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USC football: A fan's look back at the Stanford game

November 15, 2009 |  4:22 pm

It was early in the fourth quarter Saturday, moments after another Stanford touchdown, when a message featuring USC Coach Pete Carroll appeared on the video board at the Coliseum. One lucky person, Carroll said, would be able to text a question to him that he would answer.

Fabforum I didn’t bother to reach for my cellphone, but this would have been my question: What in the name of Paul Hackett is going on with the Trojans? Not since the miserable Hackett days have USC fans had to sit through such an embarrassing performance at the Coliseum as the 55-21 loss to the Cardinal.

How do you describe what Stanford did to USC? How about “shame, embarrassment, nausea and a feeling of emasculation?”

Those aren’t my words, but part of a quote from Ben Malcolmson, the Trojans’ official blogger. First off, full credit to Stanford for coming into the Coliseum and imposing its will from the start. The Cardinal looks like a rising power in the Pac-10. That should satisfy the moronic Stanford fan who last week criticized my description of Oregon “imploding” in its 51-42 loss at Stanford.

By the way, idiot, my family is Dutch, not German.

Toby Gerhart deserves consideration for the Heisman Trophy and Andrew Luck
showed just how skilled he is as a quarterback.

Of course, Gerhart and Luck didn’t appear to have to work all that hard against a
USC defense which has adopted a tackling-optional mentality since the second half
of the Notre Dame game. USC has been so good on defense under Carroll that it is
mind-boggling to witness how bad the unit is this season.

Pick a stat, any stat from Saturday. Stanford’s 325 yards rushing? Gerhart’s 178 yards and three touchdowns? Luck’s 61 yards in seven carries? The Cardinal getting 469 yards overall?

Here’s the one that gets me the most: Stanford converting eight of 11 times on third down (and going one for one on fourth down). USC can’t get teams off the field. In the last five games, opponents have run 387 plays to 300 for the Trojans.

USC started the fourth quarter Saturday down by seven points, but like the Oregon game two weeks ago, the defense couldn’t force Stanford into a punting situation.

Instead, the Cardinal kept scoring and when Matt Barkley had an interception returned for a score, USC was suddenly down, 42-21. Barkley had three passes intercepted and fumbled on USC’s first drive when the Trojans had reached the Stanford 17-yard line.

Barkley doesn’t look like the same confident quarterback he was just three weeks ago. The offensive line isn’t producing like it did early and the running game, while decent at times on Saturday, still can’t control a game.

Joe McKnight had 142 yards in 16 carries and scored on a nice 28-yard run late in the third quarter to bring the Trojans to within 28-21. But no other back gained more than 14 yards.

I don’t claim to know a thing about coaching football, but can anyone really say they are happy with the job first-year play-caller Jeremy Bates is doing? Is it me, or do other teams consistently show more imagination on offense than the Trojans?

After a three-point second half against Oregon and a terrible performance last week in a 14-9 win over Arizona State, the offense again was a major disappointment against Stanford, which statistically is an average defensive team in the conference.

Check out any highlight show and you’ll see Boise State scoring 63 points, Texas Christian 55, Oregon 44, and then think about how a USC team supposedly with so much talent can struggle like it does. Maybe the players aren’t as good as advertised and they certainly aren’t getting much help from the coaching staff.

As for Jim Harbaugh’s decision to go for two points with Stanford ahead 48-21 late in the game? As Ron Burgundy would say, “You stay classy, Jim Harbaugh.”

Don’t give me this garbage about Carroll getting what he deserved for running up scores in the past. Even if Carroll has done so (and I’ll argue that he hasn’t), that doesn’t justify Harbaugh’s move. I’d respect Harbaugh if he would have said he just wanted to score 50 on USC. Instead he spewed this nonsense: “I felt like our line was in a groove. ... We went for it because we thought we could get it."

You kicked butt, Jim. Stop acting like a butt-head.

So now the Trojans have two weeks off before playing UCLA at the Coliseum. At 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the conference, USC isn’t going to a major bowl (ending its NCAA record of seven consecutive BCS bowls), so this game is the biggest thing the Trojans have left.

Whether they have anything left in the tank is another question.

-- Hans Tesselaar

Photo: Jeremy Bates. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times.