I wanted to wait a day before posting too many thoughts on the first game.
It’s hard to get around the fact USC’s defense allowed 308 yards rushing.
Go back and read some of the practice reports on the Internet from August. The praise for the defense. The talk of the defensive line dominating the offensive line. The usual puffery concerning the linebackers.
I remember USC announcer Pete Arbogast telling a Cleveland Browns radio show how the defense was the best since 2008. He said after the game yesterday Cameron Smith was going to be a first-round draft pick.
There is a complete disconnect from many who write or talk about USC and actual performance. The defense was Ground Zero for this yesterday.
Fortunately for USC, UNLV’s weak passing game did not expose the secondary too much.
Now, special teams. Was USC ready for the fake punt? No. But it was a first game. Can USC punt the ball? Reid Budrovich averaged 28.8 yards. This always rankles more when you consider the praise Clay Helton heaps on special teams coach John Baxter.
The offensive line lived up to my concerns. Did you see the first short-yardage opportunity? It looked just like last season. The pass protection was also spotty.
JT Daniels was solid. I wonder why he seemed so locked in on Tyler Vaughns at the start of the game. Was that Tee Martin’s playcalling or did he not go through any progressions? There were too many dropped passes but maybe it’s first-game jitters. The receiving corps is going to have to improve otherwise Daniels will only want to throw to Amon-Ra St. Brown.
The key is where USC goes from here?
Last year, when USC struggled with Western Michigan, it was believed by many the Trojans were simply in first-game mode and would shake off the problems. But USC ended up playing sloppy the whole season.
My concern is this is just the identity of Helton teams. A basic level of underachievement or sloppiness that prevents even dominating weaker teams. And then gets blown out by Alabama, Ohio State or good Notre Dame teams.