USC: Brock Osweiler

Pac-12 players in the Super Bowl

February, 3, 2014
2/03/14
5:30
PM PT
Another Super Bowl is in the books, and Pac-12 alumni played a major role in the Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos. Is it any surprise that the team with the most Pac-12 players won the game? (Hint, hint, Mr. Elway).

In all, there were 16 active players on both rosters: 11 for the Seahawks and five for the Broncos. There are other Pac-12 players on the rosters or practice squads, but they were either injured, suspended or inactive for XLVIII.

The standout was former USC linebacker Malcolm Smith, who was named MVP for an inspired defensive performance. The Pac-12 had hit a bit of an MVP dry spell. After John Elway (Stanford) won the MVP in 1999, the league went more than a decade without having an MVP. Now it has two in the last four years after Aaron Rodgers (Cal) was MVP of XLV, and now it's Smith's turn.

Here’s a look at how the the Pac-12 alumni performed.

Seattle Seahawks
  • Doug Baldwin, WR, Stanford: Started at wide receiver. Led the Seahawks with five catches for 66 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown. Also had an assisted tackle on special teams.
  • Derrick Coleman, RB, UCLA: Recorded one tackle on special teams.
  • Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington: Caught four balls for 65 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown.
  • Marshawn Lynch, RB, Cal: Started at running back. Carried 15 times for 39 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.
  • Brandon Mebane, DT, Cal: Posted three tackles, including a tackle for a loss.
  • Zach Miller, TE, ASU: Started at tight end. Had one catch for 10 yards and recovered an onside kick.
  • Mike Morgan, LB, USC: Appeared, but did not record any stats.
  • Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Started at left cornerback. Posted three tackles (two solo) with one pass defended. Left game with an injury in the fourth quarter.
  • Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Crowned Super Bowl MVP. Returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and recovered a fumble to go along with 10 tackles (six solo) and a defended pass.
  • Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon: Started at cornerback. Posted three tackles (one solo).
  • Max Unger, C, Oregon: Started at center.
Denver Broncos

Film study: Arizona State

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
4:12
PM PT
Here’s the fourth post in our new ‘film study’ series started last week.

Every other day from now until Aug. 23, we’ll be putting up a set of pertinent-to-this-year notes from each game, going of course in chronological order from the Minnesota season opener to the UCLA season finale. At the end, on Aug. 25, we’ll have one last post with our overall takeaways from the re-watching. By then, it’ll be the week of this year’s opener.

We've already done USC’s 19-17 win over Minnesota, 23-14 win over Utah and 38-17 win over Syracuse. Here, now, are our five notes — four big things and a bunch of little ones — from USC’s 43-22 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 24, 2011.

Barkley and USC's red zone turnovers

USC's offense was effective against a good Arizona State defense -- very effective, in fact. The Trojans just kept hurting themselves with ill-advised turnovers near the end of their drives, and the Sun Devils kept capitalizing.

After the game, coach Lane Kiffin deflected a lot of the blame away from quarterback Matt Barkley from the two picks he threw that led directly to ASU touchdowns. But a re-watching of the tape shows at least one of them was a clear mistake by Barkley.

With the Trojans on the ASU 12-yard line after a big punt return by Nickell Robey midway through the second quarter, Barkley looked to throw a short pass to Robert Woods just to the right of the original line of scrimmage. And so he tossed it over while failing to realize that Vontaze Burfict was in an underneath zone and only had to take two quick steps to his left to pick out the ball easily.

Then, in the fourth quarter, USC right tackle Kevin Graf messed up big-time in blocking for Barkley. When his man beat him rushing around the edge, Graf held him, drawing a flag, but didn't hold him well enough, so the Sun Devil still got to Barkley and pressured his throw, which was picked off by Shelly Lyons and returned for a touchdown.

You can make a good case that the second one wasn't Barkley's fault, especially considering the Trojans were already down by two TDs at the point. But the first one was. And that's not to say anything about USC's quarterback's other turnover, when he fumbled in the red zone on third down and wasted a nice chance at a field goal.

Marc Tyler also lost a fumble when he was running really well and looking poised to the score late in the third quarter.

(Read full post)

First look: Arizona

September, 27, 2011
9/27/11
9:25
AM PT
It's not a winning streak or a losing streak -- yet.

But it's a streak all the same, and it began Saturday against Arizona State, when Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler tore up the Trojans defense, rendering their pass irrelevant and their secondary ineffective.




From now on, USC's going to face a lot of Osweiler-quality quarterbacks this season. The Pac-12 is, for all intents and purposes, a quarterback's conference. And the Trojans are going to be challenged in the same ways that Osweiler tested them in Tempe.

"We're gonna hit a streak," Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said this week. "We’re going to have to get better in what we’re doing."

That streak begins Saturday with Arizona, a 12:30 p.m. game at the Coliseum. Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles' numbers have been spectacular so far this season, the Michigan State transfer throwing for 10 touchdowns and no interceptions with a completion percentage higher than 70 percent.

After Foles, the Trojans will face Cal and quarterback Zach Maynard, whose numbers are strikingly similar to Matt Barkley's this year aside from a weaker completion percentage. Then comes Notre Dame and Tommy Rees, who beat USC last year, and Stanford and Andrew Luck.

(Read full post)

Not Barkley's best, but why?

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
11:03
AM PT


TEMPE, Ariz. -- USC quarterback Matt Barkley turned the ball over three times in the Trojans' 43-22 loss to Arizona State on Saturday, but neither he nor his coach, Lane Kiffin, seemed to think they were the quarterback's fault.

"I thought Matt did some good things at times," Kiffin said after Saturday's game. "The interception was not his fault. It was a screen play. It was a jailbreak screen, and Vontaze [Burfict] made a great play.

"It was just a freak play. It's not really his fault, but I thought he made some great throws and did some great things against a really good defense. He didn't have a lot of time at times."

Sure, the offensive line played poorly for a good chunk of the game, but the pick-six in the fourth quarter that sealed the game and Barkley's earlier pick in the second quarter were not the line's fault. The final-period interception actually came on a holding call where Barkley had plenty of time to deliver a pass -- he simply made a bad decision in trying to get a few yards and delivered it to ASU linebacker Shelly Lyons. And the second-period pick came on an elite play from Burfict, who jumped a basic route and took it back 37 yards. Barkley wasn't overly pressured into throwing the ball. The fumble, too, came on bullrush by Sun Devil defensive end Greg Smith right over tight end Xavier Grimble, not any USC offensive linemen.

Just like USC used a rapid, quick-developing passing attack in its earlier games this year to help a young offensive line, the Sun Devils got the ball moving frequently so that the Trojans defensive linemen couldn't get to ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler, who completed 78 percent of his passes to Barkley's 64 and did not throw an interception.

After the game, Barkley was asked about the team's failure to use consistent outside options other than Robert Woods, and what he still needed to develop with certain receivers.

"I think there's a lot of things that go into a play other than just the quarterback and the receiver," Barkley said. "And we're always trying to get better timing, especially with these young kids, but you can't just put it on us two to make everything happen.

"It's a team and we win as a team and lose as a team."

It's clear Barkley didn't perform to the same standard he had a week before at the Coliseum against Syracuse. In that game, he threw five touchdowns and no picks. Saturday, he threw one touchdown and two picks. Was he disappointed in his own performance?

"Always disappointed when you don't come out with a win," he said, "and then, regardless of numbers, there were just a lot of plays you could have had."

Two plays he could have had specifically stand out: in the first quarter, Barkley overthrew a wide-open Woods streaking down the right side of the field for what would have been a 63-yard touchdown connection had the pass been just a bit later or a bit shorter. And, shortly afterward, Barkley underthrew Randall Telfer on a drive where USC settled for a field goal. Between the two plays, 10 points were left on the table by Barkley's own doing.

Maybe that, above all else, is the takeaway from this game. USC's junior quarterback, a guy coming off such a superb Syracuse game, is still prone to errors -- errors that can and have cost the Trojans games.

A tale of two defenses

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
1:03
AM PT


TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State was missing three starting defenders due to injury and a fourth played only some of the game.

But it didn't matter on Saturday against USC. The Sun Devils, led by dynamo middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, produced four turnovers and appeared to perfect the bend-but-don't-break defense the Trojans themselves attempt to employ.

"They found a way to play great defense with the guys in there," Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said. "They didn't make many mistakes, didn't give us many chances."

"Even with their injuries on defense, once again they showed up."

The Sun Devils were missing linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive end Junior Onyeali and cornerback Omar Bolden, all out for extended periods of time. Safety Eddie Elder didn't start, either. And USC actually outgained ASU, 402-392. But Burfict was at times dominant and the Sun Devils secondary was better than advertised.

Meanwhile, the Trojans' D, playing by far the best offense it's faced this year, struggled, unable to produce pressure on Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler and unable to prevent the Sun Devils from big gainers on a regular basis.

It was a bad combination.

"Obviously this is the first time that we were really challenged," said middle linebacker Chris Galippo, who played every meaningful defensive snap. "We were in a hostile environment. Before in this season, we had only been down for about two minutes. So this was the first time we were really down and we had to deal with some adversity."

Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson's game plan was simple: Have Osweiler throw the ball early to prevent USC's talented defensive line from affecting the game. The Trojans got just one sack in the game, in first half, ands hardly pressured the 6-8 signal-caller in the second half.

"They completely eliminated our pass rush," Galippo said. "We were talking before the game about how big a game it was gonna be for our defensive line, and I think they knew that too.

"The quicker that you get the ball out of the box was the better for them, really, and they did a good job of making us miss in the open field."

On the fourth play from scrimmage, Arizona State running back Cameron Marshall broke through the USC front seven and then blew by safety Jawanza Starling in a one-on-one open-field situation, running into the end zone for a touchdown and putting the Trojans behind from the start.

Those tackling issues, reminiscent of USC's 2010 season, came up again and again throughout the game.

"There were a lot of quick passes, and we just had to come up and make tackles," Starling said. "But I think we missed too many tackles and didn't do our keys right and gave them all their plays."

And, like last year, the USC defense didn't produce a single turnover. With the Sun Devils' four, that was more than enough to make the difference -- combined, of course, with the Trojans' 87 penalty yards, 45 of which were assessed to safety T.J. McDonald.

"Turnovers and penalties," Erickson said when asked how his team won the game. "That is about what it boils down to in every football game. Tonight was not any different because they had chances.

"They were moving the ball down two or three different times and turned it over."

Grades: USC-ASU

September, 24, 2011
9/24/11
11:10
PM PT
GradePASSING ATTACK

An 'F' for the first half and a 'C' for the second half equals a 'D' overall. Matt Barkley was seriously off early on but rebounded to make some nice throws late in the game when Marqise Lee made himself available. The picks and fumble were killer, though.

GradeRUSHING ATTACK

This was a true tale of two halves situation. Marc Tyler had just 26 yards at halftime but racked up 97 yards in the third quarter alone and finished with 149 on the night. Even so, he failed to break any huge gainers with his supbar speed.

GradeIN THE TRENCHES

The second half of the game was the best 30-minute stretch the USC offensive line has played all season. But the first half was pretty horrific. And the much-hyped defensive line got next to no pressure on ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler throughout.

GradeDEFENSE

There were standout performances from a few players, like strongside linebacker Dion Bailey, but the secondary play was by far the worst of the season and Osweiler did whatever he wanted much of the time. Big plays were an issue, like last season.

GradeSPECIAL TEAMS

Andre Heidari got a mulligan on his first field goal attempt of the night, but he still finished 3-for-3 on the night and kept the Trojans in the game in the first half. Kyle Negrete's punts were quite good and gave USC positive field position.

GradeCOACHING

Lane Kiffin's second-half playcalling showed an understanding for what would work against the Sun Devils and involved quite a few adjustments, like moving Rhett Ellison back to tight end. But, in the end, the Trojans' first-half hole hurt them. Using freshman Amir Carlisle was questionable.

Trojans Live! USC vs. ASU

September, 24, 2011
9/24/11
7:34
AM PT
Welcome to Week 4: Trojans Live!
ESPNLA.com's interactive chat from Tempe, Saturday, 7 p.m. PT.
Swing by and talk to our staff covering the game against Arizona State.
The game is televised on ESPN and ESPN3.com.

5 things to watch: USC-ASU

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
9:17
AM PT
1. The whole road thing: It's USC's first road game, and that's the focus of the week for the squad. Last week's focus -- it's all about us, not about Syracuse -- worked out well. Will this one? That depends on a few factors: (1) how a young offensive line responds to constant crowd noise at Sun Devil Stadium, (2) how freshmen linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard keep up against a sharp, smart quarterback and (3) how USC's young offensive targets Marqise Lee, Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer do in a new environment. In general, the Trojans need to avoid rookie-type and mental mistakes, as Kiffin has preached all week. The problem is that they've been making those mistakes all year thus far. It doesn't matter how well the team plays in general if USC commits too many penalties. Those have a way of messing things up.

ASUUSC2. The Tempe temperature: Weather.com projects it to be 99 degrees at kickoff and at least 87 until midnight. Compare that to USC's mid-70s temperatures for the Trojans' first three games. The heat is going to be a factor, as it'll likely force USC to use more substitutes than usual and rotate players in and out on a frequent basis. It could mean cramping and all that, but it could also mean Marc Tyler will get the chance to run over a run-down Sun Devils defense late in the game, just as he did in Tucson last year against Arizona. ASU also has a lot less depth on its defense than was expected heading into the year, with long-term injuries sidelining defensive end Junior Onyeali, linebacker Brandon Magee and cornerback Omar Bolden.

3. Barkley: USC's quarterback, junior Matt Barkley, hasn't had his best games against Arizona State in the past and actually had his worst-ever collegiate game in Tempe as a freshman, when he passed for only 112 yards while completing just 7-of-22 attempts. That game, he said this week, was "terrible." In retrospect, he said he didn't know if he was "sick," "tired," "lethargic," or "dead." The Trojans barely won that game, getting big boosts from former safety Will Harris and receiver Damian Williams, who boosted Barkley's passing totals with a 75-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.

4. Burfict: Is there a more exciting opposing player the Trojans will go against all year than ASU's Vontaze Burfict? Maybe Stanford's Andrew Luck or Oregon's LaMichael James -- that's really it. Burfict is a lightning bolt of a defender, a guy who tends to make things interesting. USC's players -- and coaches, actually -- have talked all week about the junior middle linebacker, trying to rile him up via the press so that he will presumably take action early on in the game and get called for a personal-foul penalty. Here's the thing, though: The Trojans might be just as likely as he is to get a foul called on them. Matt Kalil straight-up said he plans to drill Burfict.

5. A 6-8 quarterback: You know how it's fun to watch a top-flight offense go against a top-flight defense? That's sort of what this game will be like, only on a much more minute level. Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler is tall, very tall, and surprisingly mobile, which typically allows him to get off passes in unusual situations. But USC's defensive line is particularly adept at reaching up and knocking down passes at the line. Who will win this battle within the battle? The safe money's on the 6-8 Osweiler, but Nick Perry and Co. will put up a fight. And USC's defense will likely have some trouble with Osweiler all around, as the junior has made significant strides this year and posted a dominating performance two weeks back against Missouri.

The Huddle with Shelley Smith

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
7:37
AM PT
ESPNLA's Shelley Smith talks about USC hitting the road, and brings you inside the head of a linebacker who is a stud on the field and in the classroom

Emulating Arizona State

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
3:58
PM PT
USC freshman linebacker Anthony Sarao got to play Arizona State kamikaze middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict in practice on Tuesday, late hits and all.

USC freshman quarterback Max Wittek took on the persona of the Sun Devils' lanky, deceptively athletic quarterback Brock Osweiler

And the entire USC scout team got to hit people after the whistle, as Trojans coach Lane Kiffin and his staff tried to get the team ready for the Sun Devils this week.

That's USC's plan: allow the players plenty of time to get used to the extracurricular hits and oddities of ASU's team so that Saturday's game in Tempe won't be a surprise. Burfict and his Sun Devils teammates are known for their late-hitting proclivities -- true or not -- and USC is taking a proactive approach to it.

"Our service guys were popping guys right and left after the whistle and hitting them and hitting helmets just to kind of prepare for that," quarterback Matt Barkley said Tuesday. "We've given our guys heads up about that type of behavior.

"We won't let it affect us."

It's not the first time the Trojans are doing something like this. They did the same thing last year heading into the season opener in Hawaii. But late hits were still an issue in that game. And they've been an issue for this team this year too, as Kiffin noted USC has had at least one personal foul called in each of the first three games.

(Read full post)

First look: Arizona State

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
12:32
PM PT
USC enters Saturday's game against Arizona State 3-0, but the Trojans might as well be playing their season opener in Tempe this weekend, according to their head coach, Lane Kiffin.





That's because this game will be their first away from the friendly confines of the Coliseum. And with that departure from the familiar to the unknown comes a new set of challenges they must overcome.

"Going on the road's kind of like starting all over," Kiffin said this week. "Really, there's two obstacles you face with an inexperienced team or any players who haven't played before. The first obstacle that you face is their first game at all, their first college experience, that being at home. We've gotten through that.

"Now, we have a whole other obstacle, and that's going on the road. That changes a lot."

Tempe isn't the ideal place to work out road jitters. On paper, the Sun Devils are the second- or third-best team the Trojans will face away from home this year, after only Oregon and perhaps Notre Dame. They haven't lost at home to a team not ranked in the top six nationally since November 2009, and they're coming off a close loss at Illinois on Saturday.

And, on paper, USC is bound to have road struggles, at least at first. Across their offense, the Trojans have just seven years of starting experience at the college level. They will start three new linemen and probably two true freshmen. And that concerns Kiffin, who has constantly referenced his young players' penchant for errors early on.

That's gotten better in the last week or two, he has said. But the process gets restarted on the road. And the offensive line's play is crucial against the Sun Devils this week, where Kiffin will need them to play together in order to execute his traditional road game plan.

"We've gotta go back to basics and make sure that we're doing our fundamentals really well as we go into a hostile environment," Kiffin said. "Whenever you go on the road, good road teams usually pack two things: they bring their running game and they bring their defense.

"For as long as football's been around, those have been great road teams that can do that and hopefully we will be able to."

That's what USC did in its best road win under Kiffin last year, at then-No. 18 Arizona in November. Marc Tyler ran for 160 yards, the Trojans forced and recovered two fumbles and limited the Wildcats to 51 total yards on the ground.

But that was two hours southeast of Tempe, in Tucson. This week, the Trojans will attempt to channel that effort and funnel noise -- Top 40 music -- into their practice field to prepare for the Sun Devils, using players like Max Wittek and Anthony Sarao to emulate ASU's Brock Osweiler and Vontaze Burfict.

That's how they figure they can best appropriate what Arizona State does differently and ready their players for Saturday's game -- especially their young players, like freshman receiver Marqise Lee and redshirt freshmen linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard.

"The actual practice itself isn't that different," Kiffin said. "Obviously everybody uses crowd noise, but that's really the only change. It's really more about not putting too much on the young guys. As we've expanded their roles here in the first three weeks, you've gotta cut back for the first road game and not make some of your guys try to do all kinds of stuff and really hone in on what they do well."

"Because it can get out of whack."

Pass defense still an issue

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
4:03
PM PT
Utah is a respectable team and will most likely be competitive in the Pac-12 this year, and USC played fairly well against the Utes for the most part on Saturday in a 23-14 win.

But, with a talented Arizona State team awaiting the Trojans a dozen days from today, USC must improve in one crucial area to beat teams like the Sun Devils: pass defense.

Jordan Wynn, Norm Chow's quarterback at Utah, was clearly not 100 percent or anywhere close to it, really, as Lane Kiffin pointed out after Saturday's game in no uncertain terms. The Utes' DeVonte Christopher lit up the Trojans, too, pulling in 11 grabs for 136 yards. If USC gives up that much to Wynn and Co., what will it do against Brock Osweiler, Aaron Pflugrad and the Sun Devils, who beat Missouri Friday?

Heck, what will the Trojans do this Saturday against visiting Syracuse? Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib has completed 75 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and one interception through two games, a much better opening to the 2011 season than either Wynn or Minnesota's MarQueis Gray have had. And he has two talented senior receivers to pass to, as well.

"That is a concern of ours," Kiffin said Sunday in a rare moment of looking back and forward. "We have to improve. Today, in the team meeting, we worked more on it, but we've also gotta work more on our man-to-man coverage."

Man-to-man coverage, by its nature, goes against what the Kiffins usually like to do on defense. Monte Kiffin popularized the Tampa Two, which involves zone defense. But some of USC's best defensive plays under the Kiffins have come in man-to-man moments, such as Torin Harris' game-saving interception in Week 1.

Indications are more of that will come, maybe even this week against Syracuse so as to try it out for the other upcoming Pac-12 games. Lineup changes might also be in store, Kiffin hinted Sunday.

If there are any changes, they would come at the second and third corners or strong safety spots. T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey still have their positions down pat, but Harris, Tony Burnett and Jawanza Starling have struggled some -- Harris in particular, although he's largely saved himself from public scrutiny with his end-of-game plays the last two weeks.

Kiffin is keeping that in mind as the Trojans' challenges get tougher and tougher in the coming weeks.

"We didn't just play two real premier pass teams," Kiffin said Sunday. "As the stats sort out throughout the year, I don't think you'll see those two teams way up there. But were gonna play some big-time passing opponents here pretty quick, so we've got to improve in the back end.

"We may shake some things up a little at some spots too."

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