Troy has indeed been sacked. But not just by the Bruins. Their fall has been a gradual, looming inevitability since the Stanford loss.
Saturday was…well, devastating. And not just for the Trojans.
Here’s part one of my reflection on the loss and hopeful posting for this next week’s game.
Energy, or Lack Thereof
I’ve spent enough time around athletic teams to sense a team’s energy. During my short stint at USC, the energy of Coach Carroll’s team was always optimistic and ever strident. They worked and worked and worked to achieve excellence. You could sense it both on and off the field.
This year, there is a very real self-defeating undertone to the team. They lack the same “get it done” attitude I’ve witnessed for years in the past. They’re hesitant. They’re nervous. They’re self-sabotaging.
It’s tragic, particularly because of how talented they are.
The Ducks fell (another tragic event, in my book) but maintained an energetic momentum during the game. How can they not have momentous energy with a coach like Chip Kelly?
Mistakes and injuries account for Oregon’s loss. Energy and a seeming inability to get over the hump of past losses contributed to USC’s loss. At least in the big picture.
USC’s depth chart has been impacted by the sanctions, no doubt. The starting center is a freshman, and protecting Barkley is no small or easy task. But it’s a task that has not been executed in the same style as the past. The O-line has had a tough time protecting Barkley, and at the very least, giving him time in the pocket. They don’t deserve all the blame for the multiple interceptions. But more protection can’t hurt.
The defense certainly put up a decent effort during the second half against UCLA, but they just couldn’t stop the run or put pressure on the QB. Game over.
It’s always hard to judge a leader from the outside looking in. However, it’s an almost universal belief that USC doesn’t have strong leadership, presently. Perhaps it’s the incessant staring at the play card menu. Perhaps it’s simply the demeanor of the coaches on the field. Perhaps it’s AD Haden assuring us that Kiffin will indeed be back next year, right after a brutal fourth loss.
While it’s difficult to pin point, it stands to reason that something is amiss and it’s affecting the athletes.
These aren’t things we can remedy before a giant game. But when USC had no prospects for bowl games, they played their hearts out and won, a lot. Maybe this season will end with the team returning to their former vigor now that the stakes aren’t so high for them. But they are for ND. Since only one team has everything to lose, maybe the pendulum swings back our way.