USC vs. Stanford: False Start, True Struggle

Stanford vs. USC
September 17, 2016 at 5:14pm
Stanford Stadium, Palto Alto, CA: 48,763 (50,424)
Total Time: 3 hours 3 minutes

This was one of those games where everyone asks “Oh my gosh, what happened?” It’s really hard to describe even with a few sentence explanation. Quite simply, that was a pretty horrible game. You can blame the refs for some bad calls/non-calls, but that’d be quite disingenuous.

Frankly, this coaching staff and team have shown almost all that they need to at this point. They’ve played tough opponents, mediocre ones, and conference foes. I almost don’t even want to write about it. There are no excuses left to give at this point. They aren’t sandbagging against lesser opponents, they aren’t just overmatched by the #1 team in the nation. This team has serious problem and they just aren’t where they need to be or where they should be.

With a few key exceptions, the team needs to take a quantum leap to stay competitive this season. I’m afraid that it won’t happen fast enough. They didn’t show anything new since playing against Alabama. It was the same deal, down to the first half 3-17 score.

Taking a look at the USC-Stanford games since 2010, a lot of the games were within one possession. Starting with the first game in 2015, it moved up to two possession. It then moved up to three possessions in the 2015 rematch, and remained that way in 2016. Meanwhile, they continually score less on offense—hitting a 24 year low in points score on Stanford. They lost 9-23 back in 1992…before most of the players on either rosters were born. It suggests that the team’s trajectory is going in the wrong direction.

Game USC Stanford Differential Result
2010 35 37 -2 L
2011 (3OT) 48 56 -8 L
2012 14 21 -7 L
2013 20 17 3 W
2014 13 10 3 W
2015 31 41 -10 L
2015 (Pac-12 CG) 22 41 -19 L
2016 10 27 -17 L

There is a growing vocal minority clamoring on making the switch from Browne to Darnold. As cathartic as it can be to blame such an easy thing, such a risky change probably wouldn’t produce the results they seek. Browne carries a similar problem as Cody Kessler did in holding onto the ball too long rather than trying to throw a receiver open in the middle of the field.

Everyone has issues: Browne, the receivers, the offensive line. The bigger problem is that they tend to succeed out of phase. Here are a few scenarios:

Receivers get open>QB sees them>One o-lineman allows DE in for a sack
Receviers get open>O-line blocks well>QB holds onto ball
O-line blocks well>QB ready to throw>Receivers covered completely

Then sometimes they step up their game, with two failing:

QB ready to throw>Receivers can’t get open>O-line allows LB in for a sack
O-line blocks well>Receivers can’t get open>QB holds onto ball too long

Or an even better scenario:

O-line false start

About those false starts…seriously embarrassing. The Trojans amassed six false starts in the game. They actually had more false starts than points in the first half—5 false starts, 3 points.

Good thing we couldn’t hear them though since the officials’ mics weren’t even working. The Pac-12 is really the model conference!

Another glaring obstacle—other than trying to find new synonyms for “problem”—is Helton’s management of timeouts. He habitually burns throughthem too fast and too furiously.

By my judgment, he has a very basketball-like mentality with them. He uses it to draw up specific plays. That stuff should really have been prepped long before and just signalled to the QB. Yet somehow, they can leave the sideline confused and unorganized. Perhaps that’s where they planned their little hot potato trick play that ended with an incomplete pass.

What’s the purpose of the no huddle if you can’t even communicate properly? They aren’t even really using it for hurry-up offense and yet they have to suffer all the drawbacks like each individual player needing to understand the call.

I’m going to stop droning on and go into hurry-up mode:

  • Christian McCaffrey consistently picked up 5 or 6 yards on first down, allowing Stanford to continual run on second and third down in order to convert.
  • USC on the other hand, had negative plays on first down and/or penalties, making them need 10+ yards on third downs (average of 10.08 to go on third down)
    • Forcing them into passing situations or just running to set up a punt
  • Like the Alabama game, miscommunications and defensive breakdowns allows explosive play for TD
    • Team gave up like in Alabama game too

Sad Stat of the Week #1: The last time USC started 1-2 is 2001.

Sad Stat of the Week #2: USC’s offense is averaging 20.3 points per game, tied for 108th in the nation

Justin Davis had this to say: “If we don’t play disciplined with this talent, this talent is going to waste”

CommBro Breaker

The real Commbro Breaker is nobody got ejected this game.

Positives in hurry-up mode:

  • Deontay Burnett deserves recognition for his efforts. I didn’t mention him last game, but he definitely has contributed his fair share the past two games
  • A decent redzone stand, holding Stanford to 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Stanford still went for it, and got the touchdown in the end, but I guess you can’t stop them forever at the 1.
    • I’m really bad at this positivity thing
  • Adoree’ Jackson’s interception
  • Browne continues to have above average poise in the pocket that you’d like to see in a quarterback
  • USC offense while lining up under center
  • Steven Mitchell continues his consistency
  • Touchdown against a ranked opponent?
  • At least we’re using tight ends now
  • Okay, I give up…kind of like the team did

Misleading Stat of the Week: Stanford actually decreased USC’s tackles for loss allowed per game from 9 to 7.33.

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