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.

USC vs. Utah State: Win of the Year

USC vs. Utah State
September 10, 2016 at 11:00am
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 62,487 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 18 minutes

Early in the morning (at least in the college football world), the Trojans scored their first touchdown of the season en route to their first win since November 28, 2015. They ended a 0-3 losing streak that carried over nine and a half months. That first touchdown was also the first since early in the fourth quarter of the Holiday Bowl on December 30th. It feels good to celebrate touchdowns and wins again.

That was also Max Browne’s first career touchdown at USC and first win as a starter. Clay Helton joins in the “first win” crew, bringing him to 1-3 as non-interim head coach. The climbs back to .500, sitting at 1-1 overall. In case you wanted a win ratio that looked better than either of those, know that the Trojans are 6-0 against Utah State. Perfect! Let’s hope they can also start off “perfect” in Pac-12 play in Palo Alto next week against Stanford. It kicks off at a decent time, so there’s that.

The culmination of this week’s 11:00am start and being the first game with new NFL safety regulations, crowds got stuck at the gate. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the ticket scanners weren’t working. They just tore my ticket printed paper ticket. I’d also like to eat my pasta by hand and call my friends to chat from a payphone. Such barbarism. Either way, it was a great combo (commbro?). Thanks Pac-12! You’re always looking out for us. Yeah, nah. Look at what they did:

Their superior scheduling led not only to the morning mess, but low attendance. The announced 62,487 looked a lot more like 45-50,000. Then a few thousand more filed out after the first two quarters. So basically the half full Coliseum half emptied after halftime. That’s the lowest attendance in quite some time. It’s lower than those lame Thursday night games. You’d have to reach back to 2013, right after that Washington State game to find a number lower. There were 62,006 attending that unnaturally short game against Boston College.

Perhaps that was why the game started like my 1982 Mercedes-Benz does on a particularly (California) frigid morning. At first, it looked like they picked up right where they left off from the Arlington outing. They even capped it off with an ejection! With all this drama, who needs high school prom or TNT.

As the final score would indicate, they cleaned up their act after a big play from Michael Pittman. His punt block and ensuing return by Quinton Powell set up the all the firsts.Special teams turned out to be impactful during this game, including missed field goals on both sides and, of course, JuDoree’ JacSchuster’s 77-yard punt return for a touchdown.

What’s interesting about that return that he hadn’t picked up a single punt prior to that. He even appeared to misjudge the distance and let one sail over his head. It almost looked like he was going to let that one be downed as well, but got a running head start before scooping it up. The entire return teams deserves credit for making it possible through the blocks.

The defense performed admirably for the most part except for the last drive of the third quarter. There was still some confusion sometimes on the defense, which is concerning, but they managed to hold the Aggies to a mere 7 points. Can’t complain too much about that—especially after considering that former walk-on safety, Matt Lopes, had to come in for an injured Marvel Tell in the second half. They also managed this defensive performance without the aid of punts pinning the opposing offense deep in their own territory. Clancy Pendergast’s previous squad had a lot of help from that back in 2013. On Saturday, they showed that they didn’t need it. The offense, however, might need some more help on their side.

You can’t criticize too much in a 45-7 win, but, of the three phases, offense clearly needed the most work. They still lack a clear identity and the next game isn’t really the time to be having a quarter-life crisis. Stanford will be coming off a bye week following a Friday game. That’s a lot of time for preparation for an already consistent team. Let’s not get ahead of oursevles though. It all begins and ends with the offensive line. They have really take it up one more step. If they continue like this, Browne’s decision-making will suffer even when he’s not pressured. The receivers need to contribute by putting more distance between themselves and the DBs at the top of their route (then catch the ball, but more on that later). They all go hand-in-hand, actually. To summarize:

  • Better blocking by offensive line
  • Receivers need to get more separation sooner
  • Browne needs to improve decision making

Browne floated up a few passes that could’ve been picked off. One of them actually was, but Leon McQuay was there to bail him out with his own interception. Browne did take lots of deep shots and, sadly, most of them ended in PIs and drops.

Speaking of drops, Browne dropped an accurate pass right into Darreus Rogers’ area. Rogers did the polite thing and treated others how he was treated. Yes, he dropped it. Great work, Darreus. Football etiquette. Super simple stuff. Too mean? Maybe. He did tie for most catches on the team after all.

With that being said, Steven Mitchell has actually been a much more reliable pass catcher. I don’t think he dropped a single one against the Aggies. All in all, the combination of Browne and Darnold spread the ball to 10 different receivers, with a majority going to Darreus Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster (7 each).

Having a few long drives, being 6 out of 6 in the red zone, and 2 out of 2 on fourth down converstions are also a plus.

CommBro Breaker

I honestly think Helton should stop constantly switching QBs. It screws up the rhythm of the game. If you want to do it for a special situation like with Ajene Harris (he opted not to throw anyway) or Jalen Greene, sure. But doing it a few times a game can destabilize the offense. Also, with a situation like Saturday, when both QBs come away with two touchdowns, it can stir up some controversy again. Is Helton showing a lack of conviction in his decision? All of this may end up hurting team down the road. Or perhaps I’m just mad that the switching invalidated by prediction of Browne getting three touchdowns. You’ll never know.

Misleading Stat of the Week: Take a look at the 38-10 Western Kentucky-Alabama score! They managed to score more and allow less than the Trojans team did. The same Western Kentucky that we poached a few coaches from. Interesting.

There are so many factors that make this misleading. Alabama and Lane Kiffin were probably significantly more motivated against USC. Also, the touchdown was scored in garbage time. The week after playing a big game also tends to be a bit of slump. One game like this doesn’t mean much.

Statistics Gore of the Week: USC is scoring 22.5 points per game and allowing 29.5 points per game. By my calculations, they are 0-2 and will have zero wins for the rest of the season.

Useless Stat of the Week: USC turnovers off of turnovers count: 1

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)

USC 2016 Depth Chart and Rankings

The long awaited depth chart for the 2016 season has been released. The starting quarterback has been named for the season opener. That means it’s almost time for some real action to take place. Only two weeks to go!

If you’ve been keeping up with everything, nothing in the depth chart should come as too much of a surprise. If you haven’t, then it’ll be like Christmas for you. Enjoy!

Something of note is how many wide receiver positions have “OR” listed on them. It really show how deep the receiving corp is for this season. Hopefully the days of using walk-on receivers against Notre Dame are long behind us. It’s the kind of OR that should make you happy, unlike a Denny’s menu or QB battle. Sorry, didn’t mean to zing Kiffin twice.

I didn't mean it. We're still cool, right? Please just screw up one more game though.

I didn’t mean it. We’re still cool, right? Please just screw up one more game though.

But seriously, Denny’s…bacon OR sausage? I want both! I usually solve this by ordering two grand slams. Now how do I connect this back to the post to make it look like I know what I’m doing? Ah, yes. I like my stomach like my rosters: full.

With a return to a near full roster, depth at most positions, and no critical injuries to essential personnel it may seem like 2016 is the year for a good run. You can hope and dream that will happen—as I will—but it likely will not be the case. Even though the roster is near full, there is far too much youth on the team. Normally, there would be a better distribution of juniors and seniors across the roster, but the team is too heavily weighted towards underclassmen.

Out of the 30-some upperclassmen, quite a few do not have significant game experience or are specialty positions like long snapper and kicker. That leaves about 20 of the 85 scholarship players as upperclassmen with decent experience. This team may have some substantial growing pains early in the season.

Speaking of early in the season, the Trojans play all the preseason ranked teams at the beginning and end of the season. Schedule order can matter a lot in whether or not a team succeeds or fails during a season.

USC’s bye week precedes a Thursday game against Cal. Prepare your butt for traffic that night. That’s pretty good timing because the team will get an extra 2 days to recover and prepare for Oregon and a long string of ranked teams until the very end. Who knows though—these rankings can and will fluctuate a lot before it’s all over.

Date Team AP Rank Coaches Rank
09/03/16 Alabama 1 1
09/10/16 Utah State UR UR
09/17/16 Stanford 8 7
09/23/16 Utah 28* 28*
10/01/16 Arizona State UR UR
10/08/16 Colorado UR UR
10/15/16 Arizona UR 46*
10/27/16 California UR UR
11/05/16 Oregon 24 22
11/12/16 Washington 14 18
11/19/16 UCLA 16 24
11/26/16 Notre Dame 10 9
N/A USC 20 17
*Not in top 25 but receiving votes

CommBro Breaker

Order has been returned, and power has been restored to the House of M. Sam Darnold’s biggest mistake in the quarterback competition was not changing his name to Mam Darnold or something. I hope you have a name change petition on your clipboard this season, Darnold.

My advice to fans that are fathers: better pick the right name for your kid if you hope for them to be a starting quarterback at USC.

USC Fall Camp 2016 Report 2 of -1

Monday’s practice at the Coliseum marked the final of the 5pm Fall Camp practices. That also means I won’t be able to attend and report on anymore of these. I’ll try to make the best of our short time together. Just kidding, I’m not going to mince words much this time. You’ll just have to wait until there’s more stuff I can write about.

The team came out in full pads and looked sluggish. During one on one drills, defenders had sloppy tackles. Daniel Imatorbhebhe absolutely embarrased one guy with his jukes and cuts. I’m not sure if he even managed to touch Imatorbhebhe. His burning cuts always look impressive. Hopefully he’ll get more consistent with his catches though.

The defense managed to redeem themselves a bit in 11 on 11 red zone drills. For the most part, they were stopping a fairly stagnant offense. They denied an offense for a substantial period. Eventually, both Max Browne and Sam Darnold were able to get a touchdown apiece. Before they could, though, Quinton Powell was heckling them from the sideline. Funny and all for practice, but I hope it doesn’t bleed into taunting penalties in live games…

…because they got enough penalties on their own. So many flags for false starts and other assorted garbage. It feels a little weird to see that many yellow flags fly during a glorified practice. Basically, the team did not look game-ready. Luckily, it’s practice number five and they have a lot of time to get their crap together. They’re going to need it because—in case you forgot—Alabama is up next. And they’re sure as hell not going to be in Texas to compare US News rankings or GPAs.

CommBro Breaker

Even if they did just show up to compare GPAs, y’all still may lose.

Useless Stat of the Day: University of Alabama’s acceptance rate is 51%. USC’s is 16.5%. They even beat us at that. Wait…Yup, the numbers check out. 51 > 16.5. Trust me, I was a Comm major.

Don't worry, I got you another sweet picture. It's totally not just the previous one reversed.

Don’t worry, I got you another sweet picture to distract you from my mathematics. It’s totally not just the previous one reversed.

USC Fall Camp 2016 Report 1 of 0

City of Angles and CommBro bring you firsthand information hot from the second fall camp practice. I got there late and left early though. Life obligations and stuff, y’know? That’s basically the same reason I dropped off the face of the Earth for a while. And sadly, that’s why I’ll probably only get to attend one more fall camp practice before the actual season starts.

It wasn’t an extended gag from the Finding Dory post carrying on over the past month, in case you were wondering. Sorry folks, didn’t mean for that much silence.

With these unfortunate circumstances, I have to ease myself back into this whole blogging thing. I mean, how hard can it be to barf onto your keyboard? Even your friendly neighborhood cat can do that. Even though we’re less than a month away from the big showdown against Alabama in the season opener, I find myself constantly trying to say “spring practice” instead of “fall camp practice.” Yup, don’t see any problems here. Don’t worry, I am so on top of this that I even managed to sneak in a picture despite the camera ban.

Some people call me a photoshopper. I consider myself a prankster.

I didn’t Photoshop, okay? Some people call me a liar. I consider myself a prankster.

At first, it seemed like quarterback hopeful Sam Darnold was sharing in my suffering on post-Spring transitions. Just when it looked like the other hopeful, Max Browne, was starting to get some separation and yank the starting job away, Darnold rallies and Browne stumbles. I am really starting to see why Coach Helton wanted to keep the competition going into Spring. I still don’t like it—but I understand it.

What I can understand and like is how Helton handled the little tussle that took place during the practice. Two players got into it in the right corner of the end zone, resulting in a serving of up-downs for the entire team as punishment. Or are they down-ups? Which came first: the up or the down? The chicken or the egg. Classic questions.

CommBro Breaker

I have long pondered the latter question and found myself in a deeper quandary. In either case, where did the rooster come from? Were they parallel pairs, both originating from eggs or fully formed? Maybe one started as an egg, the other fully grown. These dangerous ideas must be what drove men of old into book burnings. Absolute nonsense.

/CommBro Breaker

Their little up-down session will hopefully lead to a more disciplined team. That has been an area of weakness for the past several years. Life with the Pac-12 officials is difficult enough. Why encourage them with free unsportsmanlike conduct penalties? Make them invent penalties to fuel fan outrage instead. All part of that fun of a gameday.

Anyway, much like the first practice, they went with helmets and no pads so nothing too crazy happened. The highlights were Browne throwing a long touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the right corner of the end zone. It was one of those impossible grabs.

Darnold wouldn’t be upstaged, so he threw one to the same spot into the hands of Josh Imatorbhebhe. It was one of those well thrown floaters that no DB would be able to reach. But yeah, all the action was in the right corner of the end zone.

That’s all I got this time. Like I told you, I’m getting back into the swing of things. Stay tuned for more posts leading up to the match on September 3.

USC Spring Game 2016

USC vs. USC vs. USC (USC Spring Game)
April 16, 2016 at 3:00pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: 23,000 (of 93,607 [As if they were going to pack out a spring game. This isn’t the Midwest])
Total Time: Approximately 1 hours 50 minutes

New coaches, new quarterback, and new athletic director make for an interesting spring. Too bad the annual “spring game” was anything but. There were a lot of 9 on 7 drills, situational plays, and just plain practice stuff during another hot day in Southern California’s eternal summer.

Eventually, they got to the good stuff with 11 on 11 and even live tackling. The only ones exempt to the hits were the four quarterbacks participating. It may not have been awe-inspiring, but we saw a few good things. For one, the vertical passing game is back and totally in style. Both Browne and Darnold completed some long passes.

Early on in the 11-on-11, Browne connected with Darreus for a large gain, but it was still iffy. Take a watch below:

Browne underthrew the deep pass, big time, but still completed it to Darreus Rogers. The three DBs present not only allowed the catch, they allowed Rogers to take the remaining 20-ish yards into the endzone. The ball traveled approximately 50 yards in the air—42 from the line of scrimmage. The added run made brought the play to 64 yards and a touchdown. Could’ve been worse, I guess. In the end, both Darnold and Browne’s stats look impressive:

Max Browne
114 yards
3 TD

Sam Darnold
63 yards
2 TD

The City of Angles advanced eye test alghorithm has deduced the following ranking of the four:

  1. Max Browne
  2. Sam Darnold
  3. Jalen Greene
  4. Matt Fink

Receivers dropping a copious amount of passes was still a thing. Luckily, they redeemed themselves a bit later on in the “game.”

The offensive line did decently in pass blocking, but allowed a few tackles for loss in the run game. Despite that, the running backs were the most consistent position group throughout.

Going back to the DBs, they clearly need some more work. They took some bad angles in the open field, and mistimed jumps. Those guys had some good pass breakups, though. Give them credit for that.

Towards the end of the day, Clay Helton gave blind longsnapper, Jake Olsen, a chance to snap the ball. He got a lot of cheers and applause for his two snaps.

CommBro Breaker

Once again, we find ourselves waiting to find out who they name as the quarterback starter. City of Angles has a great hot take. For today’s troll lineup, Max Browne should be the starting quarterback followed by Matt Fink in two years. Why? It’s quite simple. They must continue the legacy of the House of M. The QB starters that played a majority share of the season dating back to 1998 are as follows:

  1. Mike Van Raaphorst
  2. Carson Palmer
  3. Matt Leinart
  4. John David Booty
  5. Mark Sanchez
  6. Matt Barkley
  7. Cody Kessler

The House of M had some interruptions, but could’ve completed a dream of five in a row, as seen below. Instead, Cody CommBro Breaker Kessler came in and denied Max Wittek’s rightful place in the pantheon of USC quarterbacks with an M first name.

  1. Mark Sanchez
  2. Matt Barkley
  3. Max Wittek
  4. Max Browne
  5. Matt Fink

Look at the beautiful alliteration that was destroyed. Thanks Kessler.

Disclaimer: Clicking the random links strewn throughout the post should increase your understanding and viewing enjoyment.

USC Spring Football Midterm Report 2016

In case you're checking, yes, this isn't a recent photo. They didn't let us take pictures so this is from a 2012 spring practice.

In case you’re checking, yes, this isn’t a recent photo. They didn’t let us take pictures so this is from a 2012 spring practice.

We’re at about the halfway point in spring practice with the closing up on practice #7.The total of 14 practices culminate in the annual Spring Game on April 16.

Sadly, I’ve only been able to attend about two practices so far and I’ve mostly been watching the offense…but I’ll give you what I got. Yeah. You know that thing they say about “Don’t quit your day job“? Well, for your information, if I actually quit my day job, I’d be able to do more and write a better report. Kind of a catch-22 situation.

Since we’re on the topic, “catch-22” seems to be what Max Browne is trying out with the team. Zing! It’s one thing to try to spread the ball out amongst all your receivers, but passing to all the defenders isn’t exactly a winning formula. Okay, now that’s out of my system. But seriously, while I want Browne to win the starting quarterback job, he hasn’t done very well both Saturdays I was in attendance. The first time, he threw three interceptions, which was slightly offset by the two touchdowns. At the Coliseum this past Saturday, he only threw two near interceptions. Those were dropped by the defenders. However, he wasn’t able to complete very many passes either.

Maybe I’m the problem. Once is just life, twice makes a pattern. If I stop going to spring practices, maybe Browne will do better. Nah, forget that. I’m not the superstitious type. Let’s just cross our fingers that this isn’t a microcosm of the entire team. Wait…

Anyway, the offensive line, while improved in some areas, certainly don’t look good with the snap. A majority of them were high, wasting precious time fielding them. If that doesn’t get fixed, it’ll get real nasty in games—unless someone can pull one of these off:

The difference is we don’t have a Super Bowl winning scrambler at QB. We should sooner look for the return of Toa Lobendahn or Khaliel Rodgers. Nico Falah did decently filling in as a third-string center the past season, but his snaps haven’t impressed this spring.

There have also been quite a few drops by receivers, when either Browne or Sam Darnold have been leading the team. On the flip side, newcomer Josh Imatorbhebhe runs some of the sickest routes. His cuts are extremely crisp. I feel sorry for the DB that has to cover him—as long as he improves his focus while watching.

Lastly, Justin Davis has looked solid and consistent. He runs with authority and picked up some large gains on the ground. Ronald Jones also continues to excite. Based on the running backs’ performances during fall 2015 and this spring, I am not at all worried about this group.

CommBro Breaker

I wish I had more to report on the defense since we have a “new” defensive coordinator and all. At least I know those corners are doing their jobs!