The detail, insight and overall quality of discussion that's occurred since the UW game has been enjoyable and educational. I'm not a football genius. I played HS football and was a pretty good WR on a mediocre team. I am a USC alum who went to every home game from 1984-1987. I live in Seattle and try to go to every SC game at WSU, UW, UO or OSU. I usually get seats between the 35-50 yd. line in row 7-11.
I have a really good view of everything including the players' and coaches' sideline actions and demeanor. Those are my only qualifications or lack thereof. Here's my view as someone who attended the UW game and it's kind of simple. For this game I was on the 40, row G, USC sideline. This is totally subjective. Especially my sideline notes - but I think that watching the sidelines gives insight at times.
The sky is not falling.
1) Our defense rocked, and was pumped the whole game. The line and the secondary. Talking, smiling, jumping, body slamming. They were IN to it! They were the USC defense we know and love. The way they contained Locker and Polk was impressive. Especially considering they didn't even have Taylor Mays. I saw no worries with our D. Our penetration was fine. Our secondary can stop most anyone.
2) Our running game was very good even with UW stacking the box. IF we had been able to pass the ball even in the most average way, our RBs would have shredded UW's line like water running through a sieve. The first quarter was indicative of our true ability, before Sark and Holt realized we were basically playing without a QB. Our running game still rocks.
3) Our offensive line is easily one of the best, for sure. Corp was really well protected. How Corp turned in such an amazingly bad performance when he had such great protection adds to the seriousness of Corp's limitations.
4) The rainy wet weather non-factor. It was really nice weather up here all week, it didn't rain until game day. So UW didn't get to practice in the rain. The game rain was neither heavy nor constant, only a slight drizzle once in a while. At one point there was a 10 minute stretch of minor rainfall, then it stopped completely. By the 4th quarter it was cloudy but no more rain. To wit: I brought a rain jacket to the game but I didn't ever need to put it on - I sat comfortably in short sleeves the entire game.
5) Fumbles: Admittedly this is an excuse BUT our RBs realized they were playing a Pac 10 opener basically without a quarterback. They were trying too damn hard pushing for every extra inch overdoing it and losing some focus on ball protection as a result. Stretching and twisting instead of cradling. Should they fumble? No. But in the UW game Corp's unbelievable ineptitude may have instilled a little bit of desperation in the RBs. As an aside for the most part the RBs stayed apart from Corp on the sidelines.
6) Penalties: we all know the tired storyline since 2005. When will it be fixed.
Pete: by mid-2nd quarter Pete had all but stopped his trademark energetic power pacing. He was walking the sidelines more slowly than usual. End of 1st half through most of 3rd quarter - most of the time his face was set in an angry or frustrated look. Most of 4th quarter - Pete's face was kind of blank and expressionless. He looked resigned to what was happening. Pete's interaction with coaches: less discussion with coaches than any PC-era SC game I've personally attended. PC stood alone more and left the coaches to themselves more.
PC had a lengthy discussion with officials over a couple of different penalties but he never got animated or yelled. Calm discussions. Once PC ran on to the field and huddled with the Defense during a TV time out and he seemed energetic for a few minutes, but Pete's energy seemed to disappear when the next play ended.
Bates: yes some discussions with Corp occurred, but not that much. Contrary to some reports, it wasn't like Bates was constantly trying to handhold Corp through the game. Bates did a lot of standing and watching quietly. Not a heck of a lot of talk with PC. He didn't talk hardly at all with Barkley. The rest of the coaching staff interacted with the players and each other in what could be termed as "normal" or "as expected" - the Defensive staff was very energetic like usual.
Corp: he was really just alone in his little hell that game. Bates had some conversations. But not many, fewer and fewer as game went on. PC barely talked to Corp. Teammates pretty much left him all alone save the occasional passing word with a pat on the back or helmet. Almost no "leader"-type interactions with his line or individual players, the spirit-boosting "come on troops!" stuff we've become used to from SC QBs including Barkley. Most of the 3rd and 4th quarter Corp hung his head and stared at the ground or crossed his arms and stared into space. Then when it was time to take the field a quick word from Bates and off Corp trotted. When Corp returned to the sidelines rarely did a coach go up to him to discuss the series that just finished! Just left him to stand there until the next series.
Barkley: sorry to disagree PC even though I love and trust ya, but Barkley was ready to go and was dying to play. In the 3rd Q he pulled his helmet on and never took it off. He was jumping, smiling, moving up and down the bench talking to everyone, slapping them on the pads, making them laugh. Pumping them up. He did his damndest to catch PC's and Bates' ears. He was one of the only persons to go up to Corp after each series and talk to him, though it seemed like Corp didn't want to talk much and Barkley seemed to respect that, keeping it brief. Barkley threw the ball with zip on the sidelines. He carried a football with him constantly, tossing it from hand to hand as he watched the game. He showed as much energy and spirit as the Defense. Barkley acted like an SC starting QB should act. He was doing on the sidelines what Corp should have been doing on the sidelines.
Barkley's shoulder may still have been sore, PC said it was too stiff for him to play, but Barkley looked able and willing to play through it and play well with it against a mediocre Washington Defense. Barkley would have tossed 2 TDs in the second half with our O-line's protection and Washington's loose coverage. The sore shoulder was a coaching staff excuse to keep Corp in the game. Sorry again PC, I know you are the man and I usually trust your judgment. But I saw what I saw.
Conclusion: what kept us between the upset loss and a comfortable 21-point win was entirely Aaron Corp. He acted like a dead man walking. It looked like a serious, serious anxiety attack. Or did PC miscalculate Corp's ability? Or both. And Corp's performance seemed like it sucked the energy out of the offense and the coaches. But the defense stayed pumped.
Take Corp out of the equation and give us Barkley and get PC and staff fired up again on the sidelines and USC still looks good. Really, really good. Beating Cal good. Rose Bowl good.