USC vs. Alabama: Being Blunt

Alabama vs. USC (Advocare Classic)
September 3, 2016 at 7:14pm
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX: 81,359
Total Time: 3 hours 19 minutes

We are nothing.

All the national championships, Heismans, and top ten recruiting classes couldn’t protect the Trojans from what just went down. Alabama made USC look like an FCS team in its worst loss in the past half century.

Even Fort Worth recognizes that the USC flag should be flown half-mast

Even Fort Worth recognizes that the USC flag should be flown half-mast

Not since John McKay’s 0-51 defeat against Notre Dame in 1966 have I ever seen a margin of loss that wide. The gulf is a sobering and succinct reminder of how far the team still has to go.

After suffering through sanctions and a head coaching situation as stable as North Korea’s economy, the team collapsed in primetime.That ended USC’s streak of 18 season opener wins and drops USC to 2-6 against Bama.

USC started out well enough. A deep pass on the second play to Darreus Rogers set up a long field goal. Matt Boormeester, in his first USC first goal attempt, barely bounced the ball off the upright and crossbar to give them the lead 2 minutes and 32 seconds into the game.

They led 3-0 for the next 19 minutes and 42 seconds. It was almost a good half of football (22:14 to be exact). Since that opening drive squeaker, the Trojans didn’t score for another 39 minutes and 54 seconds. More depressing than the contents of my refrigerator.

It was a far cry from that charmed first quarter when the defense held Alabama to zero points and 12 yards. We already mentioned the crazy field goal. There was also the safety blitz by Leon McQuay on 3rd-and-9 that de-cleated Blake Barnett and ended Alabama’s first drive.

Max Browne pulled out a 17-yard run from his bag of tricks on 3rd-and-10. Sure, they ended up failing a 4th down play, but it was okay: they forced a three-and-out for Bama. Even their impressive punter kicking coffin cornering it couldn’t phase USC. Tilbey bailed them out on his first kick as a Trojan, punting 52 yards.

Saban figured it wasn’t working and made the change at quarterback. USC spent a timeout in order to account for it. Turned out that was a sound decision because the call totally caused Jalen Hurtsto fumble during a zone read play. Magic.

By midway through the second quarter, whatever hocus pocus crap the Trojans took advantage of clearly subsided. Next time, put more quarters in the machine Clay (by the way, did you know you still need quarters for parking meters in Dallas? They don’t take credit card. How archaic is that?).

After USC’s fourth straight three-and-out, they kicked a shorter punt that was compounded on by a 15-yard penalty on the little freshie, Michael Pittman. That was a signal of the things to come.

I don't mean to be blunt, but is he signalling for a blunt?

I don’t mean to be blunt, but is the defensive coordinator signalling for a blunt?

Iman Marshall makes a key mistake during the drive. He turns around to look at the quarterback after shoving Ardarius Stewart out-of-bounds. That gave Stewart the separation he needed to catch the incoming pass for a touchdown. There was some controversy over this play, but, sorry, it was completely legal. Stewart did not go out-of-bounds on his own accord and managed to reestablish himself in the field of play before catching the pass. Even if Helton wanted to challenge it (illegal touching is one of the few penalty non-calls you can challenge), he burned all the timeouts for the half already. Obviously, 3-7 is not an insurmountable score differential, but the problems didn’t stop coming.

Next thing you know, Edoga is limping along to the sideline, followed shortly by Noah Jefferson from the defensive side. Losing a key guy like Jefferson on an already thin defensive line had immediate reprecussions. Damien Harris slips through that line for a 46-yard run. Only Adoree’ Jackson’s speed and strength of will prevented the touchdown. The silver lining is the defense recovered in the red zone, holding Bama to a field goal.

I can keep going about the problems in the second half, but I don’t want to. I’ll sum up a few points and circle back to the big picture:

  • Jabari Ruffin ejected for being dumb (probably)
  • Max Browne pass deflected for pick six
  • Cornerback blitz leaves Ardarius Stewart wide open for a 71-yard touchdown.
  • Chris Tillbey fumbles a perfect snap
  • Who kept track after that

The overall key points (or at least the ones I remember after that mind-numbing experience):

  • USC still has the Sarkisian trademark of depending too heavily on explosive plays
    • USC also still depends on making people miss in space. Bama has disciplined tacklers so that doesn’t happen often.
  • USC tried to win with speed on the outside. Alabama’s defense is probably the fastest any Trojan has  seen in about ten years. The perimeter plays don’t really work on them.
  • Being unable to establish the run forced the OC to always call plays off his back foot
  • Offensive line was the biggest weak point of the game, allowing too much pressure even though Alabama rarely rushed more than the standard four. That’s a telltale sign that your team is being dominated
  • Quarterbacks displayed some of their old issues we’ve seen from practice
    • Browne tends to not lead receivers off well on routes across the middle (leads to things like pick six)
    • Darnold has problems meshing with running back on hand offs
  • USC lack of depth/experience
    • Example: Edoga allowed an unimpeded Jonathan Allen—All-SEC first teamer, 5th in the nation in sacks last year—to come off the edge and sack Browne from the blindside. Set up halfback screen on 3rd-and-long when Browne just skips the ball off the ground because the play was horribly compromised.Yet, it probably got even worse once Edoga left the game.
  • Alabama remained consistent throughout the game:
    • Rare, if not non-existent, breakdown in coverage
    • Superior special teams play
    • Capitalized on USC mistakes (USC failed to capitalize on Alabama errors)

No respectable City of Angles post will give you the bad without the good, or the good without the bad. So here are the positives I saw:

  • Leon McQuay continues where he left off from last season. He is a playmaker at safety. Appears to really study his film
  • Adoree’ made not one, but two touchdown-saving tackles. That demonstrated not only his insane athletic ability, but his inability to give up on a play or game. Also, he managed to keep Calvin Ridley in check on an island.
  • Noah Jefferson is young, but was a impact player at defensive tackle.
  • Max Browne showed a lot of poise and made smart decisions in his first start. I full expect great things out of him this season. I would not be surprised to see him bounce back and throw for three touchdowns against Utah State.

CommBro Breaker

What’s City of Angles without bad photoshops? Cheer up with this one:

I don't have words for this:

I don’t have words for this:

Maybe defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt gave all his players a hit of weed during half time to improve their performance. Disclaimer: This is a troll conspiracy theory, not an attempt at libel or defamation.

Misleading Stat of the Week: USC is worst in the nation (127 out of 127) with 2.9 yards per offensive play. That’s what week one against the #1 team feels like. The average will get pulled much higher as the season progresses.

Useless Stat of the Week: USC has almost as many punting yards (403) as Alabama’s total offense (465)

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