The hard truth right now is that the defense really isn't improving like we would expect them to.
For the second week in a row the defense let an opposing offense march down the field for the walk off score. As I said last night...that USC was even in this game against a ranked team, on the road and being a 10-point underdog shows the team has some mettle.
The offense showed its potency last night. Lane Kiffin showed he can call a pretty good game. Execution on some plays could have been better but it is hard to complain about the Barkley/Woods performance. I can see where some will criticize Lane's clock management. It hasn't been stellar and we saw a few questionable decisions last night.
But the defense is killing USC. Even though there was some minor improvements the overall product is bad.
After a few hours of sleep and after reviewing the numerous post-game write-ups it safe to assume a few things.
1) Chris Galippo needs to see the field more. He made a number of plays including causing the fumble that got USC the ball to go down for the final score. On the flip side, his personal foul penalty on the final drive gave Stanford the opportunity they needed to win the game.
2) The Devon Kennard experiment at MLB just isn't working. 'SC needs to get the best talent on the field at all times while saving a few talented players in reserve to rotate out. Moving Kennard either back to DE or at another LB spot to take advantage of athletic skill would be better than keeping him at MLB.
3) Jawanza Starling needs to sit for a bit. I don't like bashing these kids but he just isn't giving USC any competitive advantage in the secondary. USC may not have given up a long pass play like they did against UW but his lack of defense really hurt us lat night. He was either out of position or couldn't make a play when it was needed.
4) As much as I liked to see Michael Morgan flying around the field he made some bone head plays as well. Morgan gives us some play making scenarios even if he makes a bone head play here and there.
5) Finally, it is time for Monte Kiffin to hang it up. Blasphemy to some I know, but after six games this defense isn't getting any better. I know the Tampa 2 takes a little time to learn but I am now beginning to think that message just isn't getting through. The lack of tackling is frustrating but that is a different problem than what we are seeing right now. Players are still missing assignments and look lost out there...that tells me that the message is either not getting through or is simply garbled. Has Monte lost his edge? The guy is in his 70's and has forgotten more about football than any 20 people combined, but if the message isn't simplified let alone not getting through I don't care how great you were/are. Its almost like he is missing things...small pieces to the puzzle that could make this all come together.
Lane is in a tough situation here...I mean come on its his dad.
Even though there seems to be a communication gap or even questions about the level of talent, this is not the same defensive unit from last year as some think...in fact far from it!
Everyone should recognize the loss of 8 players from 2008 who were drafted, but we also had these losses from last year(due to draft, transfers, injuries):
6 DBs are not playing (and 4 of those were among the top 6 leading tacklers last year - missed tackles anyone?....) Plus we had one underclassmen transfer, and had last year's 2nd string free safety go down with a year-ending injury).
4 DLs are not playing, including 3 former starters (1 drafted, 1 graduated/NFL free agent signee, 1 transfered, 1 injured. Included in this are 2 of the top 3 tacklers on the DL from last year). Not to mention our current sack/TFL leader has been injured the past 2 games.
And 4 backup LBs are not here (one of whom started several games last year, and likely would be starting this year if he was cleared to play, plus 2 transfers, and one graduating 5-star who saw a decent amount of time when he wasn't injured/ineligible).
We're missing 14 guys from last year's team that either were in the 1st-2nd string or would have been 1st-2nd string this year had they stayed or not been injured. (And we replaced those losses with exactly.......6 new defensive players....7 if you count we switched a tight-end to D).
So, that's means we have 7 guys starting full-time for the first time this year!!! Not to mention the fact that among 2 of our starting LBs, 1 has now played about 10 games at LB (in his whole life) and the other has now started about 20 games at LB in his whole life.
Hard not to disagree with this. Of course there will be some growing pains but you would expect a little more progress and development. The message is simply not getting through.
If you compare this team to the one Carroll last coached, the one which lost three of their last six games and two of their last three at the Coliseum, including 27-point and 34-point losses to Oregon and Stanford respectively, this team has improved drastically. It’s understandable to want to compare this team to Carroll’s squads which won the conference and went to a BCS bowl for seven straight years but that’s simply not the team Carroll left Kiffin with and certainly not the one Kiffin will be fielding for the next four years while the program is on probation for infractions which took place on Carroll’s watch.
So USC lost to Washington on a last second field goal last week. The same thing happened last year with Carroll coaching a team which was ranked third in the country at the time.
So USC lost to Stanford on a last second field goal this week. It’s certainly an improvement over last season’s 55-21 debacle, which were the most points ever scored against USC.
And people want to chide me about "moral victories"?
To me, being on the right track means 'SC would have stopped either of the two final drives. It would have meant that the defense would have made some key plays throughout the game. It would have meant a reduction in bad penalties.
The struggles of the USC defense are wasting some pretty special performances. Freshman receiver Robert Woods (224 receiving yards) is emerging as one of the most dangerous play makers in the nation. Barkley has become one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and probably won't get a peep of Heisman support this year.
It's all getting snowed under by a defense that either can't grasp defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's schemes or just isn't very good. It certainly isn't very fast. Just imagine what Oregon is going to do at the Coliseum in a few weeks.
As I outlined above, I think the problems are pretty clear...
The past is the past. This about the here and now. 'SC was in a position win against UW and Stanford. I will take that over being blown out with no hope like last year against Stanford and Oregon but we have to get to the next level.
We have to close the deal.
We have to go for the kill shot and finish these teams off.
What's it going to take???