Morning Buzz: USC-Washington Report Card

QUARTERBACK

It feels like a lot of people are making Matt Fink a scapegoat but they don’t ask if Graham Harrell aka Eb Dawson did a good job making the game plan easier for Fink’s first road trip? Kedon Slovis also had three interceptions in his road debut but he got more slack because fans want him to be the long-term answer. A better game plan would have limited Fink’s mistakes. Harrell should know better after going through a first road game with Slovis two weeks earlier.

Grade: D+

RUNNING BACK

Is Stephen Carr back after that 60-yard run? I’m not sure because that hole was huge. “Ronald Jones would have had a touchdown,” a coach remarked. The truth is if you take away Carr’s run and a 35-yard run from Markese Stepp, USC rushed for only 117 yards against a mostly three-man front.

Grade: C+

WIDE RECEIVER

Not much of a day for the receivers against that 8-man secondary other Michael Pittman‘s 44-yard TD vs. a rare man coverage. Amon-Ra St. Brown cannot be happy with how this season is turning out, especially with all the offseason hype regarding the Air Raid.

Grade: C

OFFENSIVE LINE

Most of the day was spent facing a three-man front but it wasn’t a dominating performance. USC couldn’t pound the ball into the end zone in the fourth quarter and Fink was harried any time more than three defenders rushed the QB. It was also a bad look when Drew Richmond seemed to blame Fink for a false start.

Grade: C-

DEFENSIVE LINE

The defensive tackles take up a lot of space but still don’t make enough plays when you consider they are the strongest unit on the team. Watch Marlon Tuipulotu get pushed backwards on the 89-yard TD. They only sacked Jacob Eason once and even Drake Jackson did not stand out.

Grade: C+

LINEBACKERS

I see a lot of flying around but nothing leads me to believe they actually influence a game. John Houston is an undersized middle linebacker, which is not his fault because Clancy Pendergast plays him out of position. Palaie Gaoteote flies around the field but activity does not equal accomplishment. Even worse, what do the other “linebackers” do? Very little.

Grade: C-

SECONDARY

Did you see the angle safety Isaiah Pola-Mao took on the 89-yard TD run? Not to mention the missed tackle by Chase Williams. Pola-Mao missed even more tackles throughout the game. I’ve mentioned previously that Talanoa Hufanga celebrates too much and even out of uniform he cost the Trojans a penalty.

Grade: C

SPECIAL TEAMS

The first two punts of Ben Griffiths were 24-and-35 yards. He got better and finally unleashed a 54-yarder. The bar is so low that the fact the special teams did not have a joke play is considered a positive. What is John Baxter doing to improve returns?

Grade: D+

COACHING

This was Exhibit A of one sideline outcoaching the other sideline. Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake looked like he was having a blast facing the Air Raid. Meanwhile, USC offensive coordinator Eb Dawson sits in the pressbox and stubbornly tries to call the same plays even though they don’t work when 8-men drop back. Like I said, did he ever try to make things easier for Matt Fink?

Meanwhile, Clay Helton, the CEO of discipline and penalties, failed on both counts. He had the nerve in spring practice to claim USC had one penalty in 200 plays. Who cares? It’s spring. It wasn’t Husky Stadium, where USC had eight penalties Saturday.

Grade: F

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32 thoughts on “Morning Buzz: USC-Washington Report Card

  1. Geez. What a difference a week makes. After Utah Fink was beside himself. But after Washington he looked as if he wanted to hide himself. Oh well, that’s life in big-time sports.

    Washington was complimentary about SC, saying they thought the Trojans were a good team. I know I am in the minority, but I saw some good things like the offensive line blocking better (albeit against a 3-man defensive line), the running backs picking up yardage, and the defense playing well enough to have won that game.

    But the one statistic that always stands out, the one element that determines most games, is who won the turnover battle.

    Coach Helton. Can’t blame the guy for being so defensive, what with everybody throwing verbal garbage at him after every loss. He has to know he’s a goner, but one thing about the guy is that he will go down fighting.

    And I thought football season was supposed to be fun. I didn’t see anybody having much fun in September.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Listen to the most recent Peristyle podcast – Coach Hyde again telling it like it is and pointing out all of the failings of this coach and his staff, from program philosophy to offensive approach to coach speak (with the host gritting his teeth because this is the one guest who won’t go along with polishing the turd)…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Petros & Money’s Monday segment 1 dissects in similar fashion (albeit with a side of humor)…

      Money with the Money line: “5 or 6 plays? Yeah, but they were all touchdowns, so…”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Now that you’ve brought up the boxing analogy, let me share with you the thing that scares me most about Helton’s approach to practice and games. His teams (except for his Rose Bowl team) remind me of the way Shane Mosley fought Manny Pacquiao —- [i.e., wanting to get through the contest without getting hurt]. Helton actually is ON THE RECORD about not wanting to lose anyone through an injury sustained in practice. He’s said it enough that it’s seeped into the way the team thinks & plays — avoid injury. It’s the worst conceivable philosophy for players involved in a combat sport. You saw that philosophy play out all last year in quarterback play (letting the ball go too early or off balance) and in tackling (umpteen half- assed arm tackles every single game). Every once in a while, our guys let their emotions take over (large stretches of the Utah game) and they look real good. But when we’re not reacting to a crisis (like Slovis going down on first series), when we’re actually following the Helton philosophy, we just plain don’t look like a Trojan football team. We look like an extension of our timid coach.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Agreed – that’s why I added the Lennox Lewis example (how Manny Steward remarked when he first started working with him that “he needs to quit playing that damned chess”)…the Lewis that got knocked out inexplicably by McCall and Rahman…versus the Lewis who flat out wanted to torture Tyson and won that war with Klitschko the Better…
        Not perfectly apples to apples, but close enough I think, in keeping with what you’ve well articulated…the need to understand what is elemental and eternal to the activity one is engaged in…
        Maybe he should have been strapped in a chair and forced to listen repeatedly to the (disputably attributed to) Sun Tzu adage that “Wars are moral contests won first in the temple…”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hate to quote Norman Mailer again …BUT ….he once said ALL contests reduce themselves to the logic of the spirit: you win if you feel you deserve to win. Carroll and Meyer imbued their teams with the belief that they deserved to win. They practiced hard and they competed hard —and believed nothing could stop them —even if it was 4th and 9 against Notre Dame with 2 minutes to go…..

        Liked by 1 person

      4. P. S.
        In retrospect Tyson probably didn’t do himself any favors by saying he wanted to “eat Lennox Lewis’ children” —-stuff like that tend to pump a guy up.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I love that description of “it” (and not the clown movie! or clown show)…there is such a truth to what is pc speak called “buy in” but in reality is simply fierce conviction/belief…it’s the reason we still read about Alexander and Caesar – the surviving histories make it clear that they had “it”…and “it” is almost always present at the heart of greatness and success…”it” may look or sound different (Pete and Bill superficially seem to have little in common), but “it” isn’t superficial – “it” is down deep…and “it” isn’t something that is talked about…”it” is lived and breathed…

        Liked by 1 person

      6. James —
        “It” is a much bigger deal than anybody in the current USC administration wants to think it is. That’s why they’re scared of it. It’s how we wound up with Haden and Swann. And, of course, Sark and Helton. “It” is everything. “It” is the difference maker. People who don’t have “It” play it down or pretend not to know what you’re talking about when you point out that it’s missing (e. g., Haden—“I don’t understand the criticism —I think we’re lucky to have a coach like Clay Helton”). But those without “It” lose a lot and make a lot of b.s. excuses about why it happens. “It”, on the other hand, wins most every time. “It” is that special quality that some blessed souls are born with, it isn’t something that comes from imitating people who have “It.” And it doesn’t just magically appear cuz you talked yourself into an undeserved contract extension.
        #It’sTimeUSCStoppedRunningAwayFrom”It”
        #GrabMeyer,YouWon’tRegret”It”

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Can’t be said better than that…

        I’ve mentioned to my wife in discussions before that there’s a reason, despite the public’s ignorance, that Congress put a statue of Grant between the Capitol and reflecting pool…

        This is just football, college football, and Meyer isn’t Grant…but he’s close enough for our purposes…from Ohio…iron will to succeed…knows how to go about doing the job…generally knows when it’s time to step aside…
        In today’s world would generate too much uproar, but would be cool as shit to see him on the sideline at Jerry World in cardinal and gold…with a cigar…

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Yeah! That other Wolfe (Tom Wolfe) called it “The Right Stuff.”
        #ThereWasATimeWhenItWasHonored…
        #MaybeIt’sTimeAgain….
        #USCDon’tBeSoAfraidOfGettingTheBest

        Like

      9. MG
        #$%* what a great reference. Yes. Exactly. The Right Stuff…from Hard Ass Al to Hotdog Gordo to Wise Ass Wally…

        Like

    2. James —
      Although I think John Walcott is right in pointing out that USC football 2019 is not exclusively a tall pile of negatives and, further, that Helton isn’t an UNmitigated disaster —-obviously something STILL has to be done about the state of USC football and Helton ….and done fast. I don’t think any of us can even begin to comprehend what will happen to the USC brand if Helton is allowed to face off against Saban again. To avoid an embarrassment of monumental proportions Folt needs to get Urban on board as soon as possible so that he can begin the huge reclamation project required to avoid a 2020 disaster. Even Urban won’t be able to put all the pieces together in time for our 2020 opener —but he’ll make a REAL game of it….
      #…AndBuildFromThere…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m of course much more negative towards the state of the program at present, it is precisely due to Helton, so in the general sense, I am perhaps more optimistic as to the prospects for a quick turnaround, provided the right coach is hired – and if it is Urban, I think people would be shocked at just how competitive the USC that would show up in Dallas next year would be (would wager a large amount that Saban would be at Pucker Factor 9+)…
        You remember Lou Holtz at Notre Dame…how fast did he turn around the Gerry Faust debacle? Just like Pete did after Hackett…or Urban did at OSU…
        Great coaches make an incalculable difference.
        But yes – the first step (I am disappointed that Dr. Folt did not use this golden opportunity to do what you, I, and others were all hoping for – send him packing on Sunday, install Harrell or Jenks in as the interim, name Meyer for after the season ends and pay him whatever he demands, to include for staff improvements) as has been rehashed here for a long time is to get rid of Helton and Clancy.
        Coach Hyde does a fantastic job of dissecting all of the many ills plaguing the program…it is worth the listen for those who still don’t get it, or are confused…he and Dan have seen this all along…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. At the moment, Folt is being praised mainly for not being Nikias or Austin. It actually is gonna take a bit more than that for her to prove she’s worth a damn. NO MATTER HOW WELL CLAY DOES FOR REST OF SEASON (and I, personally, think he’s gonna beat Notre Dame if he lets Slovis start practicing today), Folt needs to take decisive action NOW. If, as it appears, she hasn’t already given Meyer the signal that it’s HIS team in 2020, she needs to do so NOW. I don’t care if Helton gets to stay around until his next inexplicable loss, just make sure the college football world knows that Helton’s wrapping up his tenure this season and Meyer is signed for next year. I realize that telling a coach that he’s out no matter what he does for the rest of the season seems cruel— but putting Helton on notice is actually an act of mercy. For him. For fans. For USC.
        #Folt:Don’tBeAfraidToPullTheFrickingTrigger

        Liked by 1 person

      3. P. S.
        You are 100% right, James — Great coaches do make an incalculable difference.
        #AnyoneWhoDoesn’tGetThatDoesn’tUnderstandGreatness

        Liked by 1 person

      4. If Gomer ND beats USC by double digits, Gomer will have the highest percentage of double digit loses of ANY USC coach, that’s the definition of an unmitigated disaster.

        He’s 1-3 against ND ( 0-2 @ ND ) but 3-1 against ucla, but that one loss was to one of the worst ucla teams ever and ucla hasn’t exactly been good, so he’s 4-4 against the big rivals. His record against teams that are actually good is awful. His record without Darnold is bad, his road record is bad, he’s just an awful coach who is lucky enough to coach in a weak conference where he can get away with beating shitty teams with superior talent and inferior coaching, but most of those wins feel like losses.

        Folt will not can Gomer mid season, he’ll get to finish the year which will flush this recruiting class down the shitter. I’m not convinced they will hire Meyer, I’m more convinced they’ll do what they usually do, be lazy and hire an ex player, asst, etc even with a new AD who I am also not convinced will be a good hire.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. The one we’re interested in turned one of the other marquee programs around from similar (though less ingrained) mediocrity and inertia in one season – 6-7 to 12-0. Probably didn’t have more talent than USC (although they did have a lot – but I think USC does too, although as you’ve mentioned if they don’t act immediately, the talent level will increasingly become an issue that might take more than an off-season to correct)…

        https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/ohio-state/2012.html

        Similar to how many of us (Dan Weber remarked on this) wondered what the result of the Cotton Bowl would have been if you switched the coaches…

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Buddha:

        That is a perfect, succinct statement of the greatest fear/worst case scenario (and not improbable – the past may not guarantee anything, but it is highly suggestive – if they don’t correct the previous practice of making lazy, cheap hires…USC can and will go the way of other former major programs, like Miami…were it not for Pete, we would still be on the downward plane that started with Ted Tollner).

        Liked by 1 person

      7. James — You’ve remarked on this enough for me to resist reiterating it but please indulge me —-the difference between USC and Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl was all about one thing: toughness. USC outgained Ohio State but couldn’t score. Meyer’s guys had been coached to take the ball from our receivers as they went down. They did this repeatedly. Ball changed hands. And our guys trotted off the field dutifully. In other words, Helton got his guys ready for a track meet but they found themselves in a street fight and couldn’t adjust.
        I’m afraid of exactly what karma is afraid of —but for different reasons. I don’t think the next A. D. and Head Coach will be selected “lazily” —- I’m afraid they will be selected cunningly [for their ‘go along to get along’ propensities]. If USC doesn’t pick up an obviously interested Meyer it’s because they’re deliberately [and fearfully] putting football in the corner [“Oh, watch out! We don’t want a real bad ass coach! How would we control him the way we control little Clay?”]. And if that’s the direction she takes, shame on Folt.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. MG
        That root fear, whether born of laziness or cunning/jealousy…or shortsighted parsimony…that’s it. Do they step up and make the obvious move, or about face further into the desert?
        The difference in that Cotton Bowl was all about attitude and approach, emanating from a conviction that physicality and toughness is still the heart of a championship team. The most glaring example being that, even if you embrace a wide open passing attack approach to offense, when it matters, against great opponents, you will have to be able to run the ball in the red zone, and if you can’t, you will find yourself getting suckered into the red zone by a defense that doesn’t care what happens between the 20s (except for the increased ability to take chances and create turnovers)…he just doesn’t seem to get that…as Dan has said, it is flabbergasting to think that he could have taken over after Coach O for that Las Vegas Bowl and yet learned nothing…but it is clear from his actions that he did in fact learn nothing…
        Thinking of our boxing parallels…Helton would be sort of like pre-Emmanuel Steward Lennox Lewis? pre and post-Tyson Buster Douglas? Marvin Hagler in the first Antuefuermo fight? That’s probably being too generous (maybe more like Tyrell Biggs…smartly walking through the US trials to get thrashed in embarrassing fashion by Teofilo Stevenson).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. USC is a good football team without a doubt, but they lack leadership, discipline, and direction. Clay Helton refused to surround himself with great coordinators, which is something essential for an inexperienced coach . Ed Orgeron did it the right way at LSU, and take a look at them now. The inept coaching is becoming glaring as the season progresses, and as a fan, I can’t wait for Helton to go

    Liked by 3 people

  4. On the special teams grade I have to wonder what is so special? From now on I believe I will refer to them as routine play squad. They take care of the situation on fourth down, which happens every possession it seems, thus routine. And our punter routinely under kicks the punts-routine. The punt returner fields the punt and does one of three things signals fair catch, no fair catch but drops punt under pressure or catches the punt and loses 15 yards running backwards trying to “gain” yardage.
    The grade should never be above a C because they are average at best.
    And this squad routinely grabs a new penalty each game. Routine Squad

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You skipped the best part: Velus Jones catches the ball a yard deep in the endzone and repeatedly hurls all 190 pounds of himself into the first 4 tacklers he sees. Result (except for the Fresno State game): USC doesn’t even get to start on it’s fricking 25 yard line…
      #…HugePlusForStrugglingOffense…
      #…BrilliantStrategyOnPartOfBaxter…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. One of the biggest problems with us is simple. Very little honest reporting. In spring the reporters (except Wolfe) fawn over every dumb thing Helton says or does. One small example. Players who are run of the mill are called all pac 12 because they catch an interception, one ball, in practice against a third string QB. Just one crazy observation after another like a pack of wolves that have not eaten for months. Helton could say the sky was brown and the reporters would exclaim how great that was. No analysis or honest critique.
    Give them credit for what they do but please keep yourselves grounded. Its your preseason love for this incompetent dunce that has kept him floating in the bowl.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. USC offense..
    .Never throw to the tight end ( if I were a tight end I wouldn’t go to USC). The Pro’s do.
    no screens, stop running when it is working. Said before -“Helton could not find his way out of a phone booth with a seeing eye dog & a flash light”. Yes Fink should have done a better job with his reads, but Harrell didn’t help w/play calls.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Dang it. I was hoping you guys would change your tune regarding THE BELOVED COACH HELTON. He’s such a good family man, a shining example of abiding by NCAA guidelines, tee-toteler & general all around Andy Griffith. You should embrace Coach Helton as have all the other PAC-12 coaches.

    #BesidesHeOnlyMakes$4MilAYear
    #GoCoachHelton
    #WhoopsThatDidn’tSoundRight

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah— I understand where you’re coming from on this one, Cal75: Our guys gets our QB’s hurt at 3 times the rate as your guy…..

      Like

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