474 total yards; 279 yards passing and 122 yards rushing is what the final box score reads for the Stanford offense. Yet, it does not begin to tell the full story of USC's pitiful defensive performance at home during the Pac-12 opener. Giving up 8 out of 12 crucial third downs and 39:29 in time of possession doomed the talented but poorly coached Trojans. Losing 41-31 at home to a Stanford Cardinal team that could not beat Big Ten doormat Northwestern two weeks ago is embarrassing and inexcusable.
On an even more disturbing note, Sark and company were clearly and consistently out coached. No discernible half-time adjustments were made to stop a solid, but average Cardinal offense from moving the ball at will. USC gave up 41 points at home, to an opponent with a hobbled quarterback. Stanford consistently went straight down the field on a USC defense loaded with 5 star recruits and future NFL draft picks.
Former Ohio State All American linebacker Chris Spielman had the right idea when he repeatedly admonished the USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to "attack up the middle" during the nationally televised ABC broadcast. On one of the many critical third downs, USC did in fact blitz, but Lamar Dawson whiffed on a wide open shot at Stanford QB Kevin Hogan. Dawson, like other Trojan defenders missed numerous tackles and looked lost for most of the contest. Wilcox does not deserve such a prestigious position as defensive coordinator at one of the most coveted jobs in the country because USC defenders looked confused and were out of place against an offense not known for scoring many points. Perhaps of greater concern, this performance does not bode well for future match ups against prolific, intricate offenses.
Logic points to the troubling fact that if USC gives up 41 points at home to a solid but unspectacular Stanford offense, 60 points is not out of the question when faced with dynamic offenses like Cal, Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon. Brian Kelly could also emulate David Shaw's game plan because he has similar personnel. Next week USC faces a dangerous Arizona State team on the road. In late October the Men of Troy face Jared Goff, widely considered the top 2016 NFL QB prospect and the high powered Cal passing attack.
Justin Wilcox has a short body of work that is deeply disturbing to anyone who understands basic defensive football. During the 2014 campaign, USC lost two games on the last play of the game in the same month - October 4th to Arizona State and October 25th to Utah. USC gave up 452 rushing yards against Boston College, a team that lost 6 games that season. With a top 10 pick, All American Leonard Williams and a host of 5 star athletes and future NFL defenders, Wilcox's vanilla defenses gave up 42 to an uninspiring Nebraska offense, after having a month to prepare...
Steve Sarkisian is not without blame, by not running the ball, he put his defense on the field far too long. He never established long drives to wear down a thin Stanford defense with few quality backups. Sark needs to take a page out of Texas coach Charlie Strong's playbook and demote Wilcox before USC faithful see a repeat of the Arizona State game that got Lane Kiffin his walking papers right after a historic blowout loss in 2013.
In 2012, USC opened the John McKay Center. This $70 million dollar, 110,000 square foot state of the art facility bears the name of a coach whose very name is synonymous with national championships and excellence. John McKay's teams crushed opponents who were less talented and beat teams with similar talent levels. Steve Sarkisian needs to send a clear message and part ways with his pedestrian defensive coordinator before chants of "Seven Win Sark" echo throughout the Coliseum.