That was better. It wasn't perfect. It certainly wasn't a 2008 drubbing of Washington State. But everything considered, USC built upon its previous September performances and took advantage of an inferior Cougar team, winning by a score of 50-16. In turn, there are many reasons to be satisfied, mainly this: Lane Kiffin's bunch is 4-0. Undefeated after an offseason in which Heritage Hall embodied Murphy's Law. For the first time since 2007, they won a Pac-10 opener. So yes, I'll drink to that.
In it of itself, Saturday's contest with Washington State wasn't groundbreaking. Nobody is going to confuse WSU as an upper-echelon Pac-10 opponent. They have their own set of problems. A porous offensive line. A nonexistent running game. A slow footed defense. As a result, 'SC tallied a season-high 613 yards of total offense. Scoring 50-points against a team coached by Paul Wulff isn't exactly going to win over the pollsters.
But in a year were the expectations don't match those of the Carroll era, it's easy to find many positives, as WeAreSC.com notes a few of the highlights:
* Stanley Havili was the big play man of the day with four rushes for 80 yards with one score and five catches for 107 yards and a score.
* Matt Barkley was 16 of 25 for 290 with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
* Three Trojan tailbacks had over 75 yards rushing, led by Allen Bradford with 84 yards.
In the end, the only statline that really matters is the final score of 50-16. Such a vintage-2005 point total was exactly what this program needed. It's time to start building up the perception that USC isn't a dead-man walking. For the past few months, so many media members and everyday college football fans have written this bunch off in the wake of the sanctions. What we've learned so far is that may not be the case after all.
If September reveals anything, it's that Troy isn't crumbling. It's not completely sunny in SoCal either, but there are certainly many reasons to believe that USC can still be an annual Pac-10 contender even while sanctioned.
In today's game for instance, the three turnovers were excessive, but they all came in the first half. In the final thirty minutes, however, they dominated while also squashing the turnover bug. It may not have been perfect, but USC played one of its most consistent games of the year. It made mistakes, but corrected them. For a young team with a new coaching staff, that's something any fan can be content with.
But the party won't last long. The Trojans will now begin a tough stretch of conference games. At home against a Steve Sarkisian-coached Washington team that beat 'SC a year ago in Seattle. A roadtrip to the Bay Area to face undefeated Stanford, followed by home dates against Cal and Oregon. Yes, it's time to put on the big boy pants.
Thus far, they've taken advantage of playing teams with inferior talent. But over the course of October, it won't be afforded such an opportunity. Things will become noticeably more challenging. Yet, an undefeated month of September is reason enough to celebrate after a near-hellish offseason in which seemingly everything went wrong.
So for the time being, enjoy this one.