Weekly Musings – Arizona State Edition

The musings for this week took on an entirely different flavor this morning when I awoke to a pop-up screen on my iPad informing me that Pat Haden had relieved Coach Lane Kiffin of his duties as head coach at USC. I will address that this week, as well as a few things regarding our team, and go from there.

It is clear to everyone that CLK was not going to be the head coach at USC next year, whether his termination came in the middle of the season or at the end of the season. The team has not gotten better under CLK, and though I liked the offense he called most of last night, he just has not gotten the job done as head coach at USC.

There are those who feel that this decision should have come after the Sun Bowl last year, and I concur that the 2012 season was a dark, disappointing time for our program. In the real world, though, people often have short term performance evaluated in the context of BODY OF WORK, and the 2011 season was a magical time for the Trojans. Ironically, the only low note that year was a complete fluke of a loss at Tempe. The Stanford loss was (a) In Triple Overtime and to one of the best teams in the country, and (b) Dramatically affected by highly questionable refereeing. Other than that, that season was extraordinary, with two of our best road wins in many years, and a 50-0 pasting of the Bruins that should stay in your DVR list for years to come. I think 2013 was the year to break the tie of the majesty of 2011 vs. the misery of 2012. Sadly, after Washington State, it was clear where that was going.

I have to laugh at the Pat Haden-haters who called him every name in the book and said they personally knew he would never ever ever do this. Kevin O’Neill and Lane Kiffin apparently know a different Pat than they do. I will not use the musings to defend Pat Haden at this time because I have yet to read a grown-up criticism of him. Those who feel that he should have hired explosives experts to blow the NCAA building to smithereens while plotting the murder of the NCAA committee’s children are probably in need of a trip upstairs, out of mommy’s basement. Pat’s best days are ahead, and we are blessed to have him, despite the frustration we all feel for the NCAA’s injustice. This is not to say that, in hindsight, people can not wish we had taken a harder stance with the NCAA. It certainly would not have worked, and I always wonder what world it is where if people just get more mad and threaten a little louder, they can everything they want from people who have all the leverage, but I digress. Pat played it the way he played it, and if the geniuses who spent all their time criticizing why Pat didn’t sue everybody would stop and think about WHY he didn’t, they might feel a little, well, silly.

As far as CLK goes, it will be sad to watch the grave-dancing that is sure to take place in the days to come. It is intriguing to hear those who scream that he never should have gotten the various head coaching jobs he has had to begin with, like those he bemoaned Dick Grasso’s pay package at the NYSE years ago. I presume they believe CLK should have turned down the various opportunities that came his way? Lane did not get it done at USC, and he will now have over a year to plan his next move. But grave-dancing is a deplorable thing to do, and also very unwise for those who have any life experience under their belt. I wish CLK and his family nothing the best, even though I understand why his time at our beloved university had to come to an end. Real Trojans will be focused on nothing at this point but the future of our program; piling on Lane will be an act reserved for people who have never experienced a single triumph or failure in their life: In other words, it is the act of an entitled generation that lacks wisdom and decency. So fight on CLK, and may greener pastures come your way.

I have not heard yet what the plan will be in terms of coaching for the remainder of this year and of course who the next head coach hire will be. As I type this at 6:00am on Sunday I am assuming Coach O and Clancy will serve as co-head coaches on an interim level, with a high profile head coach hire to come in late November (the search beginning now). We will hear a lot of absurd names mentioned (Gruden, Kelly), absurd for the complete impossibility that they will happen, and we will hear a lot of echo chamber names (“I want the guy who was good at Louisville, or Texas A&M, or Vanderbilt”), which will serve as good excuses for the bitches if things don’t work out (“they never won anything before and I didn’t want them”). If I were a betting man I would say Del Rio is high on Haden’s list, but I think there are a lot of great coaches out there, and I hope we get a head start on Texas and Nebraska in finding him.

*****

– I know everyone had been loving our defense coming into this game, but I have to say that our propensity to give up long third down plays is a huge problem for me. ASU had two long third down passes on that opening drive which really amounted to the entire drive. Can’t have that – not twice on one drive … Of course, as the game went on and we got into the second half it was clear that we had a lot more problems defensively than just long third down plays. Tonight I fear we got our answer as to how much of our defensive bliss the first four games was due to the opposition.

– Tre Madden’s run on the first play of our second possession of the night was straight brilliant. Hard cuts, finding the hole, punishing. Big yards – moving the sticks.

– The call on the field that Agholar was out of bounds on that first down catch is a perfect example of what we will be up against in every conference game we play. That ref was right freaking there, and it was not even close. CLK and the replay booth got it right, but the initial play call is sickening

– I believe Davis and Madden are certainly the best tailback combo we’ve had since #5 and Lendale. I don’t think those two are surpassable, though, by anyone, ever, anywhere, no matter what

– Our first two touchdown drives represented the best play-calling I have seen from CLK since 2011

– The blocking out of our offense when we opened up the 14-7 lead was stellar. Receivers. Fullbacks. Tight Ends. Big time blocks on the edges and big blocks downfield creating huge play opportunities

– Just hate the 3rd and 9 play call to throw a screen to Marqise Lee behind the line of scrimmage. I hate what he did once he caught it, yes, but I really hate the play call. I do not understand our unwillingness to throw near or past the sticks on longer third down plays. More than anything else with CLK, I think the third down play-calling has bothered me the most these last few years.

– Sua Cravens is struggling when he ends up in one-on-one coverage with a receiver. Not sure what is needed there

– I am losing patience with Marqise Lee’s inability or unwillingness to catch the ball this year. But HE is losing significant NFL signing bonus money. I’m not trying to pile on the young man, who did more his freshman and sophomore years at USC than most receivers we have ever had, but he is really hurting the team this year with his under-achieving, and hurting himself too. (I wrote the above before his second-half injury which I pray will be minor and allow him back on the field as soon as possible)

– I had this discussion with my brother by text, but I don’t believe all of Lee’s problems can be blamed on the lack of having Robert Woods on the field with him. That should theoretically hurt his ability to be open, but not his ability to catch balls thrown right to him

– Two turnovers to end the first half and we gave up just two field goals. Very lucky

– Marqise Lee made his best play of the year on the first drive of the second half, probably because he read what me and my boyz were saying about him via text at halftime. -)

– The run blocking was fantastic tonight

– We are going to have to bring the safeties off of the sidelines; we just can not leave the middle of the field that wide open and we can expect Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard to cover forty yards of field on every play. They’re almost good enough to do it, but come on

– I can’t say much about Kessler’s pick-six. It was just really, really bad

– The phantom roughing-the-passer calls were infuriating. But when they DIDN’T make the roughing-the-passer call on ASU when they clearly hit Cody well out of bounds, you saw all you needed to see. Carroll put up with the officiating all those years because we won anyways, but he told us REPEATEDLY at MMQB that the anti-USC officiating was just exhausting …

***
Briefly around the country …

– The offenses in that LSU-Georgia game looked pretty good; the defenses looked awful. The SEC is changing before our eyes.

– I am starting to think I was only half-right about Florida State this year (my opening weekend call was that the people would regret not paying more attention to them). I think that QB is going to be a star, but your defense can not give up that many points to Boston College if you are a contending team.

– The LSU-Georgia game was a lot of fun to watch. The back and forth made for some good drama, despite a CBS crew that is truly astonishing in their badness. I do not believe anyone will beat Alabama out of the SEC this year, but both of these teams are capable.

– Oklahoma may or may not be for real (I personally doubt it), but one thing I know for sure: Notre Dame is not. They weren’t last year either, and could easily have been a four-loss team. This year they may very will be such.

– Oregon will score 100 points at some point this year

***
I meant what I said above: I truly do wish CLK the best. But I know he had to go, as the team was going in the wrong direction, and I believe this move enables the program to possible save some recruits going into next year. Our expectations will be too high next year – we are not very good at a lot of positions, and we are unlikely to get better our first year (would anyone like to see what Nick Saban did year #1 at Alabama?).

But we will fight on, and we will be back. There is nothing in the world like the privilege of being a USC Trojan. I am as happy to be one this morning as I have ever been, for it is out of adversity that glory can truly come. Right now we are in an adversity phase. The glory will be back. Fight on.