USC Trojans 2010-2011: A season in review


Well folks, we have come to that time of the year—USC’s 2011 football season is officially a wrap. It took me an entire week to come to terms with the fact that there will be no more games for me to watch or attend as a student that involve the team that I have watched change, grow, and develop over the past four years. The ride has been nothing short of crazy—my introduction to USC football as a student was hosting the Ohio State Buckeyes and whooping then 35-3, after all—but it has indeed been a great ride. Who would’ve thought that the team and the program I spent my freshmen year supporting would get an extreme makeover, and look nothing like the team that I supported during my senior year?

And considering all those changes—USC icon Pete Carroll dipping out and being replaced by Lane Kiffin, getting rocked by the NCAA, having a team mostly made up of underclassmen, to name a few—who would’ve thought that this team would provide me with the most memorable season in my four years at USC?

It all started back in August, when USC was preparing to start its season: Back then, I said USC should have improved greatly from the previous season, where the team went an abysmal 8-5. I said that there were only three teams that would pose a challenge to USC, and they were Arizona State, Stanford, and Oregon. I said that USC was more than capable of beating any or all of these three teams if they played their cards right, and that the Trojans had the talent to finish the season with at least 10 wins.

And I was RIGHT.

USC started the season off by reminding the country about this one sophomore wide receiver that they had, who went to work thrusting his name into the national spotlight. Matt Barkley hit Robert Woods so many times for so many yards, so many explosive plays in the top half of the season that I lost track. But I will never forget watching him burn defense for hundreds of yards and dozens of touchdowns. More specifically, I will never forget freezing by butt off at Notre Dame, watching him catch a 14-yard pass from Matt Barkley that essentially was the nail in the coffin for the Fighting Irish. Or the time he caught two touchdown passes in USC’s beat down-turned-narrow victory over the Oregon Ducks at Autzen. Or the time he shattered a bunch of USC wide receiver records. Or the time he had a blistering 82-yard catch-and-run score against the Arizona Wildcats.

Woods was a huge factor in USC being what USC was this season, and I am proud I get to say, “I was there” for those games.

Then there’s Marquis Lee. Lee came into USC quietly, the more underrated of the two freshmen wide receivers out of Serra High School, where Woods also went. George Farmer was getting all of the attention, and Lee just kind of hung back in the shadows. But once fall camp started, it was a different ball game. Lee emerged from fall camp as the number-two receiver behind Woods, and did a fine job in the first half of complimenting him. And when Woods’ progress was stalled by a few nagging injuries, Lee picked up the slack in a big way. Soon enough it was the Marquis Lee Show, with him lighting up scoreboards and making big plays. Of all of his catches this season though, the one that stands out to me is the 59-yard bomb he caught that resulted in USC’s first touchdown against Oregon when they went to Autzen a few weeks back. That touchdown got the momentum going in USC’s favor, and the Trojans never looked back. When it counted most, Lee stepped up and played like an athlete with years of experience, not just a few games’ worth.

You have NO IDEA how sad I am that I will not be at USC next season to see Lee and Woods ball out of control once again.

There was also memorable moment on special teams, like every time the opposing team brought their field goal unit onto the field, and getting amped for left tackle Matt Kalil to block ANOTHER field goal (he finished with like, what? A million?). And who could forget Kyle Negrete‘s AMAZING fake punt that result in a near 40-yard gain for him in USC’s win over the Huskies. USC pretty much NEVER fakes anything, so to be there when it happened was a great moment.

Just when we thought USC was gonna turn into one of those pass-heavy, spread offense teams, the running game showed up in full force. At the beginning of the season we thought Marc Tyler was going to be THE guy for USC, but Curtis McNeal decided that he wasn’t having it. Whenever he stepped on the field, he put up yards. And not just a few yards here and there—I’m talking almost a first down per carry. McNeal was the real deal on the ground for the Trojans, coming up with some game-changing plays of his own. There was his dominant performance against Stanford that allowed USC to do some damage to the Cardinal. Ironically, it was McNeal that fumbled in overtime that allowed the Cardinal to win, but if it wasn’t for his play, USC would not have stood a chance to begin with. There was his ridiculous 79-yard run against Washington, when USC tamed the Huskies something VICIOUS in the Coliseum. He ended the season with more than 1,000 yards, and was easily the most dynamic running back I got to see during my time at USC.

And of course, there was quarterback Matt Barkley’s stand out season. Barkley finally grew into the USC quarterback he was born to be, and it was a real treat getting to see him do it. We saw him develop from a quarterback who was shaky on the road—the Trojans REALLY dropped the ball this year when they went to ASU, and Barkley had one of his worst games, like, ever—to one who could rally the troops whenever, wherever. He led USC into three bowl games this season—Notre Dame, Stanford, and Oregon—and emerged victorious in two of them. He played with ice water in his veins in a manner that I hadn’t seen since USC/Ohio State in 2009, when he led the squad to victory as a true freshman. He finished the season with 3538 yards, 39 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, giving him one of the best QB stat lines in the nation. Barkley really made a case for himself as an NFL-ready quarterback this season, but I—like the rest of Trojan nation—really want him to come back and lead the team to The Natty next season.

Beyond the solo performances, there were many games this season that I will never forget—Stanford, Oregon, and UCLA to name a few. In my entire time at USC, I have never felt a more electric, chaotic, crazy intense atmosphere in the Coliseum than when USC faced Stanford this season. Seeing the Wall of Troy put Andrew Luck on his butt repeatedly, and watching him get up like he didn’t want to play anymore was SO satisfying. Even though USC lost, they did so valiantly, and it was then that the rest of the country had to start giving USC respect, something that no one outside of LA likes to do. Likewise, going into Oregon and beating the Ducks at their own game—matter of fact, just beating the Ducks PERIOD—after a nearly eight-year drought in the state of Oregon, was a feeling I will never forget. Getting to be on the other side of a BCS upset after seeing the national championship slip away from my team because of teams like Oregon so many times was just fantastic. And reminding the nation that fancy-schmancy uniforms and athletic facilities don’t mean a darn thing if you don’t have titles to back it up is something else that USC accomplished in that win.

As a USC student and Trojan Family member, from the day you accept your admittance to USC, you are taught one thing: UCLA sucks. A huge part of welcome week as a freshmen, and a variety of other USC events are tailored around remind the student body that the Bruins are public-enemy number one. So naturally, when USC and UCLA face each other and USC wins, it’s a great day for Trojan Nation. But this year, this year it was different. This year, USC gave UCLA one of the swiftest, most aggressive, most arrogant beat downs in the history of beat downs. And that’s saying something, because USC is known to put the hurting on teams, year in and year out. This was the last game in USC’s season, and they, in every sense of the phrase, went out with the bang.

And so did my student years in the Coliseum. Now, the sun has officially set on those days, and all I have are the fond memories over the years of what I got to witness. Of course, I will find the time in my post-student life to attend a game or two, and I am sure watching USC from the other side of the Coliseum will be a great experience.

But they will hardly hold a candle to the time a spent in the student section, going nuts with my friends whenever Barkley threw it deep and scored, or when a huge run happened, when the defense explosively stopped the other team from advancing the ball, or when the Pac-12 referees made a bad call—and since these are Pac-12 refs in question we all know this happened A LOT.

So if I had the opportunity to address the team as I transition from the fall semester to my last ever semester of college, I would tell them…a bunch of things.  I would tell them that ever dollar of the $165 I had to pay each year to watch them play in the Coliseum, and the hundreds of other dollars I spent seeing them on the road was worth it. I would tell them that the two years I got of the Lane Kiffin Era were just as exciting as the two years I got with Pete Carroll, though obviously for different reasons. I would tell them that I am not even the slightest bit disappointed that I was here during the “sanctioned years” because I was able to see what it really means to Fight On and Win Forever.

Lastly, I would thank them for putting on a great show for four years, and for all the memories. So, with that said: thank you, University of Southern California Trojan football team.

It’s been real.