USC football: What went wrong for the Trojans vs. Oregon

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images /

USC football turned in their worst performance of the season, losing to Oregon 56-24 at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

USC football went into Saturday’s game against Oregon with an opportunity to make a huge statement. Instead, the team played like they had enough, while the coaches made a strong case none of them should be back on Monday.

Let’s talk through some observations from USC’s 56-24 loss to Oregon.

Not finishing off drives killed USC

It was another week when USC comes out hot, clearly executing the script they have been practicing all week, and jump out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. But it has become painfully clear when the end of that script hits because the offense sputters out. Tonight was a night when USC could not afford to sputter, but that is all they did.

They got into the red zone multiple times, and too often came away with absolutely nothing. You need to be able to run the ball in the red zone, and at multiple points, USC looked like they had no intention of even trying. They have been without their first three tailbacks for two weeks now. If you couldn’t use the last two weeks of practice to get someone ready to the point where he could tote it 20 times, then you do not need to be a coach at USC, plain and simple.

Special teams reared its ugly head

When it looks like USC was going to claw their way back into the game at the half, the decision not to squib kick the ball, and the subsequent back-breaking kick return, proved to be a poor coaching move by special team coordinator John Baxter. It was another nail in the Trojans’ coffin.

Helton had his opportunity

This was Helton’s shot to step up to the plate — his seat was on fire while a new athletic director is on the horizon, with a potential replacement in the FOX studio covering the game— and silence his detractors. Instead, he struck out looking.

There was no imagination on offense and multiple turnovers. He was constantly putting his talented team in position to fail. The one redeeming trait Helton has had is that his team has always fought for him. But instead of giving them the tools to make the fight easier, he asked them for more and more of themselves until the team’s bodies finally just broke down around him.

If Saturday night said anything, it was a clear statement Helton’s time at USC has run its course.

Oh, the Pac-12 Refs

Someone needs to tell the Pac-12 officials no one came to watch them officiate. Sure, they got the two targeting penalties right, but there was terrible inconsistency on the roughing the quarterback calls. And I don’t know when it became OK for a safety to just trip a receiver at the top of his route, downfield, with the ball in the air.