Defense Remains Primary Issue for USC

HONOLULU - SEPTEMBER 2: Quarterback Bryant Moniz #17 of the University of Hawaii Warriors is surrounded by the University of Southern California Trojans while he runs the ball during first half action at Aloha Stadium September 2 2010 in Honolulu Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

It's been a few days since 'SC's opening win on the road against Hawaii, which essentially means two things. One, we've had the opportunity to go around town talking about how our football team won a game. After the past eight months, that was certainly a welcomed change. Two, we now supposedly have a better perspective after we've be able to let Thursday night fully digest.

So, let me set the record straight: the defense sucked Thursday night. It gave up nearly 600 yards of total offense to a middle of the road WAC team. It couldn't tackle. It's couldn't cover the opposing receivers. Even more irritating was the fact that some dude by the name of Bryan Moniz passed for over 250 yards. None of the events that transpired were particularly comforting. In fact, ESPNLA even graded the defensive performance with an F, and it's tough to feel a whole lot differently:

Kiffin said during training camp that he planned to turn USC's linebackers from a "weakness to a strength." That didn't happen as the Trojans looked overmatched in that area, especially in pass coverage. Hawaii outgained USC by more than 50 yards on the night.

Even our normally cheery Julio Nievas was a little down on the Trojans as well.

Here is a suggestion for USC fans getting some digs from friends about Thursday night's USC lackluster victory over the Hawaii Warriors. Don't play the "this is only the first game" card.

As much as I want to play it myself, I can't help but understand the fact that the USC secondary is an inexperienced youthful bunch. Hawaii's quarterbacks did a great job at exposing the secondary with the help of experienced receivers running excellent routes. Three Warriors receivers garnered more than 100 receiving yards with senior Kealoha Pilares racking up the most of the three with 176 yards.

And the disgust with the defense is perfectly understandable. They didn't play well at all. In turn, they should be criticized, and nobody really needs to be cutting them slack in regards to Thursday night.

However, that doesn't mean the D is going to be putrid for the remaining 12 games of the season. Granted, it may not revert back to 2008 form, but the struggles against Hawaii don't necessarily mean that the team is going be dismal defensively for the rest of the year. One game is not necessarily indicative of the entire season, especially a season opener.

More after the jump.

The idea that season openers aren't the best indicator of season-long success isn't a particularly foreign concept. ESPN's Ted Miller raised a similar point, regarding season openers, on Friday.

Mitch from Salem, Ore., writes: After seeing USC and their "green" secondary, and overall poor defense against Hawaii, do you still see them as a PAC-10 contender? Their offense was good, but I attribute that to a poor Hawaii defense.

Ted Miller: That's a fair point, but I can't think much about it because I'm still stuck on how terrible Oregon looked at Boise State last year. Or how the Ducks nearly lost at home to Purdue the following week. That team has no hope and Chip Kelly is clearly above his head as a head coach.

Oregon won the Pac-10 and Kelly won conference Coach of the Year in 2009? Oh.

Here's an oldie but a goodie: Florida State lost its 1988 opener 31-0 to Miami.

And then went 11-1.

My point: Openers are strange things. They sometimes reveal weaknesses that will be season-long issues. And they sometimes provide powerful teachable moments for teams trying to find themselves. And they sometimes don't mean jack, one way or the other.

That's the right mindset to have going into next week's contest against Virginia. Was the defense bad against Hawaii? Absolutely. Is it a serious problem? Of course. Is it fixable? Oh yea.

There's no need to overreact and go ballistic. Things tend to even out. Just based on the law averages, it's more than reasonable to assume that USC probably isn't going to give up 588 yards of total offense every game. Same goes for teams like Florida, which had its own fair share of struggles over the weekend as well.

The Gators struggled to move the ball for most of the game against Miami (Ohio) - a team that went 1-11 a year ago. Does that mean John Brantley is a sub-par quarterback and the rest of the offensive unit is equally as poor? Not at all. They had a bad game. There's a good chance they'll improve down the stretch. One game isn't a very good sample size for either an offensive or defensive unit. It's really just 60 minutes. Come talk to me in early October, and we'll have a better idea of how things are going.

Luckily, Kiffin seems to be echoing similar thoughts as well.

"You don't want to jump and make any big conclusions off one game and start changing all the things you believe in," Kiffin told the media on Sunday.

As I said last week, it's tough to label this current 'SC team. There are a lot of unknows from the coaching staff to the players, and to external factors. Everything considered, I'm not going to rush to judgement. This defense could continue to struggle, or with a staff of Ed Orgeron and Monte Kiffin, it could straighten itself out. Who knows? We'll get a better idea when Pac-10 play begins in late September.

As for now...

FIGHT ON!

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