There are several reasons why USC lost 38-34 to Arizona State on a final Hail Mary touchdown catch. The list could easily be 20 reasons long, but here are five pretty good ones.
Here's a critical assessment of the five top reasons why USC found a way to allow Arizona State free reign to storm right up and down the field to victory.
No. 5: Captain Hayes Pullard
I preface this by noting Hayes Pullard should not be on the field for the Hail Mary, but the play was there to be made and Pullard did not make it happen. Pullard led the Trojans in tackles, collecting nine on the night including one tackle for loss, but the lack of awareness on the final play was nearly horrific. You could feel bad for Pullard because he played one heck of a game and should be applauded for his work, but that one play will ultimately leave a black eye on USC's season.
No. 4: Snapper Peter McBride
The USC Trojans suited up less than 60 scholarship players against the Sun Devils, and the one that will be thrown under the bus most was snapper Peter McBride. Losing his starting spot to Zach Smith last season, McBride has been relegated to exclusive back-up duties...that was until Smith suffered a concussion last week and wasn't cleareed to play this week.
I understand coaches have guys they prefer to be out on the field, but the hesitation to utilize a snapper (throughout most of the second half, for good measure) makes little sense. You have to let it ride late in the game. Heck, McBride even lost his field goal snapping duties to Nick Schlossberg after the first extra-point in the first quarter. The mere thought of using McBride when it mattered most put fear into Steve Sarkisian's heart forcing him to use a quarterback pooch-punt system.
There are 60-65 scholarship players on the roster and plenty of talented walk-ons that could learn how to snap the football. Peter McBride has the "yips," a term for someone who always mistimes his snaps and sends the timing out of whack. You need to have backup plans, however, and putting all the blame on McBride would be a bit narrow sighted, but he still deserves some of the blame.
No. 3: Head Coach Steve Sarkisian
To put things into proper perspective, read what Steve Sarkisian had to say after the game about how things all went down in the closing minutes.
"I feel bad for our kids," Sarkisian somberly said during the presser. "I thought they fought hard, competed well and gave amazing effort. But we didn't get it done in the end. We have (a) great group of guys and tremendous leaders."
Umm...I'm sorry, but taking pity on your players does not disguise the fact that some major coaching blunders left your team in poor position to hold in a game the Trojans had no business losing. Buck Allen sprints down the field and scores, Hayes Pullard recovers an onside kick and USC forced multiple fourth-down plays late in the game.
But come on Steve Sarkisian! You can't be let off the hook for such a poor ending to a football game. The Trojans had everything they wanted, knowing where and to whom Mike Bercovici was going to throw the ball. Yet, despite already being torched for over 400 yards passing, USC got beat right down the field.
It's just sad to realize the Trojans weren't prepared, nor focused enough, to play out the entirety of the game. Not being prepared for the entire 60 minutes rests solely on the coaching staff starting with Steve Sarkisian.
No. 2: Cornerback Kevon Seymour
Blaming an individual defender is tough, especially as Mike Bercovici ripped apart almost everyone on USC's defense through the air, but one player stood alone in the blunder department. The Trojans were up nine and then Kevon Seymour took a chance, I guess to hopefully end the game with one swooping interception, and that didn't happen.
Seymour was also gashed by Jaelen Strong on numerous occasions, especially in one-on-one coverage deep down the field, which will fuel the angst towards the No. 1 pick of the USC Blame Draft. Seymour held his own in the third quarter, limiting Strong to just one catch in that quarter. But when the game mattered most, Seymour was not able to make the big plays, although Strong deserves some major props for some great concentration catches.
No. 1: Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox
And your winner by an all impressive margin is...defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, the man who put together the script to slow down the Arizona State passing attack. The Trojans looked awful against Boston College but they were exposed on a whole new level on Saturday, players didn't know what they were doing in the most crucial moments.
Not the first time USC has looked awful against Arizona State (cough, cough 2013), but this time around the damage was done via two or three really big plays, the rest of the performance was actually quite serviceable. The Trojans have far too much talent to not slow down the ASU attack, one that could only rush the ball for 31 yards after entering the night as the best rushing attack in the Pac-12 conference.
USC had ASU exactly where they wanted them, having a backup quarterback scramble for his life to avoid a Trojan pass rush with the lead in hand as the Sun Devils tried to keep themselves in the game. For goodness sake, Todd Graham spent all three of his timeouts before the final five minutes and yet USC continued to play soft in the secondary, begging Arizona State to push the ball downfield.
This was one ugly coaching performance, all eyes on you for the Arizona game against Anu Solomon, someone who can actually make the Trojans life a living nightmare with his arms and legs in Tuscon.
Better BearDown for that defensive assignment, Justin.