USC vs. Notre Dame: Zero

#9 Notre Dame vs. USC
October 12, 2019 at 4:42pm
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN: 77,622 (of 77,622)
Total Time: 3 hours 16 minutes

ZERO road wins. This Helton guy is almost like clockwork when it comes to the home-away dichotomy. But at least there were also zero turnovers! The referees almost errantly gifted one to Notre Dame by pointing in the wrong direction, but that doesn’t count.

Weird (read as “bad”) officiating led to some strange outcomes, like ND head coach Brian Kelly running 3 or 4 yards onto the field in his natural yelling form during the onside kick without any sort of penalty. He was still there after the play had started. Remember when Talanoa Hufanga jumped in celebration and landed onto the field after a play was over and was penalized? Seems fair.

Notre Dame Stadium also can’t seem to escape goal line controversies. After the officials decided to grant USC an extra down due to their own error, a running back was pushed into the endzone. Much like a mid-October South Bend game in 2005, the officials had to give USC an extra play after realizing Matt Leinart actually fumbled out-of-bounds. The following play was the famous (or infamous) Bush Push. Bush Push, meet the Stepp Step.

 

There was also talk of a bad roughing the passer call and some missed PIs. Yup, all that sucks, but it would have been a bigger deal if anyone still cared about Helton being able to do something with this season and his career at USC. The Trojans scored 8x as many points in the second half than in the first half. By golly, those Trojans will get them all in the third half.

Good/Badisms

GOOD: Slovis recovering from his poor BYU performance and showing better decision-making even against drop eight coverages.

GOOD: Perfect throw and catch from Slovis to Amon-Ra St. Brown to give USC its first touchdown of the game. And again when Slovis was hit as he threw to St. Brown late in the fourth quarter to set up a score.

GOOD: Tyler Vaughns making some tough catches to keep the first downs rolling.

GOOD: Markese Stepp racked up plenty of yards after contact and should probably be getting extra playtime/carries. On one play, he ran for an impressive 19 yards, 15 of which had half the Notre Dame team trying to tackle him.

BAD: Speaking of failed tackling, USC still had too many defenders sliding off Notre Dame players after making contact.

BAD: The bad tackling and failure to set the edge allow Notre Dame to amass a total of 308 yards rushing.

BAD: Other than field goals, the team continues to disappoint on special teams. The punts went a little further this time, but too many were sailing into the endzone.

GOOD(ish): Only 2 penalties for 20 yards, which includes the ridiculous 15-yard roughing the passer penalty. ND had declined several penalties, though, which isn’t reflected in that stat line. Still, impressive for the Trojans to get through a game—especially a sold out away game—without a false start penalty.

GOOD/BAD: There was some great cornerback play at times, but in the end, too many of them got injured to provide consistent coverage.

CommBro Breaker

Halfway through the season, Helton sits at a perfect 3-3. Three home wins, three road losses. Does he realize that he shouldn’t be shooting for Thanos level goals?

A decent coach with this roster would likely be 5-1 or 6-0 and bowl eligible already, but 4-2 at worst. At that point, their only decent chance at losing is against Oregon. For Helton, I’m predicting losses against Oregon and ASU, with rough games against Colorado and Cal to limp to my originally predicted 8-5 ending.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #1: Slovis has lost 27-30 after throwing two touchdown passes on the road against a non-conference team twice this season. Games are fixed!!

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #2: USC ranks 90th in red zone conversion rate (78.26%) compared to #1 Notre Dame’s 100%. Even more disappointing is USC’s touchdown percentage of 56.52% (for reference, ND has 85.36%). That means they score a touchdown about half the time they’re at 20 or less yards to go.

Uplifting Stat of the Week: Kedon Slovis still ranks 4th in the nation in completion percentage (75%)…still above Alabama’s Tua Tagovailova.

USC vs. UW: Types of Headaches

#17 Washington vs. #21 USC
September 29, 2019 at 12:40pm
Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA: 66,975 (70,183)
Total Time: 3 hours 14 minutes

Clay Helton has proven his abilities yet again. USC plummets out of the rankings and down several statistical categories in yet another road loss. As predicted last week, Washington’s defensive backs took advantage of risky passes from Fink and turned it into three interceptions. The Huskies opted for a similar defensive strategy as BYU, with a plethora of drop eight. Like two weeks ago, the team was unprepared and had few answers as they fell behind by as much as three touchdowns. Despite receiving several breaks throughout the game, they failed to produce a competitive result.

Although USC’s 212 rush yards appear to illustrate a strong run game, nearly half of those yards were the result of two runs—neither of which ended in scoring drives. One of those drives ended in an interception and the other with a failed fourth down attempt. With Helton’s level of preparation, all the upcoming bye week will really do is give time for injured players to heal.

The postgame press conference and subsequent statements to the press on Sunday and Monday demonstrated Helton’s cookie cutter responses about “eliminating mistakes” and just how close they were to doing something special. You’ve been here three and a half years, dude. How can he keep saying the same things year and year and loss after loss? If he hasn’t fixed it now, he won’t be able to fix it anytime soon.

Good/Badisms

GOOD: Fink’s deep pass to Michael Pittman

BAD LUCK?: A lucky bounce for Washington as they scored off their own fumble in the end zone

BAD: This one is on the Pac-12 officials. Talanoa Hufanga’s celebration penalty was a result of him starting a side bump celebration from the sidelines, with the jump landing him just barely onto the field. Was something that barely qualifies as a violation really egregious enough for 15 yards?

BAD: 163 passing yards.

CommBro Breaker

It’s getting difficult to generate content. Such uninspired games beget uninspired posts. As one of my instructors used to say, at least mess up on something new—then at least we know you’re working on it. Helton-coached teams continue to display the same issues without much sign of improvement. I can only make so many new jokes out of the same material.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #1: For yet another away game, the attendance is higher than any home game at the Coliseum since 2017 despite having larger stadiums than most of them.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #2: As touched upon earlier, USC has abysmal stats in the turnover category. Almost everything ranks below 120. Overall margin is at 124 (-7), average margin per game is 121 (-1.4/game), and total lost is three away from the bottom at 127 of 130 (13 lost).

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #3: USC is rank 110 in average opponent kickoff returns (24.42 yards).

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #4-6: Rankings for Opponent Long Scrimmage Plays:

  • #106 in 10+ yards (74)
  • #92 in 30+ yards (11)
  • #108 (of 108) in 80+ yards (1)

That means 107 teams have not allowed a play longer than 80 or more yards on defense and the Trojans are not among them. USC is in league with teams like Charlotte, Louisiana-Monroe, Troy, UMass, and Western Kentucky for that distinction.

Uplifting Stats of the Week: While lots of statistical categories suck, here are a few that don’t:

  • #23 in Sacks (13)
  • #24 in Passes Defended (25)
  • #14 in Passes Broken Up (23)
  • #1 in Field Goal Percentage (4 of 4)

Misleading Stat of the Week: As Helton claims, USC can still win out, get a Pac-12 championship and even a Rose Bowl/NY6 bowl berth. Even if he defied all odds and managed to do that, one can clearly tell he is underachieving by watching the games. It also won’t erase the memories of last season: the first losing season in 18 years and losses to both rivals. I guess it’s a stretch to call this a statistic though. Does that make me as misleading as Helton?