Weekly Musings – Notre Dame Edition

I think we could have beaten them. I know we could have. A disappointing game in a lot of ways to cap off the most disappointing season USC has had in a long time. I don’t even want to think about what Alabama or Georgia is going to do to Notre Dame in the championship, but that doesn’t matter tonight. USC had a very good chance to beat a team they could definitely beat, and somehow they just didn’t capitalize on any of the opportunities they had to get it done.

I had a lot of time to follow college football this last week and weekend (as I do every year on Thanksgiving week). I have to say, reading the “Trojans” on various chat boards does more to make me want to avoid “chat boards” than anything I have done. The venom spewed by various fake Trojans against our own team and players is nauseating, and of course there is the run-of-the-mill venom against our extraordinary Athletic Director, Pat Haden. I won’t have the time to read their nonsense for 51 more weeks, so I assume it will leave my short term memory by Tuesday. But wow, some people really need therapy. Or a job … But of course, people have a right to be frustrated – not just with this weekend’s game but with the entire season. It just would be nice if that frustration were channeled in more constructive ways. To each their own. These musings are mine only and meant to merely capture my own beliefs and thoughts on various aspects of the college football world, particularly the Trojan football world. I do not have it in me to dump on Lane Kiffin when we lose, just because as long as he is our coach, I will be rooting for him to win the next game he coaches in. I am not thrilled with Lane, but when people start talking about “boycotting USC until he is fired”, well, I just can not relate.

As justifiably frustrated as people are right now with the coaching performance of 2012, I would like to point out that the most vocal of haters right now are often people who were blasting Carroll in 2006, 7, and 8, meaning, years that we won three straight conference titles and Rose Bowls. I share a lot of the doubts people have about CLK after this year, but if the doubts are coming from someone who also blasted Carroll during the greatest dynasty the college football world has ever seen, might I suggest they are not a very healthy, let alone credible, person?

According to Pat Haden, CLK will be back next year. I hope he will re-think a lot of what he is doing. I think he needs to choose between being a Head Coach and an Offensive Coordinator – I do not think he can do both. I think he needs a younger, fresher, more contemporary Defensive Coordinator. I think the players need to learn tackling as if it were the ABC’s of what the sport of football is (because it is). I especially think the mid-week distractions need to complete and total END. If someone asked me to bet my house on whether or not CLK will work out, I would bet that he will not. I do not state that based on a bad year this year; bad years happen at every program and with every coach. I do not state that because he can not do good things – he is a gifted recruiter and his coaching performance in 2011 was stellar. I have my doubts because when the opposing team has a long third down conversion in front of them, yet MY stomach feels sick, I know there is a problem. I have not had that sick feeling since the 1998-2000 period. Turnovers went the wrong way this year in a BIG way. Penalties went the wrong way this year in a big way. If memory serves correctly, USC was last place in the year 2000 in giveaway/takeaway ratio. We went to first place in 2001 even though Carroll’s first year record was not great. The point was, we went from worst to first in the most important statistic in football, and then began a seven-year dynasty the likes of which the college football world has never seen. CLK will need to completely reverse this, and I have my doubts he will. But that is different than saying i hope he faisl. i do not. i hope he succeeds. In the meantime, allow me to offer this week’s musings. I will do a more complete season wrap-up in a later edition.

Around the country first then back to the USC-Notre Dame game …

– The Washington loss to Washington State is a bigger deal than anyone is saying. That WSU team had (essentially) 195-pound people on their offensive and defensive lines. I mean, small, small guys. They were the worst team I have seen in the conference in a long, long time. For Washington to lose to them IS the kind of game that could /should result in a head coach being fired. I am sure they give Sark one more year, but that is just bad.

– As I have been saying for YEARS, Tedford deserved to be let go at Cal. What amazes me, though, is that it took a TERRIBLE year for it to happen; years and years and years of run-of-the-mill mediocrity were not enough for the regents to do it. He was a good play-caller and a good QB coach in an earlier life. It will be interesting to see what happens with his career.

– The Arizona/Arizona State game was utterly bizarre. Arizona had a seven point lead and was 15 yards from a fourteen point lead with seven minutes to go, at home, and Arizona State won going away. Just bizarre. I expect both of those teams to be between 4-8 and 8-4 for the rest of my life.

– This Auburn team is the worst team in the history of football, including Pop Warner teams.

– If Urban Meyer believes this Ohio State team could play with any team in the country, he is still on medication from that illness he had back at Florida that forced him to “go spend more time with his family” from the ESPN studios of Bristol, Connecticut. They are maybe a top 15 team; not even close to a top 5.

– Michigan had AMPLE opportunities to win that game; they just refused to hold on to the football.

– I do not know if Georgia can beat Alabama or not but I do know that one of them will be the national champion. This system that has UCLA with three conference losses playing against a team that just kicked the crap out of it a week earlier, rather than Oregon, who has ONE conference loss and only lost in overtime to Stanford, is inane. The north/south thing doesn’t work yet. Wait until there are 16 teams.

– In the meantime, Stanford will make a fine selection in the Rose Bowl. Three BcS appearances in a row for the Cardinal. Wow.

Now for some thoughts specific to my beloved Trojans …

– The story of the first quarter was, once again, our defense giving up third down conversions. Missed tackles. Missed coverage. Just very tough to watch. It continued on Notre Dame’s first possession after our first touchdown when we just plain refused to wrap up ball carriers. Lamar Dawson seems to be one of the worst offenders. With 11:30 left in the second quarter I believe Notre Dame was 6-for-6 on third downs.

– Morgan Breslin’s offsides was one of the third down conversions we gave up, and it left me kicking and screaming.

– Our first drive was brief but interesting. Curtis found big holes and ran well. Wittek seemed to put it where he needed to but Marqise just couldn’t locate it. But that second drive was a thing of beauty. Great play-calling, great balls from Wittek, and Robert Woods making a couple big plays – the kind we all know Woody can make!

– When we threw the pick after getting the ball back with 1:30 left in the first half (or so) I really didn’t mind the play call. It was aggressive, and Lee beat his man. The ball was short, but it still was a longer pass than a punt would have been. The Domer making a 52-yard FG was the shock.

– Our inability to tackle the ball-carrier when the first defender hits him is the #1 most frustrating part of watching our defense. But with that said, the defense made Notre Dame attempt six field goals through the middle of the fourth quarter, so even though the defense was allowing them to get to field goal range, they did step up to keep them from the end zone on nearly all of Notre Dame’s drives (through the middle of the fourth quarter).

– Big time catch by Woody to end the third quarter! And then the drive to start the 4th quarter was a real Wittek to Woody show! Big throws, and big catches. It was tough to only get a FG, but it still brought the game to a one-possession contest.

– Notre Dame’s next drive, though, was just heartbreaking. Utterly stunning inability or lack of interest to tackle.

– I think Notre Dame is a truly mediocre team, but the thing they did tonight was time of possession. They managed the clock, managed field position, and played a boring game that beats mediocre teams … We are obviously a mediocre team as well.

– Is there any better symbol of this season than the huge long ball pass to Lee getting the ball to the one-yard line, and then our guys getting a false start on the next play to back us up to the six?

– Lane’s insistence on trying to pound the ball in the middle on that goal-line play set was just disgusting. And then seeing #31 drop his 20th pass of the season was too much to take. I have never seen anything like that set of plays.

– Notre Dame will represent the worst first place team to go into the fictitious national championship in football history. I can not even imagine how badly Alabama and Georgia must be salivating to play them.

– There was no reason to pass to #31 on that final offensive play by the end zone. In fact, there was no reason to run a play, period. The three points would have been just as fine, and surely the way that clock was run after we got down there means that he was playing for the onside kick anyways (boy, it better mean that). That was just a shockingly bad final five minutes of the game.

I really do want to leave it there. It was a bad night, a bad season, and yet there is never a bad time to be a Trojan. We will fight on. I absolutely guarantee it.