By Rock Mayock 6:00 p.m. | USC’s march toward its second BCS Championship (I seem to remember them blowing out Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl) commenced with a bang on Saturday afternoon as the Trojans dismantled the woefully outmanned Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (they will always be the Rainbow Warriors). As usual a contingency of the FOOTBALLPHDS was in attendance for the games taking meticulous notes for the benefit of our wonderful readers. However the FOOTBALLPHDS are acutely aware the 99% of our reader base doesn’t care about box score stats, they care about insight about what transpired during the game. Without getting into a tedious X’s and O’s breakdown of the game, here are the key observations that require review.
ON THE FIELD OBSERVATIONS:
1. Matt Barkley did not look like a Heisman Trophy frontrunner. Whether it be nerves or rust Barkley did not look crisp. Many of his passes were thrown to the wrong shoulder, behind receivers, at their feet or lazily into double coverage. Even more troubling was Barkley’s relapse to staring down his #1 receiver option and not going through his progression of reads.Don’t let Barkley’s stats (23/38, 60.5 comp%, 377 YDs, and 4 TDs) mislead you because they were padded by a Herculean effort from Marquis Lee. Barkley is going to have to significantly improve his game before facing the much more complex and play making in Conference defenses.
2. The player who did look like he was playing for a Heisman Trophy was Marquis Lee. According the statisticians at Yahoo!, Lee caught 10 passes for 197 yards, 19.7 YPC and 1 TD. Oh yeah, he also returned a kickoff 107 yards to the house. Any point in time Lee is obviously the most gifted player on the field. His hip fluidity, field vision and the ability to hit that second gear make him TV gold. If Lee works on his hands and puts on a little bit more bulk he could the second best wide out to ever play for USC (we all know that Keyshawn will always be #1).
3. USC still cannot run the ball with authority. The Trojans should have dominated the line of scrimmage against an overmatched Hawaii front seven but the tandem of McNeal and Redd mustered only 66 yards on 14 carries. Back out the 31 yard touchdown scamper by Silas Redd and they only averaged 2.7 YPC. Keep in mind the USC offense ran 61 total plays, 38 passing and 23 rushing. This unbalanced offense attack demands that the rushing game generate respectable net positive production when needed. 2.7 YPC is not going to cut it especially when Conference play starts on September 15 at Stanford.
4. The USC defense looked neither thin nor inexperienced along the front 4. The line, in particular Morgan Breslin, was able wreck havoc en route to producing 5 sacks and pressuring 2 interceptions. More importantly they were able to do this without the need of a blitzing linebacker, corner or safety. Granted this is against Hawaii but this bodes well against more dynamic offensive schemes with more skilled personnel.
5. As painful as this is for the FOOTBALLPHDS to admit, the game may have finally passed Norm “The Guru” Chow by. Chow may have dominated the college game as an offensive coordinator for BYU, NC State and USC but his will was officially crushed in the NFL by Vince Young. After Vince Young, The Guru was a broken man relegated to OC duty UCLA and Utah before becoming head coach at Hawaii. Unfortunately for The Guru none of his post NFL stops have come with success. His once unquestionable offensive play calling prowess is now very predictable and his QBs are nothing short of terrible. Saturday’s blowout showed not only a talent divide but a dynamic coaching divide. Nonetheless, The Guru still resides on the Mount Hunky of FOOTBALLPHDS’ man crushes.
OFF THE FIELD OBSERVATIONS:
1. The impact of the Pac-12’s new 12-year TV rights contract with Fox and ESPN could be felt from the opening kickoff and ensuing 2.5 hour first half. That is not a typo. The first 30 minutes of game time took 150 minutes to complete due to the inordinate number of TV timeouts. Fox and BSPN both need to raise advertising revenue in order to pay the $3 billion bill for the privilege to broadcast Pac-12 games. Too bad the flow of the game and fans are the ones who are truly paying the price.
2. The impact of USC securing the master lease for the Coliseum was abundantly evident due to a significant increase of service and security staff proliferating the Coliseum and its immediate grounds. It was also evident that the University has made the initial steps towards renovating the amenities of the aging Coliseum. Previously closed concession stands were opened, additional food vendors were present throughout the concourse and there was a food truck congregation in front of the Rose Garden.
3. Never let anyone tell you that Los Angeles Mayor Tony Villar is an absolute dope, he is only a 99.9% dope. His much maligned “Subway to the Sea,” better known as the Metro Expo Line, has made getting to and from the Los Angles Memorial Coliseum a snap. In fact there is absolutely zero reason to ever drive to the Coliseum. You can take the Metro Link from Hollywood, Pasadena, Long Beach, Culver City, South Bay, Down Town or East LA to get to the Coliseum. There is no need to pay for parking, you can tailgate until you’re pissy drunk, the trains run until 2:00 a.m. on weekend nights and the train drops you off literally right in front of the Exposition entrance of USC. Spend the $3.00 round trip fare, it’s totally worth it.
Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America