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Tuesday, October 22, 2013
USC Grades: Poor execution

By Arash Markazi

LOS ANGELES -- In Ed Orgeron's mind, USC isn't a 4-3 football team, they are 1-1 sine their "new season" began three weeks ago after Lane Kiffin was fired and Orgeron took over. As he stood in front of the media after USC's 14-10 loss to Notre Dame, he didn't sound like the coach of a .500 football team but a proud father happy with how hard his sons fought. "We didn't win the game but I really liked the way our guys played and competed to the end," he said. "There was something special in that locker room."


Cody Kessler didn't have his best game but it wasn't entirely his fault. Not only was he playing without Marqise Lee for the second half after he re-aggravated a left knee sprain but his receivers had at least five crucial drops during the game, including two in what would have been the game-winning drive. Lee also dropped a sure touchdown in the first half. Kessler was 20 for 34 for 201 yards, throwing one interception and no touchdowns. He was also sacked twice. Nelson Agholor had a game-high six catches for 89 yards but dropped the final pass of the game and refused to address reporters after the game.


Silas Redd had his best game as a Trojan and finally played like the tailback many thought USC was getting when he transferred from Penn State before last season. He rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries and scored USC's lone touchdown. As a team, USC ran for 129 yards in 31 carries, meaning the Trojans didn't get much help from the other running backs as Buck Allen and Justin Davis combined for only 9 carries and 32 yards. The biggest problem is the Trojans only had 14 net yards in the second half after tallying 115 yards in the first half. Much like Agholor, Silas Redd refused to address reporters after the game.


USC's offensive line opened holes for Silas Redd and protected Cody Kessler in the first half but did little of both in the second half as they grew tired and played undisciplined in the second half. USC had two false starts and two holding calls on the final two drives of the game, which stalled what could have resulted in game-winning scores.


USC's much-maligned defense looked dreadful at times in the first half but only allowed two scoring drives and posted a shutout in the second half. They held Notre Dame to 295 total yards and more importantly just 47 net yards in the second half. They recorded two sacks and a fumble recovery as Su'a Cravens had the defenses two biggest plays. He stuffed Cam McDaniel for a 3-yard loss on a fourth and goal play from the 1-yard line and had a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.


Andre Heidari's two missed field goals were effectively the difference in the game and if he had just made one, he may have been in position to kick the game winner when USC was driving at the Notre Dame 36-yard line at the end of the game. Heidari missed a 40-yard try wide right in the second quarter and was well short on a 46-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. On a bright note, Nelson Agholor had four punt returns for 100 yards, his best return game of the season.


Orgeron put USC is position to win the game but must be held accountable for the season-high 11 penalties for 95 yards. USC was also a dreadful 2-of-15 on third and fourth down conversions. They played like an undisciplined team in the second half and those lapses of judgment needed to be addressed after the game. Instead, Orgeron talked about how hard his team played and how proud he was of them. It was a positive response for a team that could use a little positivity but it remains to be seen how that will help USC correct their errors moving forward.