed yet another kick and is now 2-6 on the year. His 40-yard kick to give USC a 5-point lead clanked off of the upright and was no good with about 2:30 to go. The missed field goal isn’t the reason USC lost. Washington was poised to go in for a touchdown anyways and it is hard to pin the entire loss on one man’s kick. However, USC needs to find someone who can put it between the uprights. Houston’s accuracy is terrible. As well as USC does in recruiting, you think they would be able to find a good kicker.


The coaching staff did a good job today and you can’t blame the game on them. The offense scored enough points to win the game and the main blame falls on the defense for its inability to stop Washington. However, it’s hard to imagine that the schemes are the problem. Monte Kiffin is one of the best coordinators in the history of the game and I am certain his game plan doesn’t call for letting the receiver run past the secondary and be open by 10 yards in the end zone. The only questionable play call revolves around USC’s final drive. On 3rd and 4, Lane Kiffin elected to throw the ball instead of running. After being so successful with the power running game, it was curious that Kiffin didn’t run the ball again and take his chances.