USC vs. UW: Thursday is the New Monday

USC vs. Washington
October 8, 2015 at 6:00pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: 63,623
Total Time: 3 hours 8 minutes

Can we all just agree that, no matter the outcome, Thursday night games are a terrible idea? Between all the traffic, missing work/school, and lack of tailgating it’s hard to really stop and enjoy the game. Then you get home at some ridiculous hour and have a full day of work/school to look forward to.

The band takes the field and the stadium is still more than half empty

The band takes the field and the stadium is still more than half empty

They are terrible like Cody Kessler was right out of the gates. Did he just fail a midterm or something? Most of his passes were off target, finishing the night with 16/29 (55.2% completion) for 156 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions. He was off from the very start of the game, compounding on his usual errors. Uncoincidentally, it was probably his worst game since the 2013 home loss against Washington State.

Maybe it was because the Washington defense kept hitting after the play. There were multiple roughing the passer penalties and one was even called for targeting. Maybe it was the starting center, Max Tuerk, leaving after injury. Or maybe because backup Toa Lobedahn continually snapping the ball low. Despite all of that, they came just a few plays short of an ugly win. You can blame Kessler some, for sure, but maybe the blame should ultimately go to the 40-year old guy with 20 more years of football experience who gets paid millions of dollars to account for this kind of stuff. Quarterbacks, or any player for that matter, are allowed to have off days. It became quite apparent that throwing the ball, especially the deep ball, wasn’t going to work. And neither were passes to the flats for negative yards. Hey Sark, that’s not what they mean by #tbt. That’s also not how you get people to “Turn Up,” in any sense of the phrase, slang or otherwise.

When asked about not making the adjustment to run more, Sark simply said “Hindsight is 20-20.”

Pretty sure most people had the foresight to see otherwise. The offense was offensive to viewers. Thanks to the whole Thursday night thing, the whole nation got to watch USC stink it up in primetime on ESPN. The dismal third down conversion rate of 7.6% (1 of 13) led to the lowest point total they’ve been held to since a 14-10 showing mid-2013 against Notre Dame. How could they be so unprepared after returning from a bye week? That falls on the coach, as the team falls to 0-2 at home against Pac-12 teams and 3-2 overall.

In one game the defense fails. This game, the offense fails. Watch out special teams, you might be next. Following the trends, USC should beat Notre Dame since Sarkisian usually doesn’t lose two in a row. Then they’re right on schedule to play Utah at home. With Pac-12 having a sweet road field advantage and Utah having notoriously good special teams, the perfect storm can hit the Trojans for to continue their streak of losing every other game. But don’t worry, I’m not done talking about the offense just yet.

The three turnovers USC gave up is the highest by a Sarkisian-coached USC team. Last season, the Trojans only lost a total of 12, good for #2 in the nation. Thanks to mistakes and subpar play, the Huskies only managed to get 7 points off those turnovers.

The normally accurate kicker, Cameron Van Winkle, missed a 31-yard field goal attempt, dropping his career 90% from the 30-39 yard range down to 81%. If UW true freshman quarterback, Jake Browning, had a little more experience, he could’ve connected on some of those deep passes and put the game away long before USC’s final drive in the fourth quarter. Much like USC, the Huskies bungled themselves up with penalties that kept the game close.

The inter-Pac-12 game penalties continue to plague this USC team. They were flagged 8 times for 62 yards. Quite comically, no infraction or player got called twice. Each of the flags were all unique little snowflakes commited by different people: offensive facemask, unsportsmanlike conduct, illegal shift, false start, substitution infraction, illegal formation, holding, and offside. Eight strangers with one deadly connection—and it’s not disagreements over Daisy Domergue.

Right down to the end of this painful, USC managed to stay in it. After scoring on the RoJo touchdown, the crowd woke up and probably surprised the crap out of Washington. The defense then delivers a tackle for a loss and sack to pitch a three-and-out. The USC offense answers…with three straight passes to get their very own three-and-out. The defense trots back out and scrapes together another three-and-out. This your chance offense! Nope, let’s botch lining up and waste a timeout. That wouldn’t be the end of the problems though.

The decision-making on the final set of downs was downright baffling. USC was at the Washington 25-yard line with a 3rd-and-6 with the following to consider:

  • Kessler throwing badly most of the night
  • Offensive line not pass-blocking well half the time
  • Averaging over 6 yards per carry
  • Down by 5

Put in a fullback and run the ball. If you get the first down, nothing to worry about. Keep going. Even if you don’t convert, it should be a convertable 4th-and-short. Instead, the call is to try a pass. Okay. Kessler feels phantom pressure, scrambles and gets sacked even though Adoree’ was open across the middle. Fine, you still got a shot at the end zone to try to win it. Wait what?

That fan’s reaction closely mirrorred mine. Did you give up on winning? What are you thinking, coaching staff? Under four minutes to go, with only one timeout remaining, a single first down by UW, and the game is sealed. Can you really bet on your defense to get a third straight three-and-out or maybe a turnover? Then you have to drive the length of the field to get a field goal or touchdown. There are too many moving parts with that plan and risk builds up exponentially with each layer. Sark didn’t have to worry about any of it because the field goal missed and the Huskies got a first down. Have some guts and just go for it on fourth. I doubt fans would’ve criticized that call even if it failed.

That field goal kick was almost symbolized the game. You think it’s not going to make it, it starts to look like it will and ends up just frustratingly and comically short. The final thud of the ball against the crossbar

To make matters worse, the Trojans exited the game four more injuries to key players.

CommBro Breaker

I’m sure Trojans and Huskies can bond over handing off instead of passing.

Also, you no longer have to wonder whether a 1-loss USC team can sneak into the playoff.

Misleading Stat of the Week: USC has 0 passing touchdowns in the month of October, which is tied for last in the nation.

USC vs. ASU: Adidas-Not Even Once

September 26, 2015 at 7:30pm
Sun Devil Stadium: 61,904
Total Time: 3 hours 8 minutes

I don’t think anybody was that coming. Las Vegas oddsmakers expected a 4-point Trojan win. Maybe they meant to say a 4 touchdown win.

If you told someone the Trojans were gonna pitch a first half shut out—especially following that defensive performance against Stanford—they totally would’ve thought you were hard trolling.

ASU was largely considered to be a contender in the Pac-12 South during the preseason. Sure, they had a rough outing against Texas A&M. Then those two option heavy teams in Cal Poly and New Mexico gave them trouble at first, but they managed to get those wins. It was difficult to gauge where they were at from these three games. In fact, we still can’t really evaluate enough. They could bounce back and take out some other Pac-12 team. Many people counted Stanford after their excrutiating loss to Northwestern…

Don’t get too comfortable with this win though. Just look at what UCLA and Utah managed to do in their conference matchups. Utah did to Oregon, what Oregon used to do to them. And wow, look at me. I’m doing exactly what the commentators did at the start of the second half: chatting about every other game that had happened in the nation other than the one I’m supposed to follow.

Back to USC…I’d be stupid to say I wasn’t impressed or satisfied with a blowout win—or just a win in general. This was also USC’s first win in Tempe since 2009. However, the Trojans still had their fair share of mistakes this game. Without all the extra help from ASU miscues, this game could’ve been a lot closer.

If you were wondering whether the Trojans could pick up more flags than last week, they gave you an answer. They outdid their previous 8 with 10 penalties for 91 yards. On the other side, ASU had 2 for 25. Some were extremely costly despite the small amount of yardage. An offside penalty on third down ended up gifting ASU a first down. A pass interference on fourth down was even worse. There was also a baffling offside penalty on Iman Marshall. When’s the last time you heard of a non-blitzing corner get called for that. It got declined though—because he picked up a personal foul later that play.

USC had more flags than this store. Probably.

USC had more flags than this store. Probably.

The defense also still had trouble stopping the run. Furthermore, there were occasions that tight ends were wide open in middle of the field. Ultimately, some great defensive plays and a little bit of bad luck on ASU’s part made it moot.

We must credit the Trojanswith improvement though. ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici looked uncomfortable the entire night. A lot of pressure provided on linebacker blitzes forced errant passes. At some point, I’m not sure what was creeping up more, the linebackers up to the line, or the midriff line of the Song Girls’ tops.

Seriously though. (Photo credit: Screenshot of ESPN broadcast)

Seriously though. (Photo credit: Screenshot of ESPN broadcast)

Adoree’ Jackson was also afforded with a few snaps on offense—and he utilized them fully. He led the team in receiving yards despite only having three catches. Nobody can say he didn’t earn those yards. Kessler threw short passes to him and he made plays in space. He is too good to not play on offense…

Jackson tacked on punt returns of 8 and 45 yards, to bring up his all-purpose yards to 184. If you do that math, he netted the team about 36.8 yards every time he touched the ball. Sadly, his 45-yard punt return with the added facemask penalty was wasted by a turnover.

Kessler’s fumble near the goal line and interception during the first drive were USC’s first two turnovers of the season. Luckily, the team had four takeaways to end it with a positive turnover margin. Unfortunately, both of USC’s turnovers happened in the red zone.

Again, these mistakes ended up not mattering in this game. Kessler more than redeemed himself. On one particular play, he avoided two would be sacks on third down to toss it off to Justin Davis for the first down. The offense he led is now averaging 8.06 yards per play, which is good for #3 in the nation. Third down conversion was phenomenal as well. Not only was their pre-garbage time third down conversion percentage great, but they managed to convert some longer ones.

ASU’s plan seemed to set on shutting down USC’s run game. I think they did a commendable job with that. They were also able to sack Kessler a couple of times. Too bad the passing game answered with big play after big play.

Remember how ASU was able to score 3 touchdowns in under four minutes without getting onside kicks and no timeouts? USC had their own version at the end of the second half. USC was up 14-0 with less then 4 minutes until halftime. If I had stepped out to take a phone call or something, I would’ve thought ESPN messed up the score again. 35-0? What?

When it looked like ASU was going to score, Delvon Simmons shot through a gap and hit the running back during the exchange. The resulting turnover was remniscent of another USC safety playing on the road.

Then the kickoff returner, De’Chavon Hayes, hesitated, but decided to take it out of the endzone anyway? Clown move, bro. Bad enough to start at the 5-yard line, but to tack on a fumble?

Maybe it’s a curse for switching to Adidas. If it is, I hope UCLA gets the same Adidas curse.

At the close of the game, USC’s offense ranks #8 in points per game. The defense ranks #25 in points allowed per game (tied with Alabama). Not a terrible position to be in, but they must continue to improve. They will face three teams in the current AP top 10 later in the schedule: #6 Notre Dame, #10 Utah, and #7 UCLA.

CommBro Breaker

What’s interesting is that Sark got it right about two teams, it seems.

Whatever pill Sark had at the Salute to Troy event, it must’ve given him prophetic abilities. Maybe it was one of those NZT-48 limitless pills from the show we kept seeing commercials about. No wonder he would keep that a secret from the media. Time to see if Notre Dame lives up to Sark’s prophecy.

Misleading Stats of the Week:

ASU outscored USC in the second half by double.

USC only outgained ASU by 1 yard.

USC is now first place in the Pac-12

USC vs. Ark St.: More Complaints than Analysis

USC vs. Arkansas State
September 5, 2015 at 8:00pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: 79,809
Total Time: 3 hours 12 minutes


Let’s start with this: WHY is it an 8:00pm kickoff? I mean, I prefer night games, but by the time we got out of there, it was literally a different day. You want to keep people in seats and from changing the channel? How about not making it end close to 3:00am on the East Coast?! I guess it isn’t as bad as the Hawaii-Colorado 10:00pm start time, but that’s like saying mice have it better than rats. Well, let me tell you, when the landlady is chasing you down with raid and a giant broomstick, you would probably wouldn’t feel the difference. No, it’s not a firsthand experience.

Once you get over the late start, you might ask “Why is USC playing a relatively unknown school like Arkansas State?” Well, you know how Texas A&M beat down Arizona State the past week? It should’ve been USC beating down Texas A&M, but they decided not go through with the scheduling. Perhaps it’s to preserve their now 15-0 (now 16-0, after beaint ASU) record against non-conference opponents since joining the Southeastern Conference. Trying to find a last minute replacement, especially one that does not dip into the FCS realm, not exactly easy.

And while Arkansas State is a Sun Belt team, their four year record is about the same as USC’s. They aren’t as big of a cupcake as most people think they are.

USC Ark St
2011 10-2 10-3
2012 7-6 10-3
2013 10-3 8-5
2014 9-4 7-6
Total W-L 36-15 35-17

Yeah, yeah they are trending downwards and USC wrecked them…but leave the CommBro Breakers™ up to me, alright? Just read the damn chart.

Now that I’m done complaining about logistics and losing sleep, and you’re done griping about the competition, I can talk about the actual game.

Spoiler alert, the final score was 55-6. Not a bad score line, but 55 isn’t exactly typical. USC had to fail a PAT to get there. But it all works out because it pays homage to the former 55 club linebacker, Keith Rivers, that led the Trojans out of the tunnel. Maybe they let it get blocked on purpose. Yeah, probably not.

The stat of the day is 3-25. That’s 3 penalties for 25 yards. In the previous season, USC averaged 8 penalties for 78 yards per game (115-1023 total). There weren’t very many stupid penalties this time around and that’s good. The three were:

  • 15-yards: Personal foul by Antwuan Woods for hitting the QB during an interception return
  • 5-yards: False start by Chad Wheeler
  • 5-yards: Delay of game on 4th-and-2 first drive of the 3rd quarter

I would consider that fairly disciplined for the first game of the season and Pac-12 refs that are usually itching to chuck some yellow pieces of cloth. There were also no gaffes with the constant substitutions. These are all good signs. The most costly was probably the delay of game penalty. It quickly changed their plan from going for it on 4th down to punting. You can’t do that against stiffer competition.

Chris Hawkins deserves recognition for his play in the game. His switch to safety has paid off in a penalty-free opening. A common criticism of him was that he always drew pass interference and/or holding calls. His flaws were overstated, but the move has worked for him. He accumulated a total of 5 tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception returned for 20 yards. While we’re talking about defense…

Running quarterbacks are still a problem for USC. Defensive ends and outside linebackers have not been up to par with setting the edge. Arkansas State quarerback, Fredi Knighten, managed to break a few longer runs for first downs. Luckily, they were only able to score once.

On the other side of the ball, the offense had a decent showing. However, they still needed to punt six times and went 0-1 on 4th down conversions in 14 meaningful drives. There has been a lot of chatter about the unexpected allowance of 5 sacks. People will be quick to blame the offensive line and new coach Bob Connelly, but I’m not going to focus on that. One game is too small of a sample size.

One thing that should be noted was that the four sacks came in the first half (two in USC’s second drive of the game). There was only one sack in the second half. Perhaps with Clay Helton calling the plays, Sark was able to work with Connelly and the rest of the offense to make some worthwhile adjustments.

Tre Madden’s big run in the 2nd quarter was from a power formation. The combination of a great block by the fullback, Jahleel Pinner, and downfield blocks by the offensive linemen and receivers allowed Madden to take it to the house. Good to see that formations utilizing fullbacks are still a thing.

USC has not been great at beating the betting spread since the sanctions. This time, they beat it by almost double.

CommBro Breaker

I wish I could write about a lot more from this game, but unfortunately, I am out of time. It’s already Wednesday night and I’m just barely finishing up. Let’s be honest, most of you probably didn’t even read the whole thing or skimmed it. It’s only the first game of the season anyway. Trends will reveal itself and more interesting things will happen.

Until then, savor the misleading stat of the week: the USC defense is only allowing 6 points per game


Clear Eyes, Fullbacks, Can’t Lose

fullbacksThe fullback position is probably about as glamorous as the stand holding up your computer monitor. Or maybe the hinge connecting your laptop together, if you’re using one of those instead. And if you’ve got some stupid laptop that has a detachable screen, screw you—you’re proving my point.

Forget that when the general public thinks of iconic football positions, they probably start off at quarterback and slowly move their way down past kicker before listing a fullback. Hell, some places don’t even bother to differentiate them from running backs. Many modern offenses have moved away from having a fullback in their system. Some find it unnecessary or a “dinosaur” of the football world.

Well, I’m here to tell you that football history would probably tell you otherwise. Georgia Tech is still a thing and they’re running some wonky triple option hobo plays out of the flexbone “older than your dad’s dad’s dad” formation. Surely a position like fullback wouldn’t be phased out so easily.

Funny anecdote: former UCLA running back, Derrick Coleman, was recruited by Pete Carroll to play fullback at USC. Coleman opted to go to UCLA because he wanted to play running back. Years later, Coleman eventually found his way to Seattle where Carroll was now head coach. Carroll made Coleman switch to fullback.

Eat your vegetables. Look both ways before crossing the street. Play fullback.

You know what team might not be playing a fullback in the near future? Duh, USC.

The two fullbacks on the roster are redshirt senior Soma Vainuku and senior Jahleel Pinner. Barring some weird circumstances, they will both be gone after the 2015 football season. The strange part is that Steve Sarkisian has not signed a single fullback during his tenure as head coach. He has seemingly not recruited any either.

Evidence that he is trying to phase out the position doesn’t end there. He has been reducing the number of plays utilizing a fullback in favor of split back, pistol, or even empty formations. Furthermore, he lines up his “fullbacks” in running back or even receiver positions.

He has used fewer power runs with a fullback leading block. However, most of these plays worked well when he ran them. Perhaps that is because the offensive personnel is still greatly leaning towards a “pro-style” offense rather than a hurry-up, no huddle spread out of the pistol. If Sarkisian chooses to continue moving the offense in that direction, it’ll only take a recruiting cycle or two more to change the offense’s identity.

But I argue that he should not go that route. I’m even generous enough to explain my reasoning beyond ESPN user comments of “SARK IZ DUMB!1!!1ONE.”

With so many teams using more and more spread out formations, there is value in using less common tactics and plays. A team’s defensive staff only has a limited amount of time to install a defense and prepare for a particular opponent. For example, if eight of the Pac-12 teams are using an air raid offense, a defensive coordinator would probably drill in defensive plays designed to stop that. If USC decided to become the 9th team to install an air raid offense all of a sudden, that would only help opposing defenses to be less spread thin on preparation.

Ever wonder how some random team running a weird offense can upset some big teams? A large contributing factor is that the higher ranked team couldn’t spend as much time preparing for such a niche problem. They were probably hoping the talent differential would overcome any preparation deficiencies. Meanwhile, the lower ranked team was probably looking at it like the freaking Super Bowl and studying the crap out of their opponent.

USC is usually the team that everyone is gunning for, which is more reason not to play such a common offense. Don’t make defensive coordinators’ jobs easier. Most other teams aren’t even capable of running plays that utilize a fullback well. Teams with spread formations sought to take advantage of good athletes on the outside while having traditionally smaller and less capable blockers. They had to find a schematic advantage when they couldn’t recruit the same kind of huge linemen and players that college football blue bloods like Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, USC, etc. could (yeah, yeah, I know some of them have started switch to spread offenses).

Since USC can get these kinds of guys, they should play to their strengths and against everybody else’s. Using a fullback on more plays doesn’t mean that their offense would be devoid of versatility. The potential for trick plays and offensive wrinkles is still there. Instead of just running down the middle with the running back on 3rd and short or trying a QB sneak, throw a fullback dive in your arsenal. A fullback doesn’t just have to be a blocker on passing plays either. If they recruit a good athlete to the position, they can have him make key catches as well. The Trojan offense was bailed out many times on third down by surprise plays like former fullback, Stanley Havili catching out of the backfield.

Here’s another funny anecdote: who helped recruit Havili? None other than Sarkisian. Maybe I’m just being overly dramatic and Sark has plans. Plans like converting one of the twenty tight ends that he picked up during the offseason to fullback. It worked well when Kiffin converted Rhett Ellison to fullback preceding the 2011 season. Either way, the demise of the position is greatly exaggerated.

CommBro Breaker

Apparently none of the kids these days eat their vegetables or look both ways before crossing. And none of them play fullback. Maybe Sark just sees the writing on the wall—or lack of writing on his Facebook wall from fullback prospects. Just poke around a recruiting website to see how dismally few fullback recruits are around.

Norm’s No Joke

(Photo credits: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

(Photo credits: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

In my inagural blog post, I talked at length about why I think Sarkisian is not living up to his potential. A tad on the negative side (an understatement). During that tirade, I brought up Sark’s connection and fallout with Norm Chow. Why is this a big deal? Because Chow is a little too well-connected to alienate like that.

Maybe he actually eats children in life and just comes off as laid-back and a decent dude to the media. Oh well. What we can look at is his football career, so I’ll get back to doing what I used to do. It’s time for a history lesson.

Norm Chow’s body of work up until 2008 was nothing short of insane. His resume includes coaching two-time Super Bowl winner Jim McMahon (BYU), perennial Pro-Bowler and Hall of Famer Steve Young (BYU), current San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (NC State) as well as Heisman winners Ty Detmer (BYU), Carson Palmer (USC), and Matt Leinart (USC). This was followed by half a decade of unfortunate circumstances and inconsistency at the quarterback position.

His football career started at the University of Utah, where he played offensive guard. It was perhaps his first taste of quarterback instability. He would later return to the Utes an offensive coordinator much later in his career.

After a brief stint in the Canadian Football League, he found his way to coaching at a high school in Hawaii. The first career breakthrough he experienced was also his longest stop to date: Brigham Young University. By the end, his title looked like something out of a book of tongue twisters. Assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/quaterback/receivers coach after literally decades of work. However, the 27 years leading up to his departure did not start so prestigiously for him.

In 1973, he began as a lowly graduate coaching assistant, eventually working his way up. Under head coach LaVell Edwards, Chow and the BYU Cougars strung together some of BYU’s most legendary seasons, including an NCAA record 14-win season set in 1996 (which has since been tied). The quarterback during that season is one you’re probably familiar with—Steve Sarkisian. Chow and Sark would later reunite at USC.

At the turn of the millenium, Chow made a big move that led to a very brief stint at North Carolina State. After spending almost three decades at BYU, he worked for one at NC State—quite the contrast. Notably, he molded freshman Philip Rivers, capping off the season with ACC Rookie of the Year. Chow’s stay was cut short when a paticular former NFL coach came calling. This coach had just been hired at USC and wanted Chow to be their new offensive coordinator.

Pete Carroll brought Norm Chow onboard to improve the passing game. It was here that Chow was able to mentor consistent quarterbacks in Palmer and Leinart. Carroll also employed two relative unknowns: Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. Kiffin and Sark tinkered with the offense that Chow brought from BYU, creating something even greater. The combination of the three offensive minds Chow, Sarkisian, and Kiffin took USC to untold heights. In the 2004 season, their USC team destroyed Chow’s former employer in LaVell Edwards Stadium. That 2004 run culminated in the greatest beatdown in a BCS National Championship game. That 55-19 win still stands as the largest margin of victory and most points scored by a single team in a BCS title game. After all the glory and fame, the trio would not last much longer.

A few weeks later, former USC defensive back Jeff Fisher took Norm Chow to the Tennessee Titans for the same position. As luck with have it, Norm Chow got Texas quarterback, Vince Young, as a top 10 draft pick instead of Matt Leinart. Both these quarterbacks from a supposed “Game of the Century” eventually washed out of the NFL. Chow was fired in 2008, just one season after helping Vince Young win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Luckily, Chow was a hot commodity at that point. His next landing spot was with USC’s crosstown rival, but he would find no solace there. Quarterbacks Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince were constantly injured or playing inconsistently. Their attempt at installing the pistol offense probably did not help their instability either. His Bruin teams were 0-3 vs. USC, nearly completing a triumvirate of 28-7 losses—they were saved by USC’s infamous 2-minute defense in the 2010, allowing UCLA to score a touchdown in garbage time. Like his time with the Titans, he was fired after just three seasons.

Not too much time passed before he received an offer to work under Kyle Whittingham at Utah.

Back at his alma mater, Chow was poised to do well. Utah was making their Pac-12 debut. Their starting quarterback, junior Jordan Wynn, had helped lead Utah to consecutive 10-win seasons.

On September 10, 2011, Chow and Kiffin faced off against each other in the first ever Pac-12 conference game. The match was a struggle right down to the very end. USC quaterback, Matt Barkley, threw for 264 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception while Wynn managed 238 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions. The score was 17-14, in USC’s favor, with 11 seconds until the end. Utah opted for the field goal, taking the call out of Chow’s hands. The kick ended up being blocked and returned, making the final score 23-14.

USC blocks Utah’s field goal and returned it for a touchdown as time expired

Two weeks later, Wynn took a season-ending injury to his shoulder against Washington. Utah tripped their way to a 8-5 season, their worst since Whittingham’s first season in 2005. Chow departed to be the head coach of Hawaii shortly after, spending only that lone season at Utah.

In what seemed to be an inescapable loop, Chow would face his former coworker Kiffin twice more. The following season opened with rank #1 USC tearing apart an outmatched Hawaii from the very first play. The contest ended 49-10, without really being a contest. They played a few quarterbacks throughout the season. Chow and his Warriors scraped up a 3-9 record, with a point differential of -31 in their losses.

The results of the 2013 were even worse. Hawaii fought it out against #24 USC for their first game. The only thing he managed to beat was the betting spread. Kiffin used the game as a sounding board for his quarterbacks and still managed to cruise to a 30-13 victory. The Warriors would only win one game the entire year. For the second straight season, his team finished last in the Mountain West Conference. The patience at Hawaii may be wearing thin.

CommBro Breaker

Although Hawaii would be safe from USC on the field in the 2014 season, their storylines found a way to cross yet again. Max Wittek transferred in despite splitting quarterback duties to beat down the team a season ago. He spent the year on the bench because of the NCAA transfer rules.

During the offseason, the team respected Wittek enough to elect him as one of the captains. Now Chow and Wittek both have a chance to redeem their reputations. The expectations the two had failed to live up to can be realized in 2015. Wittek can be the consistent quarterback Chow has not had since his days at USC.

Hawaii has never really won on the strength of their defense. If they’re going to win, they’re gonna do it in a shootout. If Wittek can score against Mountain West defenses, they can win.

I, for one, hope these two Trojans succeed at their new stop. As they say: Trojan for life.

Welcome to LA

The christening of a new blog is a difficult endeavor. What topic should the inaugural post cover? Good or bad, the post will linger for eternity in the annals of the internet or plastered across social media. Somewhere, someplace, someone will dredge up things you would wish were forgotten, much like parents would at thanksgiving dinner.

Figure A

That’s why I am giving up before I even start. Why spend all my time stuck in analysis paralysis? I’m going to go down guns blazin’.

Sit back and get ready to get shot at. Oh, and I know you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. Consider it a first step down a dark road.

Let’s jump back for a moment to analysis paralysis. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian mentioned that he minimized the “paralysis by analysis on gameday” at the 4:04 mark of a radio interview with Colin Cowherd. Rather, it seems Sark is guilty of the opposite problem—analyzing too little. His playcalling and overall management of the team has been less than spectacular the past season.

How about analyzing the opponents’ gameplans and making halftime adjustments? Or not calling the same play ad nauseam after it works once.

That’s not the only time he tried fixing the wrong problem. Try listening to the ripe nugget at around the 3:45 mark of the interview. He claimed that he wanted to “maybe de-emphasize some of the play upfront.” Did he see what the UCLA defensive line did to his offensive line? Heading into the Crosstown Showdown, they gave up an average of 2.2 sacks per game. UCLA exposed some glaring weaknesses as they sat Kessler on his butt six times, including twice on third down.

No doubt the lack of physicality was further exacerbated by the lack of full contact practice—much like the 2015 spring game. Kiffin tried that too and it looked like his team couldn’t tackle at all the first season. Then Kiff wised up and had himself a good season—before regressing and falling into his old ways. Sark might want to analyze what worked and didn’t work for his predecessor and former colleague.

Also, consider this quote from Seattle Times article back when he was first hired:

“Sarkisian, who took over as offensive coordinator at USC in 2007, has inevitably been compared to Chow since. Some Trojans fans lament that the offense hasn’t looked quite as explosive the past few seasons.”

Change the year from 2007 to 2014 and you might think that line was freshly inked. Hmm…

Further in that passage it says that, “Sarkisian’s defenders pointing out Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart left around the same time.”

What’s the new age equivalent to that? Sanctions and short on bodies? A new year, a new excuse.

What’s the next excuse going to be? You can keep coming up with excuses just like Sarkisian. He talks a good game, just like Washington Huskie fans will tell you.

From the same Seattle Times article, Sark had this to say about former OC Norm Chow:

“’Obviously, the time when he was leaving USC and I was coming in, we grew apart,’ he said. ‘The less time you work together, the further you grow apart. And he ended up at our rival, and that didn’t help. It is what it is. He’s been a very good mentor to me, and we had some great moments together. I think someday it will grow itself back together again.’”

Sark (far left) and Norm Chow (far right) as coworkers (Photo from

Sark (far left) and Norm Chow (far right) as coworkers (Photo from

At a certain point, things don’t just happen. He has to make it happen—he has to deliver on those words. Call up Norm to patch things up. Find some solid counters to his rivals’ playcalls. And Sark seems unable to deliver. Like Kiffin, the problem is not about their football prowess or knowledge. The problem lies in their personalities. Kiffin would turtle up and stubbornly stick to it. Sark eschews comprehensive preparation in favor of letting things happen. Sometimes it works (@Stanford, @Arizona, Nebraska), sometimes it doesn’t (Arizona State, @Utah), and sometimes it massively fails (@Boston College, UCLA).

If it happens once or twice, sure maybe they were freak accidents. When it happens this often, it kind of makes a pattern. He’s not some first year head coach floundering around in the big time. He had five entire years at Washington to learn and adapt. The time for excuses is over.

Remember the last time someone tried to learn on the job at USC? At least Kiffin was a little more offensively inventive (at times) and took some risks. He also gave us a story worthy 10-2 season.

Whether I or anybody else likes it, Sark will have the next two seasons, at the very least (barring some huge…scandal). Can he outdo the previous visor-man in that time period?

By the way, I don’t irrationally hate Sark, but he has shown little reason for me to like him. I’ll be happy if he proves me wrong—IF. Too bad that’s a taller order than Venti mocha crapuccino.


But here’s another angle for you (in case you still thought I was a single-faceted hate machine): When Pete Carroll was speaking at USC back in February of 2014, he brought Sark onto the stage and publicly endorsed him as head coach. Without much regard to his other offensive coordinator protégé, Kiffin, Carroll claimed that he tried to make USC hire Sark as head coach on his way out to Seattle.

I ain’t some fortune teller (you can go to some horoscope blog for that crap), but I am not confident in what I saw from last season. The only thing that keeps me from becoming said single-faceted hate machine is the recommendation of someone who has “been there, done that.”

By the way, fight on and stuff, yo.