So this morning I read through the comments of the post game thread, some posts on the various message board and the local media sites and I am left with just a couple of observations about last nights game.
For those who haven't seen it here is the game page from ESPN.
RipsIt has some interesting game observations which you can find here.
Lane Kiffin is not happy when you read his post game comments...
"I’m extremely disappointed with our performance today. It was kind of a flip-flop from our last game. The defense played better. I’m extremely disappointed in the penalties once again. That’s probably the most miserable 2-0 locker room I’ve ever been in, which is good. I think our players understand the standards that we want to have here. We expect to play much better than that. We need to go back to work, get in the film room tomorrow and get on the field Tuesday and make sure we improve, or all of a sudden we lose a game like this."
It sounds like from Kiffin's description of the locker room that it is sinking in that the team has a lot of ground to make up. The senior leadership needs to set the tone and the example.
The play of the game...T.J. McDonald's INT in the endzone.
Virginia appeared to be on the verge of taking an early lead after the Cavaliers sacked Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley and recovered a fumble at the Trojans' 31-yard line with 8 minutes 54 seconds left in the first quarter.
Virginia moved the ball to the six, where on second and goal quarterback Marc Verica escaped pressure and rolled to his left. The senior lofted a pass into the end zone that the 6-foot-3 McDonald leaped to intercept for a touchback with 7 minutes 35 seconds left in the first quarter.
Lono made the following comment in the post game thread which intrigued me...
Yes, lots to learn. A win is a win. But lots to learn.
This is just game 2 with a depleted roster, whole new coaching staff, many new players, and still weak in the middle of the D.
But all you can do is one game at a time.
I just flashed on last year and how Pete Carroll and Jeremy Bates were crucified. Pete didn’t use the right RB’s, they said. Too many RB’s in rotation, etc. Well, that’s been fixed.
Jeremy Bates, terrible play calling. Well, that’s been fixed.
Terrible coaching, they said. Well, whole new staff. That’s been fixed.
Notice my sarcasm.
But again, one game at a time. We get Minnesota next week before the Pac-10 comes-a-calling.
Sarcasm aside Lono is onto something even if its by accident....
There is a lot to me in this comment to digest as I think it shows just where we are early on...I won't say how bad or how good because that is in the eye of the beholder, glass half full vs. half empty, but the comment is telling none the less.
Lots to learn - I would agree, You don't change the culture of a team over night. Bad habits don't just go away in the blink of an eye. I think its more than that, see the next point.
Depleted Roster - We aren't just thin on the depth chart, we are thin in football smarts because the previous two seasons of players just weren't coached up in the area of discipline. I am not talking about polishing raw talent, I am talking about using your head in the game. I am not interested in bashing the previous regime, the past is the past and we need to move on, but it is hard to ignore, the proof is there...there were some fundamentals that didn't get through to some of the veteran players.
This is a new staff - Agreed, they have a lot of work to do in fixing what is wrong with this team, but some of the dumb penalties last night to show little progress in the area of discipline. Lane Kiffin thinks the same thing when you listen to his post game commentary. You can only use the excuse of youth and inexperience for so long. You can only blame the flag happy Pac-10 refs so many times. At some point a light bulb has to go off in a players head not to hit an opposing player out of bounds. Questionable calls or not, 'SC has always been the target of the officials to try and level the playing field. I have always thought that 'SC was held to a different standard. Unfortunately, because of depth you can't bench everyone to get the message across so it is a work in progress. I have never seen a team that lacks the discipline that we are witnessing right now. In fact, I think it will get worse before it gets better. That is how these things go. Kiffin is going to have to literally tear down some of these players thought processes and start over to things wired right. Which leads me to...
Terrible Coaching/Play Calling - I don't think the coaching is bad at all, like has been said numerous times, you can work with what you have. I would agree that its only the second game with a lot of extenuating circumstances so I am not too upset with how some of the players are progressing. It is going to take some time to retool technique on the D line or getting Kennard comfortable at MLB. I am liking Woods, Tyler and Robey. Two true freshman and a redshirt junior getting his most significant playing time ever. No complaints there from me. Some of that play calling was intriguing last night, but I have always said that play calling is overrated. The game ebbs and flows and sometimes you just want to see if you can make something work. I am happy with the running game. The passing game took a couple of steps back last night but I didn't think it was a good as some thought after the Hawaii game...As good as Hawaii's offense was their defense is just as bad.
We have seen this before,teams will continue to throw single coverage at USC until they show they can beat it...remember the Rose Bowl against Michigan? UVA stacked the box daring us to air out, that affected the run game too. So Barkley tried to do just that. But two things seem clear...1) we need Kyle Prater in the line up, he needs to get healthy, 2) is Barkley injured? He was either under throwing or over throwing on some of those deep routes, to me that means he is compensating for something. The receivers for the most part did their jobs. Yes, there were a few dropped passes but Barkley had a lot of throws that were either too high, too short or behind the receivers.
The defense of course has a long way to go. Gaining experience takes time, I get that, I just want to see some progress...Kiffin knows if progress is being made and he sure didn't sound like he any progress being made after the game last night.
I am not unhappy with what we have right now. There is a ton of talent and some excellent coaches on this team, so I am willing to be patient for things to come together but the lack of discipline has to change and it has to change fast.
That is what is killing us.
It's hard for a team to get a head of steam rolling and to work out some of the kinks or figure out looks that opposing teams will throw at you if they are constantly going through fits and starts because of dumb penalties.
I don't know how to fix that. It sounds like Kiffin doesn't know either.
These are just my thoughts...