Sunday, September 16, 2012
What went wrong against Stanford
By Pedro Moura
STANFORD, Calif. -- To hear USC's players say it, there was no single thing the Trojans did wrong that caused them to lose Saturday's game to the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium.
"They played better football than us," quarterback Matt Barkley said when asked why USC lost.
"That wasn't it," running back Silas Redd said when asked if Stanford brought more pass rushers and pressure than USC anticipated.
"I don't think there's an answer," said linebacker Anthony Sarao. "If there was, we wouldn't have lost."
Oh, but there was. There most certainly was.
Because of poor play from their offensive line, the Trojans' biggest strength -- their elite passing game -- became below average in the second half of Saturday's game. The left side of USC's line was essentially a heavy turnstile for most of the game, with left tackle Aundrey Walker, left guard Marcus Martin and replacement center Cyrus Hobbi seriously struggling to stay in front of their opposition for more than two or three seconds at a time.
Asked if he felt he could have done anything differently on USC's final drive that ended in a turnover on downs, Barkley couldn't come up with anything.
"No," he said, shaking his head.
And so he wouldn't say it outright, but it was clear that he felt the offensive line wasn't at fault, too. If a quarterback does everything correctly and his receivers make the majority of plays presented them, drives don't end in failure.
But USC's final six drives -- taking up the entire second half -- all did. Because Barkley couldn't stay upright enough to deliver the passes he desired.
It wasn't a good performance for Barkley. But it's important to consider the offensive line play when looking his numbers: 20-of-41 for 254 yards and two interceptions, including 9-of-21 in the second half.
What next, then? How is USC's line suddenly going to improve to the point where Barkley can become Barkley again?
Well, the Trojans' next game is against Cal. The challenge won't be nearly as fierce. And, at some point, they will get injured center Khaled Holmes back, and that should provide a sizable positive impact.
In the meantime, USC can pump itself up with memories from the 2011 season.
"We just gotta look at the film and improve from it and keep going," running back Curtis McNeal said. "I mean, Alabama lost a game last year and played in the national championship, so ..."
USC lost to Stanford last year, too. In the Trojans' final four games after that, they beat their opponents by an average of over 25 points. So there's some hope in that.
"I feel bad for the next team we're going to play," Sarao said.