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The Signs Were There

This may be a bit of a rehash of some other things I wrote but the local papers make some interesting observations that bear repeating.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that SC was not all that the hype was making us out to be. Everyone talked about how the game plan against Idaho was vanilla on purpose so as to not tip our hand towards Nebraska. There may be some truth to that but does anyone really believe that was the only reason we looked less than sharp?

We saw some of this last season though the defense and the solid play Jarrett and Smith kept us on the winning side of things. The loss to Stanford has made us all take a second look at just how much this team has progressed or regressed depending on your point of view. I think its pointless to relive last season because we ended on a high note by beating Michigan, though we could have been in the BSC Title game.

It is easy to point to Booty as a major problem as he is the captain of the ship when comes to the team on the field and while we have discussed it in detail in other threads the notion that he is the sole reason for the loss on Saturday would be incorrect as there were of course other factors that led to the outcome of the game.

As I said yesterday when things are going great no one really looks at the flaws lurking below the surface. But also as we did yesterday in asking questions of the coaching staff others in the media are doing the same and they are looking at what could be construed as a pattern mediocrity.

...winning has a strange way of masking subtle problems within a program.

When USC was on top of its game -- the Carson Palmer-Mike Williams to Reggie Bush-Matt Leinart era -- the Trojans were a smooth-running machine. Players were fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball and the Trojans' coaching staff showed a great knack for having the team well-prepared for whatever an opponent tried.

However, once Carroll began to lose veteran coaches from his staff -- offensive coordinator Norm Chow and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron left after the 2004 season -- USC's dominant game began to show cracks.

From dropped passes to missed blocks to poor tackling to ill-advised penalties, the Trojans have displayed the same type of basic shortcomings that most college football programs have suffered through over the last two-plus seasons.

Just look back to some of the games in which USC struggled but still escaped with victories. Fresno State in 2005, Arizona State, Washington State and Washington last season and the Huskies again this year.

When a team at USC's level experiences tough games once in a while, they are wake-up calls. But when they occur almost every other week, normally that's a sign of trouble.

It is clear that SC may have been living off of its laurels and that chicken appears to have come home to roost. To me it is glaring not to have hired adequate replacements to replace the assistants that that went on to other opportunities. Even more glaring is not even having all the coaching slots filled, as is the case with special teams. SC has been accused of arrogance in the past and for the most part they have either brushed it aside or backed it up on the field, but when you have numerous problems on special teams and no coach to specifically address those issues that is a recipe for disaster.

That arrogance also explains why the team seemed to take Stanford lightly in their planning for the game. They did the same thing with Idaho. Pete Carroll has always been known for his intensity and his "leave no doubt" persona so I'm surprised that the game prep for both Stanford and Idaho was taken so lightly.

I will not question play calling because I'm not in the meetings or on the sidelines but when it comes out that Booty has an injured finger on his throwing hand and Sark calls 3 straight passing plays what do you expect me to think. USC is NOT on the job training. Sark may have been trained and coached by Norm Chow but he is far from ever being Norm Chow, his "mistake" in the play calling cost SC the game.

In Pete Carroll's after game roundtable it was determined that the running game has to be established in order to set up the passing lanes. I could have told them that, that's football 101, establish the run to set up the pass. Duh!! So why not try new things in the running game like giving Allen Bradford a shot. We have all heard how great he does in practice and it appears by what we have read that he has the right attitude so why not try that? The decision to go away from using Havili is really no different than not having him in the line up at all. Yes, he made some mistakes but so has Patrick Turner and he continues to be in the mix. So, to me going away from Havili is counter productive, if Booty can play through his mistakes why not Havili?

Scott Wolf has been putting up some great things the last few days but as I said last night Scott Wolf the alum is pissed and it shows in Scott Wolf the reporter's write ups and once again he asks about a very plausible theory:

Being A Bad Guy

Here's a theory: Last night someone at USC told me there needed to be more "bad guys'' on the coaching staff willing to call out players.

That reminded me former offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin might have served a purpose after all. Remember last year when he took wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett to task after the Arkansas game for his lethargic play?

"We really challenged him (last) week and embarrassed him to get him going,'' Kiffin said.

I would agree that some of these players need to have someone get in their faces and Booty needs to get in the faces of those on the offense who are not performing up to standards.

This a big wake up call for some of us who either weren't concerned about these issues or simply didn't care. Hopefully the program will get back on track with this kick in the ass and refocus on the fundamentals and get back to what has made this program so great. The sky is not falling and its not the end of the world, as SC could once again find itself back in the hunt for a major bowl appearance.