USC football: Studs and duds from the Trojans’ upset loss to BYU

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
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Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /


USC secondary

The USC secondary took big steps as the game went on last week against Stanford. As the opponent’s talent level begins to rise the deeper they get into the season, it was going to be interesting how fast they would be able to correct their mistakes.

Unfortunately, against BYU it was a lot of the same mistakes they made against Stanford that were showing up. The slot corner, boundary corner and the safety walking up into the box have to do a better job of tackling. There were quite a few instances where Chase Williams, Isaiah Pola-Mao and Talanoa Hafanga simply did not make tackles on the outside runs and in short-yardage.

The defensive line and linebackers did a solid job defending their gaps and making plays where they could. However, in any defense there are just going to be times when the outside defender is going to have to make a tackle and USC’s secondary needs to do a better job of it.

The secondary’s problems didn’t just begin and end with run support either. There were issues with the passing defense as well. Some of the issues are on defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast because three games into the season it is becoming clear dropping the umbrella on third-and-long is not going to be as safe a choice for this young secondary as it might be for other teams.

I also understand that man coverage is the safest to play with a young secondary as well. However, there are too many jump ball situations and back shoulder plays being given up. Worst of all, too many are not great throws or catches, once that could be defended if the defensive back got their head around.

They’re young and learning, but the secondary is going to face better and more accurate quarterbacks in the coming weeks. That’s a worry.

Graham Harrell

Two out of three games and it’s starting to look like some of the initial concerns that we have had with Harrell and his Air Raid system were valid.

Week 1 against Fresno State it looked like the defense had adjusted to the initial game plan and the USC offense struggled to get back into a rhythm most of the second half.

Week 2 against Stanford, everything was working and there was nothing to adjust to.

Against BYU in Week 3, it seemed it took the Cougars one series to decide that they were going to drop as many defenders as possible into zone coverage and force Slovis to be accurate on every pass. There was no adjustment made by Harrell either. When BYU was practically begging USC to run inside, USC would run outside zone. When the defense would see the inside run coming USC would happily oblige and smash it right into the pinched-down defensive linemen.

In the passing game, if there’s so much zone, could USC get some bubble screens? There are playmakers on the outside, and BYU was giving a cushion advantage. I understand counting the numbers and taking what the defense gives you, that’s fine. But, there needs to be some times throughout the game where Harrell schemes something up with this talent to take more than what the defense is giving. Some times on offense you need to be able to dictate to the defense what’s going to happen. USC didn’t show that ability Saturday.

Kedon Slovis

I absolutely do not want to hear anything about a true freshman making his first road start or any other typical loser couching. USC and the coaching staff told us this was the guy who was good enough to be second on the depth chart. The full playbook was at his disposal, and they trusted him completely. Today he was bad, flat out. He forced passes into windows that weren’t there and made a few bad reads on RPOs.

If USC’s coaching staff is going to continue to trust in this system and this quarterback, I am not going to afford Slovis any of the wiggle room I would normally give a true freshman quarterback. Still, Harrell absolutely didn’t help Slovis out at all or try to make the reads easy on him. BYU played zone and USC responded by running crossing routes like it was facing man. There was no flooding of the zone to give Slovis any easy reads.

If this system is about execution, Slovis didn’t execute, and they need him to be better. This was the last game even resembling something easy for the next few weeks.