There are a lot of different opinions on last nights win. All the message boards and pundits are all over the map on what happened or what should have happened. I am ecstatic about the win, I really thought that SC was going to lose this game and had the defense as a whole and Taylor Mays specifically not made a number of impressive plays SC would have lost this game. You take the good with the bad and while a close game that led to a victory might be a character builder there were some things that should still be a concern for this team.
On a warm, clear Saturday evening in the desert, the Trojans outlasted Arizona, 17-10, and stayed in contention for a berth in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
USC entered the game No. 5 in the BCS standings, a position that is not likely to change with Texas, Alabama, Penn State and Oklahoma also winning on Saturday.
But the Trojans improved to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the Pacific 10 Conference with their fourth consecutive victory since a Sept. 25 upset loss at Oregon State.
"It feels good to get a gutty victory like this and to come through in the very end just in the nick of time," Sanchez said.
The victory was USC's first this season by fewer than 28 points.
"We needed a fight, and that's what it was," receiver Damian Williams said. "We needed to know what it felt like to win a close game."
Lets gets this out of the way first. It would appear at first glance that USC, provided they win out, will not make the BCS Title game. Penn State's win over Ohio State pretty much assures that they will finish the season undefeated and without SC winning pretty last night don't expect a lot of love from the polls.
Looking at it again this morning Mark Sanchez had an average game. I have also seen written else where that he was effective, I guess you can call it that. I said he had a good but not great game last night but he simply did not command the team the way he should have. He made some bad decisions in trying to make the big play when the sure thing was right in front of him. Sanchez could have over come some "interesting" play calling had he simply took care of business that he could control. The pick he threw in the first half was clearly telegraphed and the DB jumped the route. Sanchez knows better, I can accept some mistakes as no one is ever mistake free but when coupled with poor throws it magnifies those types of mistakes and makes people wonder about how well he is progressing.
On third-and-one from the Arizona 36, throwing the ball to the end zone when the field is wide open in front of you for a sure first down does not show good decision making. If Sanchez takes the sure thing that drive is extended and SC probably gets some points, instead SC is forced to punt and Woidneck shanks it. Sanchez also had some issues with overthrowing some of his receivers and the usually sure-handed Damian Williams dropped some passes that could have extended drives but he also he also made some good catches as well.
I also saw elsewhere that this is only Mark Sanchez's 10th start so he still may need to work out some kinks. I am not buying it...if not now when? He will be a senior next year, its not like he's a sophomore with a lot games still to play. He has three years under his belt in this offense so now its time that he started to make decisions that reflect that experience. For the most part smart decision making will overcome average play calling.
The running game was great! Stafon Johnson and Stanley Havili did an awesome job of picking up some great yards on the ground and in the air though Havili living on the side line for most of the game cost him an illegal touching penalty but he also completely blew past the Arizona secondary for what would be the winning TD. Stafon Johnson really had the best game on offense gaining a total of 83 yards on 19 carries. So while there were some nice performances in my eyes it wasn't enough. With Arizona's Antolin knocked out the game they Arizona offense became much more one dimensional. USC's offense can't continue to expect the defense to bail them out all the time, they need to make the most of their opportunities and put points on the board with smart decision making.
Sarkisian is an easy target with some of play calling we saw last night. SC ws doing pretty good running the ball so why not continue to pound it in order to wear down the Arizona defense earlier. The whole explanation on that run on 3rd and 7 definitely shows me that Sarkisian still has a way to go before he can sit at the big boy table, the reasoning on that play makes you scratch your head at the least.
Here's the explanations for the worst call of the night, the third-and-seven run that lost two yards and forced USC to punt.
``We were trying to make yards and wanted to go for it on fourth down,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said.
Said offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian: ``We were planning to go for it on fourth down and get yards and I thought we called a good run.''
Hey...how about going for it on 3rd down? That was a clear passing play and if its incomplete the difference between the two plays is only a few yards and you still need to punt. I can see the reasoning as the running game was doing OK but when coupled with throwing on running plays when you could have worn down their defense some more just makes the play calling look, well...interesting.
Penalties are still an issue especially that sideline interference call that was made on the last play of game could have been a big deal. SC once again was flagged for some stupid personal-foul penalties.
We hear so much about the talent on this team but there are times that they just seem to play average football on a whole. The defense has more than done their share but the offense still sputters and IT DOES have to do with coaching. There is no way Sarkisian called a good game last night.
Average maybe, good doubtful.
That explanation above about going for it on 4th down shows that Sarkisian is trying to think like Norm Chow. This is not pool where you are thinking three or four shots ahead. Sarkisian may have learned some things from the master but he still needs to get basics down. When the talent is firing on all cylidrs it hides the deficiencies that are always there but when the talent sputters or does an average job those deficiencies move front and center.
Provided SC wins out, it would appear that we are headed to another Rose Bowl with all the talent on the team that would appear, at least to me, that we continue to fall short of expectations. There is a pretty good chance that SC will play Ohio State again if they don't make the title game and even though tOSU lost last night to Penn State this a much improved team and they will want some pay back from September 30th.
Washington comes to town next Saturday so I would expect SC to feast on really bad UW team.
So, we move on after this close win and we get ready for the home stretch.