USC vs. Notre Dame: Comedy of Compounded Clangers

USC vs. Notre Dame
November 24, 2016 at 5:14pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 59,821 (of 78,467)
Total Time: 3 hours 17 minutes

Two SCents: 

Despite what was probably JT Daniels’ best game all season, the Trojans could not overcome a pair of fumbles and recurrent errors. In a paradoxical manner, they fought harder than anyone expected out of them yet repeated some excruciating trends like zero points in the third quarter.

CommBro Breaker/Bonus SCents:

The season is officially over for USC with no bowl game and a losing season. Freshmen on the roster born after November 25, 2000 literally hadn’t had a USC losing season in their lifetime. For some others, like Daniels, they weren’t old enough to remember a thing about it. That’s how big of a deal this is for the program. Clay Helton should be promoted to fan ASAP.

I’ve modified this expanding brain meme for the occasion.

You know it’s bad when your fan base feels it’s necessary to donate money to fly a banner saying “Lynn Swann—Please Fire Clay Helton”

It’s baffling why Swann intends to bring Helton back for another go when he has shown little to no improvement through 3.5 seasons as head coach.

From his first game as interim against Notre Dame in 2015 to this final ND game in 2018, Helton had about two dominant road game performances outside of Los Angeles (one against each of the Arizona schools). He has also gotten blown out on the road by Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford, Alabama, Utah, Ohio State, and Texas. Don’t forget about ugly, grinding wins or close losses against teams he should have handled easily. The same applies to some atrocious home games. I can’t imagine this going over well with the fan base.

Home games haven’t broken 60,000 attendees at all this season. What will it look like in 2019 with Helton retained? Should we be prepared for the first back-to-back losing seasons since 1961?

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #1: JT Daniels maintained a career high 72% completion percentage despite throwing the ball more than 50 times.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #2: The Trojans averaged 4 points per third quarter this season.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #3: USC is 120th in the nation in turnover margin, which is also tied for last in the Pac-12.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #4: USC is 122nd in the nation in penalties per game and are 123rd in penalty yards per game.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #5: USC is 124th in the nation in interceptions with a mere 4. There are 35 players in the nation with as many or more interceptions than the entire USC team.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #6: The number of people saying “I’ve been a fan since 19__, but no longer.” Is this straw that broke Traveler’s back in a torrent of frustrating decisions made by the USC Athletic department? The nail in the Kiffin?

Misleading Stat of the Week #1: A USC QB has a passing efficiency of 165.5 and tied with the nation’s best for least number of interceptions thrown.

We’re talking about Jack Sears…who only has 28 career attempts.

Double CommBro Breaker

Also, in case you’re wondering about the title: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clanger. I needed to introduce British English to fully describe the depth of this era’s failures.

See you all next season if you’re still around. I should be back to writing full length posts. Thanks for your continued support!

USC vs. Notre Dame: Championship Wishful Thinking Ended

Notre Dame vs. USC
October 21, 2017 at 4:43pm
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN: 77,622
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

Do you remember the last time USC didn’t score in the first half? At Corvallis in 2010, where the Trojans lost 7-36 and starting QB Matt Barkley had to be taken out with an injury. Seven years later, the #11 Trojans played about as well as the unranked Temple or Boston College against the #13 Fighting Irish. If you combine this game with USC’s 2013 trip up to South Bend you might get a full game’s worth of scoring!

Any hope at an outside shot of a playoff berth has been ended. Now fans are forced to adjust their expectations and are uneasy about the rest of the season.

No matter how good a coach is, eventually they will lose—maybe even a team that they have no business losing to—but a prepared coach shouldn’t really get blown out often. Not at this level. Not with this kind of team.

The team gave up. Hell, it looks like they were never really into it to begin with. The team looked completely unprepared and unable to tackle. From what I’m seeing, I’m guessing they stopped tackling in practice. Sources confirmed that. Hasn’t Helton learned from the mistakes of his predecessor? He worked directly under Kiffin when he made that same unfortunate decision. Uncoincidentally, it’s starting to look like that 2012 season; a depleted roster edges out unconvincing wins through sheer talent, but ultimately squanders the season due to poor preparation and coaching decisions—only Kiffin didn’t get blown out that season.

Good-Badisms

BAD: Allowing 377 yards rushing. That’s higher than ND’s average. Allowing 8 yards a carry is also fairly disappointing

BAD: Producing unforced turnovers.

BAD: Defense unable to balance out the offense by getting takeaways of their own

BAD: The punt return game. They made a change, like I wanted them to do. It resulted in another unforced turnover. You’re telling me the entire roster doesn’t have anyone that can reliably field punts?

BAD: The missed field goal almost got overshadowed in my mind because of all the other things that went wrong. A 27-yarder should not be that difficult.

BAD: Could not establish a run game.

BAD: I could list more but who wants that?

GOOD: Fink showed some good runs.

GOOD: Deontay had a great game despite his quarterback struggling.

Yeah…that’s about all the good I can remember

CommBro Breaker

As bad as that was, firing should not be on the table at this point. A third midseason firing, all within 5 years ,at a school that had previous not done it before, would be disastrous. Firing the guy at the end of the season might be hasty as well. He should get about three years. If he fails to make the necessary changes this offseason, then that’s the point when those considerations should start.

Lottery Stats

Depressing Stat of the Week: USC averages 2.71 turnovers a game. They have not had a game with less than two turnovers this season.They are tied for 127th in the FBS for total turnovers (19). The only team that has more turnovers that SC is San Jose State.

Running count of fourth down conversions: 4 of 12 (33%)

Running count of opponent fourth down conversions: 9 of 15 (60%)

USC vs. Notre Dame vs. Adoree’

USC vs. Notre Dame
November 26, 2016 at 12:42pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 72,402 (93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 39 minutes

The legendary intersectional rivalry notched another in the series. Like usual, the Trojans and Fighting Irish play following Thanksgiving every even year. And it was raining, just like 6 years ago when Notre Dame ended an 8-game losing streak to USC off the uncharacteristic drop suffered by RoJo. A different RoJo took the field on Saturday and his Trojan team delivered a different result.

A Notre Dame team entered the game with an unappealing 4-7 record. However, every single one of their seven losses had been by one possession (8 points or less). I’m not trying to tell you that they should’ve entered at 11-0 or excusing them for their losses. All I’m saying is that they’re probably a bit better than their record would indicate. Then USC proceeded to beat them by three possessions even after the Irishs’ garbage time touchdown.

The win painted a perfect backdrop for the annual senior day on an otherwise rare rainy LA day (sarcastically referred to as “perfect football weather” by more than a few Trojan fans). Most of us were expecting it, but not during the first quarter. The ACC officials present at the game seemed intent to aid the ill-weather in every way possible by dragging the game out. In the end, I’m not sure if the fans cheered louder when the sun peeked out over the horizon or for Adoree’ Jackson’s multitude of touchdowns. Just kidding, we know what got the louder cheer. Not everything was exciting fun and games though. The beginning of the game looked quite sloppy.

After a quick field goal by USC to start, the Fighting Irish caught a safety out of position and ran for 74 yards. Adoree’ Jackson managed chase him out-of-bounds short of the score remnisicent of his performance against Alabama. RoJo answered a few minutes later with a 51-yard touchdown run to get to the score to 10-7.

The next quarter and half was basically a soccer match. Seven punts and missed field goal with four possessions apiece. Then the excitement built up over!!…questionable reffing decisions….

I’m not even sure what they called on DeShone Kizer’s lateral fumble. I was at the stadium and didn’t hear jack squat. I rewatched the broadcast and still can’t tell why they decided to call it dead at the ND 8-yard line.

  • Was it an incomplete pass? We would’ve heard a whistle and it’d be 2nd-and-10 instead of 2nd-and-23.
  • Was it an intentional ground? Sure that’d get the 2nd-and-23 with loss of down at the spot of the foul, but the running back was right there and got his hands on it boefre it fell to the ground.
  • Foward progress stopped? Again, why no whistle? On the very next play, the whistle can be heard quite clearly.

Then two plays later, they cancel out a safety just because the official felt like he wasn’t backed up far enough when that kind of thing happens all the time. He was an adequate distance away and had already turned around to face the play.

In the second half, I thought I had an onset of Déjà vu when the refs blew a fumble dead as an incomplete pass, nullifying the touchdown return by Jack Jones. Why not just let him complete the return and review it after that? Instead they make the strange decision to whistle it dead after Jones has run 10-15 yards down the field. At least they got the turnover part fixed on the review. Great play by Ajene Harris and Jack Jones though to give it a chance to happen at all. Harris had to fight through two blockers to make that tip and Jones had the awareness and skill to grab that instantly in middle of his stride.

The last of the egregiously bad calls was during the nasty 28 on 28 hit. Aca’cedric Ware took a helmet shot from ND safety, Nicco Fertitta. Instead of calling the obvious targeting penalty and ejecting Fertitta, they call it a fumble by Ware. Oh, okay, fumbles are a thing now? After a review, they still think it’s a fumble with no targeting. It took them a second review before disqualifying Fertitta and reversing the fumble. Only took two reviews and 10 minutes guys. It took them two tries to flag Jerry Tillery for personal fouls too.

Wish you the best Ron Cherry, but your crew really didn’t do that well this game. That official team dragged it out to be the longest of the season—longest of two season actually. The last time a USC football game took that long was the 2014 Holiday Bowl against Nebraska going nearly 4 hours (3:55). That being said, get well soon Cherry, because your job performance doesn’t make you deserving of a concussion.

Some penalties were deserved though. USC got penalized for roughing the kicker, turning a three-and-out into a first down. USC lucked out with ND missing the field goal. It wasn’t a block though, so no free Chick-Fil-A. Sad times. You tried to give us free chicken Pittman, but it didn’t work. Next time, please don’t give them free possessions with penalties.These kinds of things could’ve been a big deal if the game was closer. The penalties weren’t their only problem.

It’s hard to imagine a game this season where Sam Darnold didn’t get the spotlight. He had a relatively pedestrian game, suffering inaccurate passes in the rain. The bright side is that he didn’t produce any turnovers.

Unfortunately, the star of the game ended up being the one to turn it over. Adoree’ fumbled it on a punt return, making it emotionally painful since it was the start of a possession change. Much like the roughing the kicker penalty, it was after a three-and-out.

Can’t be too harsh on Adoree’ when he scored as much as the entire ND team by the end of the third quarter. All three of his touchdowns spanned over 50 yards:

  • A 55-yard punt return, showing that they don’t need no stinking 2 point safety. He’ll take 6, thank you.
  • A 52-yard reception because he wanted to make Darnold look good too.
  • A 97-yard kickoff return that might’ve been the backbreaker for Notre Dame. It featured a high jump (I thought he was trying to qualify for long jump?) and a key block by Isaac Whitney for Adoree’ to take it to the house. As a bonus, kicker Matt Boermeester had a monster tackle on the ensuing kickoff earning the cheers of his teammates.

Adoree’ is the MVP of the game, no dispute.

One more good thing:

  • Ajene Harris’ pick six 17 seconds after Adoree’ Jackson’s punt return TD. In 17 seconds, USC went from a 3-point lead to a 17-point lead. Not a bad way to end the half. Reminds me of the Arizona State game in 2015.

CommBro Breaker

The regular season has ended with USC at 9-3 (7-2 in Pac-12). Utah’s loss cemented Colorado’s place as Pac-12 South champion, meaning USC just has to sit and wait for a bowl bid now. Not the worst thing in the world since USC can still get a NY6 bowl bid like the Cotton Bowl or even the Rose Bowl (if Washington is selected for the playoff and the Rose Bowl Committee selects USC over Colorado). Personally, I’d rather have the Rose Bowl for so many reasons.

  • Joey Kaufman over at the OC Register, among others, have pointed out that, “Since 1929, the Trojans have appeared in the Rose Bowl during the term of every U.S. President except Barack Obama.” It would be mighty great for them to sneak one in at the twilight of Obama’s second term.
  • It would also continue USC’s streak of at least one Rose Bowl in every decade since 1920. They have yet to get one in the 2010s.
  • It’s also easier to travel to than the Cotton Bowl game (which isn’t at the Cotton Bowl anymore). Guess where it is now. AT&T Stadium. As cool as that place is, I’d rather use my money to see new locations

Good Stat of the Week: USC has won eight streak games.The Trojans have not lost at home this season and extends their home winning streak to nine, spanning over the 2015 and 2016 season.

Ultimate Misleading Stat of the Week: Notre Dame has won ZERO conference championships, meaning USC has about 38 more than them.

Hard to win conference championships when you’re not in a conference. Notre Dame has always been independent, though they do have one foot in the ACC at this point.

Edit: How could I forget? USC completed a no loss November for the first time since 2011!!

USC vs. Notre Dame: Another Coach, Another Emerald

Notre Dame vs. USC
October 17, 2015 at 4:30pm
Notre Dame Stadium: 80,795 (of 80,795)
Total Time: 3 hours 23 minutes

20140215_152110

An empty trophy case. Another emerald for the Shillelagh.

The greatest intersectional rivalry in college football was a competitive and exciting match-up…for three quarters. At least the Trojans didn’t lay down and die after the Irish took the 24-10 lead. That’s already improvement in and of itself. Kind of like opening a Pringles can and seeing it’s not half empty. Don’t you dare make a joke about how it’s half full.

Through some deception and amazing feats by Adoree’ Jackson, USC pulled themselves back into a tie. The forced fumble by Jackson saved the defense from giving up another score down at the goal line. Next, Helton reused a well-designed trick play of Cody Kessler throwing a lateral to Jalen Greene, who then threw finally to Juju Smith in the endzone. That play gave USC some momentum and life after a first quarter lull. On the next Trojan possession, Jackson struck again on a screen pass, taking it 83 yards for the touchdown.

They even had a chance to take the lead before the end of the half. However, Alex Wood’s 36-yard field goal veered left and bounced off the upright, leaving the halftime score at 24-24. Maybe I jinxed it in my last post by saying that the special teams would be next to fail. Along with the missed field goal, the Trojans allowed the Irish to block a punt and return it for a touchdown. The twist of the knife was that it was scooped up by former Trojan running back, Amir Carlisle. The first line of the punt team left seven Notre Dame special teamers unblocked, allowing them to reach the 3-man wall unimpeded. It’s not something that happens for Notre Dame reguarly. According to the NBC broadcast, it was the first punt block by Notre Dame in five years. Those two special teams mistakes alone accounted for 10 points. The Trojans only lost by 10 points, by the way.

As bad as those two plays were, special teams cannot be singled out. The offense and defense both had their share of struggles. Both of them probably did worse in the second half than the first. Beyond the first touchdown on the first drive of the half, USC’s offense could not score in the second half. Perhaps electing to receive the first half every game shows a lack of commitment to adjustments.

With or without adjustments, the Trojans were getting in their own way with 10 penalties for 105 yards. Five of those penalties came from the offensive. There would’ve been a sixth on Chad Wheeler for holding, but it was declined in favor of a fourth down stop. Three of them were false starts (Talamaivao, Wheeler, Banner), one was holding (Banner), and the last was a personal foul (Lobendahn) for hands to the face. The offensive line continues to a penalty factory.

Two offensive linemen alone account for 5 penalties each. It may not sound like much, but with 45 penalties on the season, each accounts for 11.11% of the team’s penalties. In total, the offensive line has been flagged 17 times for 160 yards. That is 37.8% of the team’s penalties and 36.6% of the team’s penalty yardage. That isn’t even counting the negated potential yards of the plays nor is it counting the penalties that were declined. Combining these issues with not giving Kessler enough time on most plays, the Trojans stall out of so many drives.

No USC drive this season lasting 10 or more plays ended in a touchdown. USC’s average touchdown drive lasts for 1:56 in 5.45 plays for 66.76 yards.Yet, they cannot score a touchdown in a 2-minute drill. When trying to score a touchdown in the final minutes against Stanford, Washington, and Notre Dame, USC looked sloppy and were unable to come away with anything. Each of those drives were chock full of penalties, sacks, and no completions. In those 31 plays, USC only managed to get five plays over 10 yards and one play over 20 yards. This Trojan offense lives and dies by the explosive play—and in those three final drives, they certainly died without an athletic play to bail them out.

If you can’t depend on the offense to score consistently, then you need to depend on the defense to make stops more consistently. That’s not happening either. Notre Dame’s starting quarterback and running back have been out for the season, but nobody said anything, it might’ve been hard to notice. After Malik Zaire (QB, fractured ankle) and Tarean Folston (RB, torn ACL) went down with injuries, DeShone Kizer and C.J. Prosise picked up right where they left off. Kizer threw for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for another 47 yards. Prosise carried the ball for 143 yards and his very own pair of touchdowns.

The defense had some occasional stops on the Notre Dame defense, but ultimately, they still allowed the Irish to score 34 points (not counting the punt block return). It was sad to see that two corners had to resort to pass interference to stop potential touchdown receptions. For some plays the defensive backs got beat and other times it was perfectly placed passes that were near indefensible. The Trojans also had trouble stopping the runin the second half of the game. In the end, it comes back down to the defensive line not being able to penerate the offensive line. The sacks that the Trojans did pick up were coverage sacks. Lots of missed tackles also allowed Irish players to slip out for huge chunks of yardage. Fans want to blame scheme, front 7 talent, player development, or game preparation. At this point, it’s hard to tell which is the biggest issue, as it’s likely some combination of all of these.

Regardless of whether or not the Trojans can fix everything up for the rest of the season, they are stuck at a 3-3 record for the first six games of the season. The last Trojan team to have three losses through six games was in 2001, Pete Carroll’s first season. They were 2-4 before finishing the season on a 4-2 run.

CommBro Breaker

I could go on forever about the negatives I see about this team, but I’ll let other people say it for me. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m unreasonably negative or anything like that. Take these positives and maybe have a drink…just as long as it’s not too much:

Two plays Ronald Jones’ big 65-yard run, the Trojans did something unfamiliar (at least for the past 2 years). My mind was blown—in a good way. The play started out with a huddle. Then Kessler lined up under center with a fullback behind him in (22 personnel) and finished with a play action pass to tight end, Taylor McNamara. It really made me miss all those aspects in our offense.

In addition, the downfield blocking continues to be a bright spot on this offense. The offensive line and especially the receivers get to the second level and more. One standout among standouts is Deontay Burnett. He followed the play and managed to level someone on Jones’ 65-yard run. If you go back to the video above, he’s #80 at about the 2:09 mark. Burnett contributed in the passing game as well, with catches of 19, 28, and 6 yards. His performance in this game better have earned him more playing time!

Misleading Stat of the Week: 

USC has scored exactly 31 points and allowed exactly 41 points against teams that are currently ranked in week 8 of the AP and Coaches polls.
Context: USC only played two teams that are still ranked. Not much of a sample size.

USC is rank #3 in the nation in fumbles. USC players have only fumbled 4 times.
Context: USC is #118 in rushing attempts with only 198 attempts. Even air raid, pass happy Washington State has almost as many as the Trojans with 143 attempts.

Depressing Stat of the Week: USC is rank #98 in penalties per game at 7.5 and is rank #115 in opponent penalties per game at 4.67 per game. The 2.8 penalties per game differential is the 3rd highest differential in the nation. Only TCU (3.7) and San Diego State (2.9) are worse. That would land the Trojans at #126.

Ball State, on the other hand, has the highest negative differential. They average 3.9 less penalties than their opponents per game.