USC Football: Studs and duds from the Pac-12 Championship Game

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USC special teams

When things go wrong in football, it is difficult to judge if it’s coaching or execution. However, when a problem persists for a long period, it’s no longer a debate. Coaching is dead square in the crosshairs.

While USC’s gadget punt return was the difference two weeks ago against UCLA, special teams have been an issue all season long and especially in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

If Ajene Harris is not catching punts, then he needs to be coached on how or what to do. Against Notre Dame, Jack Jones was used in his place while being known to muff a few.

Special teams coach John Baxter needs to be able to coach players up, or find a group who can get it done. Simple things cannot haunt a team all season long, and that’s just on punt return.

Fetishizing heart and grit

Football is a violent game. There is no way around that. However, what was extremely difficult to watch Friday night was the Stanford Cardinal run tailback Bryce Love into the ground. While announcers opine on and on about toughness, heart, and grit, a young man was putting himself through hell.

What Love tried to do was honorable, but where are the adults? When a player cannot hold on to the football because the pain from being tackled is too excruciating, he needs to be saved from himself.

Instead, they’re relying on him to say when he can and cannot handle carries. Anyone who has ever been in competition knows how hard it is to come out, never mind in a championship game. How can you honestly expect him to give a straight answer about his ability to play?

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Stephen Carr

The Trojans’ freshman running back missed a lot of time with a foot injury this season. However, one problem Stephen Carr has had is putting the ball on the ground. Unfortunately for USC, that bad habit reared its ugly head in Santa Clara.

Despite seven carries for 42 yards and a few key blocks on big plays. Carr’s night will forever be marred by the fumble that almost broke USC’s back. For his sake, he’ll hope he has that figured out by the bowl game and next season, because Ronald Jones is most likely going pro.

Pac-12 Refs

Not to spend too much time on this, but come on. How naive was it to think the Pac-12 conference game was going to be about the two teams on the field. Instead, it turned into a showcase for the conference’s officials and how everything under the sun gets called.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott needs to take a long hard look at this. There have to be some places where they can tighten up the definition of fouls so the referees don’t spend all night in front of the camera.