15 Sep Weekly Musings – Boston College Edition
I confess with many in the Trojan family that I had a fear throughout last week that this week’s musings would be written with the context of a rock bottom for USC. The point we had last week, and the outcry against CLK so severe, that I did believe a home loss to the lowly Boston College Eagles was possible. Those who HOPED for such an outcome are, of course, the worst form of humanity and have no place in the Trojan family. But being concerned that something could happen and wishing for it to happen are very different things. Thankfully, the pond scum didn’t get what they wanted, and those of us concerned about how the team would respond to last week’s debacle did not see our fears realized.
The very first play from scrimmage set a tone for the game that I think was very important. Kessler missed his man, but the point of the play call was simple: “Fine, the handcuffs need to come off this offense”. The play itself was not that important (though it would have been a truly powerful moment had it connected, let alone in stride for a touchdown). There was an implied mea culpa in the play. There was a tactical benefit to the play. It was a good idea. And of course, it was way, way too late.
Can CLK save his job this season? I seriously doubt it. I think that if he ends up only losing to the teams that are overwhelmingly better than us (meaning, we end up with 2 or 3 total losses), he probably will save his job. But no, I do not expect that to happen. But what I do now believe is that he is unlikely to be fired in the middle of the season. I wrote in last week’s musings that I did not believe Pat Haden would fire CLK mid-season, and I stand by that call. But even after I wrote that I did feel in the middle of last week that if we lost to Boston College in the Coliseum, all bets would be off. He has the ability to deliver a really, really bad season, something in the range of 5-7 wins. He also has the ability to deliver 10 or 11 wins. I do not know what will happen, and neither do you. If someone would put a gun to my head and forced me to predict I would predict that it will be somewhere in between, and that it will not be enough to save his job going into next season. But this is a “one week at a time” business, and all CLK can do, the team can do, and we fans can do, is take it one week at a time. You and I may find an 11-win season out of the realm of possibility, but he certainly would not be fired were it to happen. However, that seems like a crazy dream right now. Regardless, a win over Utah State is possible, and that is the only thing we should be thinking about right now.
The levers by which this season can totally change do, in a lot of ways, come down to CLK. The reason is that he was such a big reason for why things were so bad from early November until the end of the Washington State game. If the team had totally given up on him, we would have seen an unfathomable and incomprehensible humiliation in the Coliseum yesterday. Instead we saw a team play very, very well. CLK got out of his own way to some degree by:
(a) Naming Cody Kessler the starting QB and publicly expressing his commitment to him
(b) Stretching the field and letting Cody throw the ball, which Cody did to the tune of nearly 100% proficiency
(c) Running the ball, and using the highly effective run game (the foundation of football) to allow for a play action pass game
(d) Utilizing the very athletic and skilled tight ends as weapons and not decoys in the offense
(e) Repudiating the losing ways of third down screen passes and runs and incessant bubble screens that the fan base has learned to loathe
CLK is a stubborn and cocky guy, which is really bad when you are losing. But I have never met a winner in my life who was not stubborn and cocky, so it is not exactly CLK’s stubbornness and cockiness I have a problem with. It has been his inability to produce and perform. In 2011 CLK was cocky and stubborn, too. But he called the game of his life AT Notre Dame and AT Oregon (pulling off the best upset of the entire college football season), and he beat UCLA by over 5,000 points. The bottom line is that personality characteristics, no matter what they are, are virtues when one is winning and vices when one is losing. It is the nature of the beast. CLK is on the thinnest thread I have ever seen, and for the sake of this team and program, I hope we go the route of 11 wins, not 7 or 8. Bleeding Cardinal and Gold means there is only one desired outcome to root for in that scenario.
Cody looked very efficient and confident and will need to grow in his speed and decision making to give the team a chance to beat good teams. He didn’t stare down one passing option yesterday; he went through his progressions and made the plays he needed to make. In theory, USC has the two things (I think) you need to win games: The nucleus of a running game and the nucleus of a stop oriented defense (one with takeaway potential). What we lack, for now, is that EXPLOSIVE offense that gives you the feeling they can score, and score big, at any time. If better play from the O line comes and Cody develops, who knows. We have playmakers. Hopefully now we will have play calling. I think stranger things have happened, like when a toxic community organizer who had been in public office for five minutes got elected leader of the free world. But I digress …
I join the chorus of those who believe Silas Redd is going to redshirt this year. We are past game three now, and there is no way to justify sitting Tre Madden or Justin Davis. If CLK were to go back to Silas upon his health returning it would be a travesty. Tre and Justin look to me like the best tailback tandem we have had at USC since Lendale and #5 (though those two had contrasting styles, where Tre and Justin are very similar).
I disagree with the Pac12 studio team who blasted CLK for putting Wittek in at the end of the game. The game was over, and even though we have said that Cody is going to be the man, we still have to accept the reality that something could happen which changes that. Getting Wittek some touches and snaps is fine by me. I’m open to being wrong here.
Utah State is very good, 3x better than Boston College, and so we will get a really good feel for the viability of CLK and this team on Saturday. I can not wait. The pain and disappointment I feel for what happened last week does not changes the fact that I am a Trojan. I want to win every single week. So let’s get it done.
A few thoughts around the country …
Yes UCLA looked impressive in the last 33 minutes of that game. Nebraska is the slowest team I have seen in ten years. I expect Bo Pellini to be gone in late December with a sub 500 record. UCLA’s ugly start can best be explained by the 9am beginning, I suppose.
If a punter can wear the same number as the QB, and the QB can come in on a punt play and throw a pass for a first down, why are there any teams in the country where the punter does not wear the same jersey number as the QB? A truly bizarre but successful play in the Cal/Ohio State game forced me to ask that. Why that is legal is beyond me.
Alabama won and they may go undefeated through the SEC, but they have to be concerned about their defense giving up 42 points like that. The secondary is bad, and I mean more than just that they are not excellent. There is the Achilles heel in Tuscaloosa.
Oregon may finally have their chance of an undefeated season. And I am including the NC game in that consideration.
The gap between #2 and #3 may be the largest it has been in many years.
The Big Ten is so, so, so bad. I mean, awful.
That’s all for now. Fight on. It is so great to live with the Fight On message engrained in your heart and soul. Fight on!