Stanford Depression Edition – 11/15/09

You can formulate your own opinions as to why this week’s musings may be shorter than a typical week.  But the real reason is this: I don’t have a lot to say.

Contrary to popular opinion, it is not harder to lose to an inferior team (every loss we have had since 2006 until Oregon and Stanford this year) than it is to a better team …  I do not like losing in any context, but seeing your team lose at home to a better team is not fun.  It is misery.  And one of the defining characteristics of those that share the Trojan creed – faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous, ambitious – is that we do not find losing acceptable.  Championship football is what Trojan fans want, and championship football is what we are used to.  I do not know if we will go 2-0 in our final two games or not, but I do know that 9-3 (and even 8-4) would be a dream season for many teams in this country.  Some teams in Los Angeles would extend their coach’s contract 10 years if they ever had one.  But for this Trojan fan, it is no fun to be “rebuilding”, no matter how inevitable this period has to have been.

I do believe that Stanford is the better team.  They are very, very physical, and that running back and quarterback are absolutely outstanding.  I imagine we have seen the last of Gerhardt (he should be a top 5 draft pick), but we have at least another year of Luck at QB.  Ay yi yi.  A few thoughts on the game before I wax and wane deeper:

– Yes, Stanford put up the most points on USC ever in the history of our program.  And yes, the margin of victory after the fourth quarter meltdown was unbelievable.  But those who watched the first 47 minutes of the game know that USC was hanging in there after TWO first quarter USC turnovers gave Stanford a 14-0 lead.  In fact, USC only trailed by 7 when it looked like a review challenge would give USC the ball back after a fumble on the Stanford sideline.  But it was inconclusive, Stanford went on to score, and the game was done.  Yes, we went on to turn the ball over a couple more times and give them the big blowout score, but for some reason, despite being really outplayed, we were in the game late in the third quarter.

– I believe that there is something physically wrong with the defense, because it was not a mere matter of play-calling or ineffective scheming yesterday.  It was horrific tackling, a total inability to wrap up the QB and the RB’s, and it was being totally blown off the line by the Cardinal O-Line.  I have never, ever seen this in the Carroll era, and frankly, even our awful 1998-2000 teams were decent defensively (they just happened to be God-awful offensively).

– Matt is going to be an absolute star at USC.  Things got ugly in the fourth quarter, but he threw some beautiful balls to other receivers Saturday who are also freshmen players.  The Aaron Corp controversy was settled up in Seattle once and for all, and Matt needs to end the season with the kind of heroic and confident playing we have seen throughout the year.  He is off a bit now, and hopefully Damian Williams will be back in the line-up soon to give him his favorite target soon.

– Joe McKnight looked very, very good.  I do not believe he will be back next year, but I sure believe he should be.  It will not be a good business decision for him to go out, but I think he is gone.

– We really can not blame the Oregon loss or the Stanford loss on the loss of Sanchez.  Eight defensive players going to the NFL seemed to do the trick.  “Reloading” and “rebuilding” are unfamiliar terms to us spoiled Trojans, but they are not illogical or surprising terms.  By the way, Florida won a national championship in 2006, then lost four games, then won a national championship.

– It is hard to say if we will be okay in time for UCLA.   Three years ago, we inexplicably lost to UCLA in a manner that led normal observers to say that our offensive line (and overall offensive confidence) was decimated.  A month later, we came out and absolutely dominated Michigan en route to a blowout Rose Bowl win.  Somehow, this team needs to regroup, and get their confidence back.  We are a better team than the next two opponents.  Does the team know this?  Will they believe it on November 28?

– Stanford as Pac-10 champion?  Ay yi yi. 

– We have not lost a single non-conference game (bowl game or otherwise) since the end of the 2005 season (the Texas debacle).  Besides that, we have not lost one since Kansas State in 2002.  The gravity of what I just said may require you to read it over and over.  It puts everything into perspective.

– USC has a bye next week, which will give me ample time to devote my musings to my annual reiteration (for UCLA week) as to why I have no respect for UCLA, and where my contempt for their “football program” originally came from.  By the time those musings hit your mailbox, it will be the only week of the entire year that any UCLA “fan” cares about whatsoever.  Even with the sorry state of their program (going back to 1955), and the fact that USC has three losses for the first time since 2001, I am still looking forward to this game.  USC/UCLA is always a fun game, and the records mean nothing coming in.  Nothing.

– I am not going to say anything else about the Stanford game.  The better team won, and our Coliseum record is now 47-2 in the last 49 games (both losses to the Pac-10’s only other private school).  This year’s Stanford game was far more painful to watch than last year’s, but at least this year, I did get to hear the entire national anthem (our band did not stop half way through).

– And FAR FAR more importantly than anything else, Stefan Johnson is talking again, and his doctors are in an utter state of shock.  His courage, his determination, and his Trojan spirit have got him here, and the world is speechless at the fact that he is not speechless.  But Trojans, well, we know better.

Fight on.  The world is not ending.  And I will see you next week.  UCLA week is coming.