Troy Talk: USC vs. Stanford Pac-12 Championship grades
I thought I could smell the roses. It has been too long since I have come across that beautiful scent. Looks like Trojan fans will have to wait another year for a Rose Bowl berth, or even something greater. The Trojans finished the regular season at a disappointing 8-5, but it could have been a lot worse. I believe it is time to call this season and wash and focus on next season. That seems to be Coach Clay Helton’s mindset as well as he has already fired multiple coaches, keeping only Tee Martin, Marques Tuiasosopo, Peter Sirmon, Johnny Nansen, and Ivan Lewis for next year’s staff. Key positions such as defensive and offensive coordinator have yet to be filled. Some Trojans are clamoring for Coach Clancy Pendergast back for the defense. Others want a new face that will bring relentless aggression full of the blitzing that Justin Wilcox failed to show on a consistent basis. For the offensive coordinator position I want someone who brings a hard-nose run-first offense. I want us to get as close to the west coast offense utilizing the slants, crossing routes, and middle of the field just as we used to. We now have a very talented wide receiver class coming in for 2016, assuming the recruits stay the course. Expect the likes of Tyler Vaughns, Josh Imatorbhebhe, and Michael Pittman to make a splash next year. But that is another article that may or may not be written! Now let’s focus on the whooping we took at the hands of Stanford on Saturday.
- A very good performance all things considered. Cody Kessler started off very slow as did the rest of the team. But there were some confident throws from Kessler. He took the hits from an aggressive Stanford defense and got right back up. He utilized JuJu Smith-Schuster as he always does, but also Steven Mitchell and Darreus Rogers on some quick intermediate routes. I hope this is the offense Helton lets Max Browne run next year. Rumor has it that Max Browne throws a killer deep ball, so expect the play action to be very effective next year. Kessler gets a B just for the fact that he actually kept the ball on a read option and scored. What a time to be alive.
Running Backs: A-
It is a great sign to see our running backs having so much success. Justin Davis kicked it into a whole different gear toward the end of the season. Coach Helton’s confidence seems to have transcended into Davis’s play. If he continues this type of running, expect a breakout season next year; a consistent season. One that Davis has lacked since he came to USC. Ronald Jones II showed flashes of brilliance as well. The two-headed monster next year will be something to watch out for. If we can establish these two backs, we can have our version of thunder and lightning. Except it’s more like a reliable Ford and a Tesla.
Wide Receivers: B
JuJu Smith-Schuster is an incredible player, but he can’t let his emotions get the best of him in big games. He plays out of character when he lets the opposing team get under his skin. If he can utilize it as motivation and not frustration, he could hit another level that opposing teams won’t want to face. I really enjoyed the use of Steven Mitchell on the short slant passes. We need to utilize his speed more if we want to get the most out of his skill set. Darreus Rogers has become more of a consistent target and his hands will be a tremendous asset next year.
Offensive Line: B-
It really wasn’t that bad. Nico Falah continued his solid performance on the offensive line as fourth string center. However, Falah missed one key block that swung the momentum of the game as Stanford sacked Kessler and scooped and scored. It was bound to happen. However, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Kessler has had decent time the past couple weeks. The running backs also continue to find holes thanks to the impressive pulls of offensive guards like Damien Mama and even the center Falah.
Defensive Line: D
This was the first line of defense against the Wild Caff (Christian McCaffrey). Needless to say our troops couldn’t handle the tank that was McCaffrey. Well, he was more like an all-purpose vehicle that shredded anything our defense through at him. We needed the performance of a lifetime and the offensive line just manhandled our line all game. Granted, I think Stanford gets away with a lot of holding calls. That doesn’t take away from the fact that they just outperformed us in every sense. Kevin Hogan didn’t start throwing until the second half, but there was absolutely no pressure on him on crucial downs. A largely inconsistent performance from a group that has bred inconsistency all year.
I can’t put too much of the blame on the linebackers for McCaffrey’s record setting day. They were meeting him 6 yards passed the line of scrimmage and it is hard to one-on-one tackle that man in the open field. I would have preferred a little more consistency on hitting the gaps in run support, but that might be a bit much to ask for with such a young group. One of the key plays of the game actually came on pass coverage as Buddah Tucker was put one on one with McCaffrey. The Wild Caff ran an angle route and Tucker didn’t stand a chance. The little mistakes cause the biggest plays.
I thought this game was Adoree’s best in coverage. He showed his dominant recovery speed on multiple occasions and was physical in hitting the receivers on time. However, it was all for naught as the run game was all Stanford needed. I would have liked to see better run support from our safeties. Marvell Tell saw time and I thought he would thrive in this hard hitting game. However, he was a little too aggressive and missed some fundamental plays. I really like his potential though and I hope to see a lot from him next year. Behind Su’a of course. I always forget to mention him in linebackers. Maybe because he will always be a safety to me.
Special Teams: B-
Big ups to Alex Wood for hitting a big field goal to give USC some points in the first half. Matt Boermeester continues to do a solid job on kickoff duty as well. However, Kris Albarado’s terrible punt once again gave a dangerous return man a great return. That set up Stanford to score and really put us in a terrible position. Hopefully the Aussie Chris Tilbey performs better next year.
We almost had it ladies and gentleman. This could have been our first Rose Bowl since I entered high school. In a week I’ll be done with college. We are long overdue for a big bowl game. I have faith next season. Something is different. I feel like Helton isn’t trying too hard like our last coaches. I think we have great potential at the quarterback position. We always have the talent at the skill positions. The defense needs to be shored up with a new coordinator, but we have talent there as well. Mark my words, if we beat ‘Bama next year we will win the National Championship. First we have to beat a solid Wisconsin team that likes to run it. They have a tough defense that limits opponents to an obscenely low 13 points a game. Hopefully we can stretch the field and utilize the play action pass for some big plays.
Prediction: USC 31- Wisconsin 24