Bumped - P
With a crowd of 15,515 filling the south seats of the Coliseum, the 2012 "Unfinished Business" football team took the field for USC's annual spring game. The thunderstorm that passed through SoCal last night left a windy but beautiful day for backups and underclassmen to prove their worth before a passionate crowd. Fans were allowed to watch the first half from behind the east goal posts, allowing the kids to catch some practice FG kicks from Andre Heidari and get some autographs from the team afterwards.
When Coach Kiffin blew the horn at the end of the game between the Cardinal Offense and the White Defense, it was the defense, a.k.a. "Team T.J." that came out on top. The USC secondary looked excellent, knocking down several passes and even giving Marqise Lee a hard time. Matt Barkley, after going 23/39 for 212 yards, and one TD and INT, told ESPNLA's Pedro Moura that the Trojans still have not reached their full potential as national contenders:
"Not yet," Barkley said. "Not anywhere close to that yet. We still have a lot of work to do to get there. Based off talent, you might say that, but there's a lot more that goes into that than talent."
May cause worry for some fans, but some encouragement for others. Kiffin has been stressing all spring to the players to focus on preparation and never dwell on their own hype, and I think that many players are sharing Barkley's feelings right now.
Details and notes on the game after the jump:
Here were the rules to the game:
-- Standard 15 minute quarters and traditional scoring for the offense. Aside from FG attempts, no special teams plays were used. If the defense forces a punt, the teams will switch sides and the offense will start the next drive 30 back from where the last drive ended. Matt Barkley, Cody Kessler, and Max Wittek took turns as QB.
-- Defense gets 3 points for a missed FG, forcing a punt, or a turnover on downs. Five points are awarded for an INT or fumble recovery, and seven points are awarded for a defensive TD or safety.
-- Semi-contact was enforced. Tackling was only used on running plays, while two-handed contact was ruled as a tackle in the open field.
Scoring was as follows:
On the offense:
Andre Heidari went 2/2 in FG attempts, making it from 28 and 47 yards. Redshirt sophomore D.J. Morgan scored in the first quarter with a 47 yard TD run. In the third quarter, Barkley threw a goal line toss to Marqise Lee for a TD. Finally, in the fourth, Cody Kessler threw a 44-yard pass to fullback Soma Vainuku. The Cardinal team was given one final drive to take the victory, but were stopped at midfield to give the defense the win.
Here are some additional notes on the game:
CB Isiah Wiley has been highly praised by the coaches for showing dramatic improvement this spring, and it showed at the spring game. He led the defense with five deflections and four tackles. He almost came up with a pick but dropped it at the last second, earning him some ribbing from T.J.
D.J. Morgan was named the MVP of the game by Kiffin, with six carried for 53 yards and a TD. After his ball-handling problems early this past season that sent him to the bench, his performance has improved this spring. With Marc Tyler gone and Tre Madden injured, he will be needed to take some of the load off of Curtis McNeal.
With Robert Woods still recovering and Rhett Ellison graduating in a few weeks, backup receivers took to the field to show their stuff. Lee received many passes from Barkley, but Wittek and Kessler began to develop connections with some of the lower strings. Xavier Grimble, the new starting TE for the Trojans, caught four passes for 73 yards, while junior WR De'Von Flournoy, who had spent much of spring off the field, caught seven for 69.
Kiffin still doesn't seem to be any closer to a decision regarding the backup QB situation. Cody Kessler went 3/6 for 68 yards and a TD and INT, while Max Wittek went 3/7 for 27 yards. Part of this may have been due to the weather. 10-12 mph winds messed up many of the passes thrown. This is also the first time both backups have played with any sort of a large audience present. Regardless, Kiffin praised the poise of both Kessler and Wittek, and it seems that he may not make his final decision until the week before the Hawaii game.
Off the field, several Trojan legends came to sign autographs and speak to the players, including Marcus Allen, Junior Seau, Ronnie Lott, Keyshawn Johnson, Anthony Munoz, Sam Cunningham, Tony Boselli, and Wille McGinest.
USC was also using the spring practice to audition several announcers for the new PA job. Pat Haden has been considering replacing long time PA man Dennis Packer, and one of the candidates is Eric Smith, the current announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dr. Bartner announced last week that regardless whether or not a new PA man is chosen, Packer will remain at USC to be the pre-game and halftime announcer for the Trojan Marching Band.
There's still 128 days to go until the 2012 campaign begins, and there's still a lot of things to fix, but with young talent starting to appear in the defense and talented backups ready to go at a moment's notice, there's a lot of hope that the Trojans will be able to live up to the hype and make it all the way to Miami in January.