1.) Live up to the hype
The first game showed no culture change. Here are some other areas perceived as improved that looked the same: Offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, wide receiver. Secondary was expected to be a mess and looked like one.
2.) Sort out the brain trust
We were promised a new system where Clay Helton is the hands-off CEO and Graham Harrell runs the offense. But with 2:44 left and the ball at the Fresno State 44-yard line, Helton decides to go for it and calls the running play that failed miserably because the linebacker went untouched through the line and the handoff was botched.
3.) Recognize the play clock
Why is USC snapping the ball with 15-20 seconds left on the play clock while protecting a lead? Because offensive coordinator Graham Harrell is oblivious as he keeps calling his Air Raid plays. Harrell doesn’t even realize he is giving the defense less time to rest by doing this.
4.) Learn to snap ball under center
This has been a problem for awhile and became a problem last weekend. USC couldn’t even cleanly snap the ball in the victory formation and botched a handoff on fourth-and-1 with 2:44 left.
Is it that hard to practice going under center during the week?
5.) Rotate more players
We hear tailback Markese Stepp was furious after the game because he didn’t get to play after a strong training camp. And where was wide receiver Devon Williams.\
6.) Get organized on special teams
Remember USC held a “mock game” two weeks ago so it would realize how to substitute, especially on special teams. But when it supposedly made a late substitution to start the game, it was too confused to realize it had two No. 7’s on the field. It’s an all-too-familiar issue under John Baxter.
7.) Don’t help the other team
USC coach Clay Helton ran down the sideline and called timeout as a disorganized Fresno State was about to go for it on fourth down because it didn’t have time to set up for a field goal. Once USC called timeout, however, Fresno State went for the field goal. That play gave Fresno a chance to tie the game at the end.
8.) Stop blowing leads
How many times in the past 13 games has USC gotten off to a 14-0 lead and then blown it or nearly blown it? It’s a Helton trademark and plays into the perception USC lacks focus and discipline.
9.) Tell Ben Griffiths to relax
The much-heralded punter unleashed a 58-yard kick in the Coliseum scrimmage before 5,000 fans. But last week, he could only muster a 37-yard average on three kicks. The best explanation is it was first-game jitters but when John Baxter is involved, all bets are off.
10.) Put Clay Helton in the pressbox
I can’t take watching another USC game with that clueless look Helton frequently makes on the sideline. See below.