10 Things USC Needs To Fix To Beat Stanford

It’s our first column of the season on 10 things USC needs to fix. This week: Stanford edition.

1.) Get the defensive line to match its hype

Remember when USC quarterbacks were sacked eight times in the first scrimmage? Somehow we went from that to UNLV gaining 308 yards on the ground.

This is not a young defensive line. Porter Gustin and Malik Dorton are seniors. Christian Rector is a redshirt junior. Jordan Iosefa is a junior. Nose tackle is the only youthful spot, where redshirt freshman Marlin Tuipulotu and sophomore Brandon Pili are the stalwarts.

So whatever the problem is, it is not inexperience.

2.) Defend trick plays

How many times do Clancy Pendergast defenses get burned by trick plays? The answer is too often. The new, improved depth of the defense didn’t exactly help in this regard because some backups were on the field for UNLV’s reverse TD. Oh well.

3.) Help John Baxter

Is USC’s special teams coach capable of putting together a complete performance? The punting was shambolic vs. UNLV with a 9-yard and 20-yard kick. So was allowing a fake punt that everyone had to know was coming. It seems as soon as Baxter fixes one area, another one becomes a problem.

4.) Get a sense of urgency

It feels at times as if USC is in a malaise. It might help if the coaching staff got a little more serious about demanding effort and intensity. One problem is some coaches feel hamstrung at times about disciplining players because they don’t always feel like Helton will back them up.

5.) Make the running game dangerous

USC”s trio of tailbacks did not make anyone forget Ronald Jones. Aca’Cedric Ware was solid with 10 carries for 100 yards (against UNLV, let’s remember).

But there wasn’t much consistency behind him. Stephen Carr had a 40-yard run but only 14 yards in eight other carries. Vavae Malepeai, tipped by some as the best back of training camp, didn’t gain any yards until UNLV’s defense gave up at the end of the game. He had six carries for 10 yards when the game mattered.

6.) Discover the tight end

All summer, Tyler Petite was spotlighted as one of the nation’s top tight ends. His first game? Zero receptions. And what is going on with tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, who isn’t even practicing this week because of an injury?

Neither is tight end Josh Falo. But this doesn’t excuse not throwing to Petite.

7.) Make sure the uniform is uniform

Three USC players went off the field because their uniforms did not adhere to new NCAA regulations. Clay Helton said he did not think the officials would be “serious” about enforcing it. They were.

8.) Will the offensive line ever improve?

A legitimate question is whether USC’s offensive line is even capable of making significant improvement? To think seniors like Chuma Edoga and Chris Brown will suddenly become better is unrealistic. Truthfully, the only lineman with potential is left tackle Austin Jackson and he is still learning.

USC looked awful, like last year, on a short-yardage situation in the first half.

9.) Don’t force the ball to one receiver

Early in the game, it looked like USC wanted to throw just to Tyler Vaughns. Maybe that was because JT Daniels needed a quick start? But he was locked in too much on Vaughns.

Stanford probably will not let Daniels zero in on Amon-Ra St. Brown.

10.) Don’t get cute in red zone

I can’t help but think Matt Fink was inserted at quarterback with the ball around the 10-yard line just because Helton felt sorry for him not winning the starting job. With Fink in, the odds of a pass are low, so little surprise UNLV tackled him for a loss on the play. Those are the type of things that cost you against real teams.


55 thoughts on “10 Things USC Needs To Fix To Beat Stanford

  1. All legitimate points. UNLV was a scrimmage with alot of inexperienced players who had not played before. It was a great opportunity to see where this team stands. It was also a very hot playing field. UNLV had a new defensive coordinator who has SEC coaching experience and he schemed well for this game until adjustments were made. Stanford is more predictable and we can use our athleticism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The entire USC coaching staff with the exception of Clancy is second rate at best. The Trojans have been winning on sheer talent alone for the past few years. Their has been no player development. It such a shame to see so much talent being wasted. At some point the highly regarded recruits are going to realize that USC with its current coaching staff will not be the best place to maximize and develop their potential and will start committing elsewhere.


  2. Don’t know why you keep baggin on our offensive line….they blocked against Vegas…..I watched Stanford versus San Diego St, and Stanford’s offensive line didn’t look vintage, even though they’re supposed to have promising bookend tackles……If Bryce Love has another game like that, his Heisman hopes are finished…29 yards on 18 carries….San Diego State’s qb was horrible and tended to hold the ball and take sacks, so Daniels should be a significant jump for Stanford’s defense who lost their nose tackle, Harrison Phillips, to the Buffalo Bills…..San Diego State ran the ball on Stanford in the first half, but no so much in the second half…Stanford made nice adjustments in their run defense or was San Diego State’s passing game just enemic? I would say Vegas would beat San Diego State…


    1. Watching Stanford’s receivers vs San Diego St. defense I noticed on a drive to the end zone the Stanford receiver ‘waited’ for the ball to hit him rather than moving towards the ball – not just once either. The defender had no problem batting the ball away and/or blocking the Stanford receiver.

      I will be surprised if USC loses to Stanford based on the Cardinal offense even accounting for Shaw ‘concealing’ strategies in against a lower tiered OOC.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. LOL, have you seen our DB’s these past couple of years ? Maybe the worst coached bunch ever in the history of USC football


  3. WKU 2.0 aka Helton and staff are lost and completely over their heads. There is no direction nor leadership from this staff which leads to a team with no identity. They talk a good game and that is it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought the Trojans established some good game plans against Stanford last year, 2-0…of course, they didn’t play at Stanford proper, but won in NorCal and in LA….they just need to keep things in front of them as much as possible and buy time for the offense to assert itself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s ok, Budda, all is forgiven…come home and enjoy your heritage. Maybe we can go to a game and sit out and breathe the fresh air and have a coke and some peanuts and people watch and laugh and high five while we watch Trojan football….


  4. Wolf has it all wrong. Here’s what we need to do to improve

    1: Do more shotgun and handoffs from the pistol.
    2. Dont change the snap count. Don’t want to confuse anyone.
    3. Put Toa in at center; JT needs to work on catching snaps at his toes and over his head.
    4. inside the 5 yard line, throw throw throw, or do handoffs with the RB 7 yards behind the QB in shotgun.
    5. Force the ball more to Tyler Vaughns, but be sure to throw most of the time to St. Brown (he can beat triple coverage).
    6. Blitz the corner and saftey from the same side (they’ll be too quick for Costello to see ungaurded side of the field).
    7. Rely on Porter Gustin to get the QB at least 7 times (I mean his track record proves this right?).
    8. Stay in dime, and put your shortest DBs on Parkinson and Whiteside

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the cure for this horrible period of mediocrity asumming if they can even hire the right coach. However USC football has been on self destruction mode since the departure of Pete Carroll.


  5. 11. Get the soft serve ice cream oline physical
    12. Get T Martin to understand that SC is power football and not panzy a$s football. Run the ball behind a physical oline and a fullback.
    13. Get Martin to stop calling the same plays over and over and over and over and over. Use different formations. Have the qb roll to his left. Have the qb throw to the te, give the fullback the ball

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SC will have a physical OL once Gomer is canned, unless Swann hires another coach on the cheap who is all about the pass.

      Martin isn’t smart enough to call plays to set up other plays, 7 plays might be pushing it for him mentally.


      1. Stanford radio announcers last year gave him high praise for his playcalling more than once during their broadcast….I listened to it, as I do from time to time to get a feel for the opponent….


  6. 1. The DL is coached by a guy who has little coaching experience, I like BKU but he should be at a lesser school learning not at SC learning on the job

    2. Clancy is out to lunch most of the time with his defense, you want him to defend trick plays ?

    3. There is no help for Baxter, he’s just like the rest of this staff, incompetent.

    4. Gomer & Company don’t know what urgency is. And Gomer is soft, he’s not a hard ass, never will be, the players will work him like dough.

    5. Gomer is a pass first guy. Tee IQ 11 is a pass first guy, I’m sure the new W. Kentucky reject is a pass first guy, the running game will never be anything while Gomer is at USC, he doesn’t believe in power football or power anything for that matter.

    6. The TE doesn’t exist at USC, other than to be wasted year after year.

    7. Gomer’s statement is telling, he didn’t think they would enforce the rule. He’s the freaking head coach, he should have told all of his coaches as well as the support staff and the players to get their uniform right, this is a total lack of leadership on Gomer’s part and it’s not surprising. It also shows a lack of attention to detail.

    8. As long as Gomer and his dad’s buddy Callaway are at USC, you’ll never see a dominate OL , never.

    9. Daniels is gonna force the ball to Brown, he’s the one he knows. Not having a rhythm with the other WR’s is BS, they had all summer to work out on their own. Daniels coach at MD was better than what he has now

    10. Inserting a Fink in the red zone told UNLV one thing, he’s gonna run the ball, that should tell you about the brain power, or lack thereof, of the idiots calling plays at USC right now.


    1. On #7, I think the real issue is that Gomer prefers to be everybody’s friend over their coach. Just like the terrible dad that calls his son “buddy” and then watches him grow up to be a disrespectful degenerate, Gomer does not believe in discipline. In this specific case, I’m guessing multiple players asked him about the rule and rather than be a strict disciplinarian, he pandered to their personal style preferences and let them violate the rule. You think Saban would allow that? How about Urban? They’d both knock the kid into next week for even asking to violate a rule for something as stupid as trying to look cool. Gomer is a wuss, part whimp, part puss.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Meyer? Really? Well you might want to ask just how well he disciplined the thugs he recruited and ran from at FL and also @ OH St. his players and peers on his staff have watched Urban protect defend and coddle that clown Smith since 2009 and yeah everyone on that staff has stories to tell that the cabal that runs that school never want to see the light of day.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. The coaches don’t seem to shy away from the team’s shortcomings and needs…I have seen that in recruiting and feel Coach Helton is overly persecuted…I think he can win it all….his staff is learning, but also shows promise….USC has big wideouts and at least one home run hitting tailback, not to shortchange Aca’Cedrick Ware’s contributions, which ensure balance. Big wideouts who can block and catch and keep Stanford’s secondary busy which limits Stanford’s amount of bodies at the point of attack. Stanford doesn’t have superior team speed, but good. They have size, though, but not enough to overwhelm USC….USC’s offensive line blocks well as a unit. Scott correctly points out that the defensive line needs to perform….as you point out, the secondary must also…


      1. What? I’m just trying to turn the other cheek, today…..when all you offer people is a lose lose, can you blame them for calling you a Bruin?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. If truth be told, and it rarely is here, Clay has won the last two vs the furds. And Clancy has a 3-1 record vs furd as a Trojan DC. So what needs to change to beat them?
    Not much.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Man sunshine pumper Pudly and Steven McGay are really trying to positive up this room. #headinthesandaboutHelton

        Get back to your Ryan Abrahams message boards with that crap. This is Wolf’s diaspora of doom…

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, Pudly. Just woke up to see a lot of negativity directed at the parts of the team that least deserve it.
        I re-watched the Cotton Bowl and it was instructive. USC pretty much marched up and down the field (without scoring because of mistakes & turnovers by Deontay and Darnold). But the takeaway, for me anyway, was that Helton’s idea of bringing the team in to play loose and with fresh legs was a good one (that got sabotaged by mistakes at critical moments of critical drives). If J. T. holds on to the ball when he gets hit and our receivers hang on to the ball all the way to the ground without letting it get stripped, we should be fine.
        Our real challenge is to keep Love out of the endzone on those 3rd and 4th and goal situations (something we didn’t have to worry about in the Championship Game cuz of Love’s injuries).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Life’s too short Michael. Maybe if they win things will lighten up. But then I doubt it. All these experts will find obscure numbers too bend to make some “relevant” point. Just can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the truth. Even PT? Crazy.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. 1) The Dline didnt give up 308 yards rushing. The starting defense didnt give up even 100 yards. The trick play for 71 yards was on backups (run right at backup Hunter Echols), the punt fake of 36 yards was on the Punt Return team, and 71 yards came in the last 8 minutes when the game was over against the scrubs. That’s 178 of the 308 yards that have nothing to do with the starting Dline you are complaining about. Oh yeah, they also got 5 sacks.

    6) “USC looked awful, like last year, on a short-yardage situation in the first half.”

    Stephen Carr got stuffed on the first 3rd and 2 of the game on the second series. USC was then 5 for 5 on short yardage plays of under 2nd or 3rd and under 3 yards where they ran the ball. So not sure the facts really backup your statement here.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. budda,

    On your 10 points, there is one that I disagree with. It is the first one dealing with BKU. I think he has done a great job. His d line did a good job for the most part against unlv. They got caught with two big runs. That inflated the stats for unlv. Baxter fell asleep at the switch on the fake punk or punt. We will see BKU’s dline this week and how they fare against the Indians.


      1. He did learn at USC….but, you know that…what kind of school would USC be if they didn’t give their own a chance sometime, somewhere? Are we not prepping them for success?


  10. Whole bunch of bruins on the board today. Scotty brings them out. He is the pied piper of naysayers and dilusuonal message board coaches.

    The truth is that coach Helton is not Saban, nobody is. But other than Pete, he has had the most sustained success than any other coach since the late 70’s and early 80’s.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Sorry Mr. Wolf. I don’t mean to sound like a D but that top 3 makes me question how you view what’s important for a big game early in the season.

    Ok. Allowing UNLV 300 yards rushing is EMBARRASSING. When does Clancy start to take blame?
    The DLine and BKU popped Stanford on the mouth twice at home and on the road and as you pointed out they were younger then. They dont deserve a spotlight of shame just yet. They aren’t the best but if I recall USC tied at the top to lead the nation in sacks. Again the DLine doesn’t deserve this much doubt in so much light.

    But your 2 and 3 are in my opinion not more important than a bunch of other areas that I don’t have time at the moment to share.

    PS. I know I sound like a know it all. But I am just not seeing how a big game/rivals/etc, after only one week gives a top 3 like ⬆️

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Maybe they thought Fink could score. Mind reading isn’t a strong suit with you. Nobody feels sorry for Fink, he had the same opportunity as all the other quarterbacks.
    As for punting I know the punter wasn’t in top form but even when I was able kick well my dad told me, you never know where the ball will go when you kick it. The punter will get better. This leaves punt returns, in practice they supposedly pretty good. I expect a change this week.


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