42 min Read

IMHO Sunday: No mirage, Trojans survive in the Tempe heat

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Tempe, Arizona.

IMHO: Amidst newly named USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn saying at his Thursday press conference that he expects Clay Helton and his team to finish the season strong because that’s what good programs do and adding that he didn’t want to put any more pressure on the beleaguered coach than there is already, it foreshadowed the expectations and the results, as on a warm Saturday afternoon in Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium, the USC Trojans (6-4, 5-2 Pac-12 South) kept their slim hopes of winning the Pac-12 South Division alive by surviving divisional rival ASU (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12 South), 31-26, in front of 54,191 onlookers, a national television audience that included new USC athletic director Mike Bohn. And, BTW, the Trojans are now bowl eligible, and yes, there were bowl reps in attendance to capture the moment.    

IMHO – Part 2: Despite Saturday’s positive result in Tempe by the Trojans and Clay Helton’s upbeat assessment and outlook, new AD Mike Bohn and Dr. Folt will become the least popular new additions on campus staff since (you fill in the blanc) if they still (1) don’t dismiss Clay Helton in a timely manner, and (2) hire somebody of the stature of, well, Urban Meyer. By most accounts, it initially appeared that first-year USC president Dr. Folt was adamantly against hiring or even interviewing Meyer, but it’s funny when all the top-shelf athletic director candidates that you respected and then pursued rejected the USC AD job because they were reportedly told that the celebrated Meyer was off limits. The message here is pretty clear: In spite of his “baggage,” if Urban Meyer is still good enough to be chased by those once treasured USC athletic director candidates who were reportedly told “no” to inquiries regarding Meyer, you’d better reassess your thoughts and concerns regarding one of college football’s greatest coaches. Oh, and by the way, the Meyer family has reportedly purchased a home in the South Bay, and Dr. Folt said at the Mike Bohn press conference that she wouldn’t interfere with her new AD’s pursuit of a new football coach. Well, we’ll still see about that.

IMHO – Part 3: If the revived rumors that Urban Meyer as the USC head coach are still in play and he is eventually interviewed but is either rejected by Folt or falls through the financial cracks, so be it, but at least they tried. However, if no Meyers, Folt and her new athletic director still HAVE to get it really right, and if they don’t, they should expect an intense backlash of unmitigated anger, booster rejection, and a frustrated USC fan base, which will scream “we’ve had enough.” And who could blame them all? And then there is also the national perception of a “you-have-to-be-kidding” if Meyer is not the chosen one. Folt and her new AD have no margin for error, however, in first addressing the Clay Helton situation. This isn’t being negative; it’s being brutally honest, Dr. Folt and new athletic director Bohn literally can’t afford to (fill in the bank) it up.

IMHO – Part 4: And perhaps making this whole probable football transition of head coach really under the microscope are the words from Dr. Carol Folt herself. When earlier asked about the status of Clay Helton and the coaching situation in general, she replied that she doesn’t hire or fire coaches because that’s the job of her athletic director. Well, we’re going to find out if she lives by her own words. I am sure that athletic director Mike Bohn is aware of those words and is using those words or some equivalent to say that if he is going to be responsible and held accountable for a new USC football coach, he should be given every option to succeed. However, a word of caution, in Mike Bohn’s presser on Thursday morning, both he and Dr. Folt repeatedly used winning with “integrity” both on and off the field. It’s possible both were either forewarning or sending a message to the No. 1 coaching candidate in the eyes of the USC fan base, Urban Meyer. Powerful Los Angeles Times sports columnists have already thoroughly rejected the idea of Urban Meyer, which makes this all more intriguing.  

Carol L. Folt (photo above) is inaugurated as USC’s 11th President on Friday, September 20, 2019, and recently announced new athletic director Mike Bohn will have to decide the fate of the Trojans’ football program going forward. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

IMHO – Part 5: So, what happens if it’s not Urban Meyer? The next best logical candidate is former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who is the current head coach and general manager of the fledgling new XFL franchise in Dallas. Rumors that Stoops had interviewed for the open Florida State coaching position where shot down by Stoops himself. There is no indication if he even wants to return to college coaching.  In Meyer and Stoops, that’s basically the “A-list”. Yeah, you can talk about Penn State’s James Franklin, whose undefeated team lost to undefeated P.J. Fleck’s Minnesota team 31-26 on Saturday (forget about Fleck since just days ago he signed a new contract extension with the University of Minnesota), Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Baylor’s Matt Rhule, and even former Trojans All-America linebacker Jack Del Rio, but if Meyer is interested in the job but the Trojans go in another direction and Stoops stays in the professional world, whatever cache the new USC President and her athletic director had will near completely be blown out the Heritage Hall windows faster than Traveler can sprint 100 yards in the Coliseum.

IMHO – Part 5: My goodness, was there actually a game in Tempe on Saturday afternoon? Just kidding, sort of, and it certainly was exciting.    

IMHO offensively: Once again, the Trojans jump on to a big early lead, and then the cardinal and gold well runs dry. It’s four touchdowns in the first quarter and not touchdowns in the second, third, and fourth quarters. It’s a different offense, but the same results. After the early plays are scripted, the chess match begins, and the Trojans become amateurs. Don’t believe me, the scoreboard doesn’t lie. Trojan fans have become leery of the offensive after the first quarter, although there have been moments this season – unlike last season – when the offense has put point on the board (touchdowns) in the second half.

Trojan fans were relieved to see QB Kedon Slovis (photo above – No. 9) get into the Victory Formation at the end of the game, which meant the Trojans were going to win .(Photo by John Hays)

Clay, still want to redshirt true freshman running back Kenan Christon (62 tough yards but two scoring receptions – 8 and 58 yds.)? Sure Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr are expected to return to duty at Cal next week, do I need to repeat the question about redshirting Christon, coach? Let’s hope not, certainly not after Saturday’s offensive display of both running and receiving. The kid goes to the NFL in three years anyway and your job in on the line, so unleash him for the final two games at Cal and UCLA. It may not save your job, but certainly could affect your team’s final record.  

Clay Helton is going to have decide whether to redshirt true freshman running back star Kenan Christon (photo above), who had two more TDs by air on Saturday against ASU. (Photo by John Hays)

Meanwhile, Trojans’ true freshman QB Kedon Slovis (29 of 39 for 432 yards, four TDs, and 1 PI) certainly showed he loved returning to his hometown. He even overcame a calf cramp to come back in crunch to time to help the cause. However, if there was a true star of stars for the Trojans it would be wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown who had a combined 207 yards in total offense. Amon-Ra had 173 yards on eight pass receptions and an electrifying 95-yard scoring reception from Slovis in the first quarter. A true team player, he even doubled as a running back (with 8 yards but made his presence felt. As for the Trojans’ offensive line, they gave up one sack but was their typical self with an up and down performance. How do you judge that? Well, how many clean holes did Kenan Christon run through? Case closed.      

IMHO defensively: From a defensive perspective, Clancy Pendergast’s defenders were given a break when ASU’s standout true freshman quarterback Jalen Daniels was unavailable (knee) due an injury sustained at UCLA. Gone was the ability of Daniels ability to scramble and spread the defense, which would have given the USC defense fits at the highest level. The Trojans thought they got a break when ASU had to go with freshman Joey Yellen from Mission Viejo High. Another standout Orange County (Calif.) talent, Joey proceeded to pass for 292 yards, but he threw four touchdown passes (5, 62, 2, and 15 yd scoring passes) and led his team to outscoring the Trojans in the final three quarters 19-3. The Trojans could record just one sack against the young ASU quarterback.

If there was a silver lining, the Trojans’ defense held ASU’s standout running back Eno Benjamin to just 62 yards on 20 carries (2.6 avg.). From a rush defense perspective, Clancy Pendergast’s defenders did their job. However, the Trojans secondary got burned enough times that you couldn’t stop holding your breath. There were some defensive penalties that didn’t help the cause. However, to be fair, some of them were highly questionable, but then again we’re dealing with Pac-12 game officials and more needs to be added. Naturally, if there was to be a defensive play of the game, you could easily point to senior defensive end Christian Rector’s diving interception at the Trojans’ 32-yard line to effectively end the game. The Trojans’ captain came up big at the right time after a season of up and downs and injury. The top two tacklers for the Trojans were inside linebackers John Houston Jr and Kana’I Mauga, which can be good and bad. It was probably more good than bad when you look at running back Benjamin’s stats. It should be noted that Trojans’ sophomore strong safety Talanoa Hufanga made his return to the field success with a critical forced fumble of Benjamin to go along with four tackles. And, yes, it was also a nice return to his hometown in Phoenix for sophomore safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, who had four tackles and a big interception.     

The Trojans defense was bolstered by the return of sophomore strong safety Talanoa Hufanga (photo above – No.15) who had four tackles for the game and a forced fumble. (Photo by John Hays)

IMHO special teams: For Trojans’ special teams coordinator John Baxter, under scrutiny in what seems all season long, he probably didn’t like most of what he saw of his special teams. The ASU game began with a penalty for an illegal USC shift on the PAT attempt on the Trojans’ first touchdown. Later in the first quarter, the Trojans almost gave another kickoff return as ASU’s Brandon Aiyuk returned a kickoff 97 yards before being tackled by Chris Steele. Showing that kickoff return was not a fluke, Aiyuk returned another kickoff 41 yards. Oh, did we mention that Aiyuk had an earlier 35-yard kickoff return?  A bad day for John Baxter’s kickoff coverage team or should we say another. Then there was the false start of a punting situation inside the Trojans’ own 5-yard line. As for some positives, Trojans’ placekicker Chase McGrath hit what turned out to be the winning points on a 41-yard field goal late in the third quarter. Another bright spot was punter Ben Griffiths, who while averaging just 36.2 yards per punt, did lose of yardage with precision punting designed to pin the Sun Devils deep in their own territory. Unfortunately, Griffiths’ coverage team can’t seem understand how to place themselves between the goal line and where the ball bounces. It is definitely a fundamentals issue that has a history.    

Bottom Line: You have to give credit to Clay Helton, his staff, and the players for rebounding against ASU after that demolition put on them last week by Oregon in the Coliseum. However, on Saturday afternoon, it was the old Trojans pattern under Clay Helton without Sam Darnold. Look good early and then hold on at the end – and did they ever. After jumping out to a first quarter 28-7 lead, the Trojans didn’t score a touchdown in the final three quarters. They were fortunate that starting ASU quarterback Jalen Daniels didn’t even suit up, and the Sun Devils had to go with true freshman signal caller Joey Yellen, who actually played pretty well for the most part. It could be argued that ASU not been called for a holding penalty in the final quarter after an apparent Pick-6, the Trojans wouldn’t be celebrating on Saturday night. Taking a page out of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, winm, survive, and advance at this point. Utah, which had a bye along with their next opponent UCLA, had a bye. The Trojans must continue to win and hope that the Utes get upset by UCLA in Salt Lake City, Arizona in Tucson, or Colorado in SLC. Not likely, since those final three opponents will be big underdogs, especially when the Utes play at home. The Trojans can only hope and pray.       

Trojans’ beleaguered head football coach Clay Helton (photo above) was all smiles after the Trojans defeated ASU 31-26. Helton is hugging his big defensive end Christian Rector (No. 89), who had the game-saving interception late in the fourth quarter.

The infirmary: C Brett Neilon (calf), QB Kedon Slovis (calf)

Next up: The Trojans continue on the road next weekend for a Saturday game at Cal. Kickoff time is 8 p.m. PT. That kickoff time is not a misprint unfortunately.

The Trojans will head up to Cal’s Memorial Stadium (photo above) for a night game against the Golden Bears next Saturday.

The Trojans/ASU quote book…

Clay Helton comments: “Really proud of our kids with a lot of bodies down, a lot of bodies that didn’t start, and then losing bodies during the game. Not only did they fight on, but they fought on to victory and that’s our motto. They found a way to get it done.”

Clay Helton comments – Part 2: Regarding the ASU defense, Helton said,“Credit to Arizona State, I thought they brought every pressure known to man. They were trying to get the quarterback and the offensive line did an unbelievable job holding up under duress.”

Clay Helton comments – Part 3: Regarding his team’s early offensive production, Helton said,“It was an explosive offense tonight and we ended up over 500 yards and we really started fast. I’d like to be a little bit more consistent in the second half, but we’ll get that ironed out before Cal.”

Clay Helton comments – Part 4: Regarding Christian Rector’s big interception in the fourth quarter, Helton said, “We talked about it this week, you know these three games last year were the difference in doing something better last season and this was one of them. To come on the road, down bodies, and those kids find a way to win and your captain makes the final play, it’s special. That’s what captains do. They don’t wait for other people to make it happen, they make it happen and I thought it was a very special moment for Christian (Rector).”

ASU head coach Herm Edwards comments: On his young starting quarterback Joey Yellen and team’s performance, Edwards said, Well I thought he (Yellen) did a great job of playing against a talented group of defensive players from USC. Four touchdown passes, it’s the first time he’s ever played a college game and to do that, I give him a lot of credit. When I look at the game, it’s like a game of two halves. The first half we just broke down in the secondary too many times big play after big play and spotted them points. Then we decided to rally again, and we fell a little short. That’s what I told the team today: We have to learn to how to play a whole football game, not half a football game.”

ASU head coach Herm Edwards comments: – Part 2: On his team’s successful kickoff returns against the Trojans, Edwards said, “We felt like we could do something on kickoffs. The problem is, you don’t want them kicking the ball to us because that means they’re scoring. That’s the crazy part about all of that. There are some things that we’ll take away that were very good, that were positive, but we have to clean up the negative things if we’re going to win a football game again.”

ASU head coach Herm Edwards (photo above by John Hays) said after the game that he thought his kickoff return team could do damage against the Trojans special teams.

OC Graham Harrell: “Most of the night we moved the ball until towards the end. Anytime you don’t score you’re frustrated. We going to keep stressing what we believe, and that’s doing your job over and over. We just ask that they execute.”

QB Kedon Slovis speaks: On his offense’s big first quarter scoring explosion, Kedon Slovis said,“It was a lot of fun. It showed what we can do with this offense when we execute. Later in the game, we did not execute as well. When we execute and everyone does their job, that is what it can look like.”

Kedon speaks – Part 2:
On returning home (Scottsdale), Slovis said, “It was great. I have family and friends in the crowd. Being in an environment that I have been playing in my whole life made it cool to come back.”

Trojans QB Kedon Slovis (photo above on right) and wide receiver Drake London (photo above on left) are all smiles after the Trojans 31-26 victory over ASU in Sun Devil Stadium.

Kedon speaks – Part 3:
On his 95-yard scoring pass play to Amon-Ra St. Brown, Slovis said, “I had a good option on that play, either way I would have went. I worked towards (Michael) Pittman, the safety widened, and Amon (Ra St. Brown) ran by the middle safety. He made a great play. I just gave it to him. You do not expect him to make a 95-yard reception. It was a great play.”

DE Christian Rector:
On his game-saving interception, Rector said, “I came free off the edge and I knew the ball was going to be coming out. I saw it come out, tipped it, and called game.”

Christian Rector – Part 2:
On the importance of sealing the win, Rector said, “It was huge. Now we are bowl eligible. It is a big deal, especially after last year. Getting this win is important, especially going forward trying to get these next two.”

Practice paid off this week for defensive end Christian Rector (photo above), who had the game-saving interception to seal the victory over ASU.

WR Amon-Ra St. Brown: On the key to the game, St. Brown said, “We really started off really hot on offense. We put 28 up there on the first quarter, and then we kind of slowed down. The defense played great. I thought the offense did just enough field position wise to help the defense out.”

Nobody had a better day on the field than Trojans sophomore wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (photo above – No. 8), who had 207 yards in total offense. (Photo by John Hays)

RB Kenan Christon: On his 58-yard TD pass reception, Christon said, “He (the defender) wasn’t trying to tackle me too much, he was going for the ball. Ball security is usually one of my strong suits, although I know I fumbled once. It won’t happen again.  

RB Kenan Christon – Part 2: On whether he want to redshirt the rest of the season, Christon said, “It’s really between the coaches. I don’t really know too much. It’s all up to them. I will do whatever is best for the team.”

WR Drake London: On what was working for the offense today, London said, “Kedon (Slovis) was just finding people. (On seeing Slovis’s huge first half passing) We went back to the locker room and saw the stats and he was killing it.”

Wide receiver Drake London (photo above – No. 15 ) uses his basketball skills to make a high-point catch (Photo by John Hays)

Center Justin Dedich:
On replacing injured center Brett Neilon and having to make the line calls, Dedich said, “It was good to get those reps. It’s really different than practice, it’s faster in the game. I got to control the game a little better and things I can improve. It was definitely a surrealistic experience.”

ASU QB Joey Yellen: On his overall thoughts regarding the game, Yellen said, “I think (Frank Darby and Brandon Aiyuk) definitely played an unbelievable game. (They) definitely stayed in it. We had some adversity and all that, but there were a couple times where the game kind of came down to them – if (USC) is bringing pressure and (Darby and Aiyuk) have their isolation matchups out there and they were exactly where they were supposed to be each time. There were some times where I can throw it and I don’t even know 100 percent if they’re going to be there, but they always got to the right spots and ran really good routes, made some big plays for sure. So I thought we did really well in that regard. Also, I think that our line played a really good game. I thought we had a good plan coming into it with a lot of quick game and that sort of thing. Got the ball out quick, so I didn’t really get touched a lot. So I thought they played really well as well.”

ASU wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk:
Regarding the Trojans Aiyuk said, “We are losing to teams that we are better than. We are better than that team out there, we are better than the last few teams we lost to, so that’s where most of the frustration is coming from.”

ASU wide receiver and kickoff specialist Brandon Aiyuk (photo above) said afterward that the Sun Devils were better than the Trojans.(Photo by John Hays)

From the press box…

Temperature: Sun Devils kickoff temperature was most cloudy and 85 degrees with 24 percent humidity.

The heat might have played a factor in Sun Devil Stadium (photo above) not being filled to capacity on Saturday afternoon.

Cool zone: The Trojans took every opportunity to sit in front of those giant fans to stay cool. The huge cooling fans are called “Big Fogg.”

Special guest: Cindy McCain, the widow of late Senator John McCain, was part of the official coin flip before the game. The game was dedicated to our military veterans and a tribute to Veteran’s Day. 

The gimmick: Saturday’s game was the ASU’s 2019 Black-Out game, which fans were encouraged to wear black tops to the game. However, most of the fans wearing black were students in the shaded portion of the west end zone.

The snake: Sun Devils welcomed back legendary quarterback Jake “The Snake” Plummer to celebrate his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Tickets, tickets: The game was close to a sellout and a number of fans from both teams were looking for tickets prior to the game.

Fans were still looking for tickets (photo above) right up to kickoff in the local establishments.

By the numbers: With the ASU loss, the Sun Devils move to 5-5 with the Trojans in the last nine games after dropping 11 straight from 2000-2010.

The honorees: Saturday’s game was ASU’s annual Salute to Service game, honoring current military personnel. There was an impressive military parachuters drop that drew the excitement of the crowd prior to kickoff.

Foot cruising: Although it was predominately an ASU turnout, there were USC fans taking to the streets to support their team.

Yes, there were plenty of Trojan fans (photo above) in Tempe to support their beloved cardinal and gold
It was all fun and games (photo above) in the streets of Tempe before the USC/ASU kickoff at 1:30 p.m.

Fun zone: Like the Trojans, ASU provided their faithful with a “fan fest,” which feature the ASU band, giveaways, and inflatable figures.

NFL draft: NFL scouts in attendance included the Cardinals, Jaguars, Bills, Browns, Steelers, Cowboys, and the Edmonton Eskimos (CFL).

Let’s go bowling: The Alamo, Holiday, and Sun Bowls had reps in the press box.

The menu: The ASU press box pregame meal included burgers brats, potato salad, muffins, and pound cake. 

The press box meal (photo above) was another success with hamburgers, brats, potato salad, and pound cake.

The post-game show numbers…     

Tackling the issues: Senior inside linebacker John Houston led the Trojans with nine tackles followed by sophomore inside linebacker Kana’i Mauga with eight tackles.

Trojans’ freshman defensive end Drake Jackson (photo above – No. 99) returned to the defense from injury and really made his presence felt. (Photo by John Hays)

Upward trend: Against ASU, the Trojans scored 31 points. Prior to the game with the Sun Devils, the Trojans were averaging 30.44 points per game.

Downward trend: Against ASU, the Trojans allowed 26 points. Prior to the game with the Sun Devils, Trojans’ defense was allowing 28.33 points per game. 

Upward trend: Against ASU, the Trojans had 547 yards in total offense. Prior to the game with the Sun Devils, the Trojans were averaging 432.7 yards in total offense per game.

Thanks to Trojans’ QB Kedon Slovis (photo above – No. 9), the Trojans’ offense had an impressive 547 yards against ASU in total offense. (Photo by John Hays)

Downward trend: Against ASU, the Trojans defense allowed 339 total yards in total offense. Prior to the game with the Sun Devils, the Trojans were allowing 417 yards per game.

Downward trend: Against ASU, the Trojans had 70 net yards rushing. Prior to the game with the Sun Devils, the Trojans were averaging 140.1 rushing yards per game. 

Downward trend: Against ASU, the Trojans allowed 47 net rushing yards. Prior to the game with the Sun Devils, the Trojans’ defense was allowing 184.4 rushing yards per game.

The Trojans’ defense really did a number on ASU’s standout running back Eno Benjamin, who had just 62 yards in rushing. (Photo by John Hays)

Upward trend: Against ASU, the Trojans had 477 yards passing yards. Prior to the game with the Sun Devils, Trojans were averaging 292.56 passing yards per game.  

Upward trend: Against ASU, the Trojans allowed 292 passing yards. Prior to the game with the Ducks, the Trojans’ defense was allowing 242.22 passing yards per game.

Time of possession: The Trojans had the ball 31:34 minutes while ASU had the ball for 28:26 minutes.  

Upward flag trend: Against ASU, the Trojans had 11 penalties for 93 yards while the Sun Devils had nine penalties for 82 yards. Prior to the ASU game, the Trojans were averaging 70.11 penalty yards per game while the opposition was averaging 72.89 penalty yards per game.

The post-game call-in show:

Caller No. 1: Sir, what did you think of LSU beating Alabama, 46-41, in Tuscaloosa? Wow, Caller No. 1, you must have been watching that game, right?I think the Trojans better sign Urban Meyer or somebody that will stop the Bayou bleeding when Ed Orgeron comes into L.A. to take even more recruits back to Baton Rouge. No joking, good for Ed Orgeron but bad for SoCal football. New athletic director Mike Bohn better get a giant recruiting band aid if he Myer or some equivalent isn’t the new coach selection.

Many Trojan fans still lament that former Trojans’ interim coach Ed Orgeron (photo above in the middle along with Keneche Udeze – left – and former Trojans head coach John Robinson on the right) didn’t become the Trojans permanent head coach.

Caller No. 2: Katz, what’s the objective of keeping Helton as head coach at this point when we all know he’s as done as grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey? For starters, Helton’s team is still mathematically in the South race – barely. Even if they are eliminated before the UCLA game, I am not sure Helton would be fired with one game to go, but I suppose it could happen if Cal upsets the Trojans in that godawful 8 p.m. kickoff time in Berkeley. Gentleman Clay has been a classy act through the good and bad times, so there be some compassion to let him finish the season and then make the announcement that he won’t be returning – the worst kept secret in memory. I don’t think that would affect the naming of a new coach if potential candidates have already been contacted and have shown interest in the job. Of course, if the new athletic director Bohn wanted to name a new head coach as quickly as possible -that’s the thought here – with an eye on the early signing period, that would speed up the timeline considerably. If Dr. Folt is takes a pass on Urban Meyer, you have to believe that some of the other candidates are probably still coaching their present team.  

Caller No. 3: If it’s true, what’s your opinion of Dr. Folt wanting no part of Urban Meyer?  I wondered, Caller No. 3, when this question would pop up this week. I was told at the Oregon game by somebody I totally trust and has bigtime connections that there is no way Meyer is going to be a viable candidate. For me personally, I just don’t see how you don’t at least interview Meyer if he is interested in the job. If President Folt doesn’t like what she’s read or heard about Meyer, would it hurt to interview the coach? If he is interested in the job, get the answers from him directly to the questions that are of concern to her? I understand Folt’s worry that Meyer’s “baggage” would be adding to a school that is trying to dump a laundry list of baggage. However, maybe Meyer isn’t quite the person that he is being portrayed to Folt. Certainly, Meyer has made mistakes, but it’s possible he has learned from them. His teams have never been NCAA sanctioned or put on probation, and he would solve two critical problems – the football performance on the field and the financial woes of dwindling Coliseum attendance. It could be put in his contract that any substantial missteps would be grounds for removal.  

USC President Carol Folt (photo above) is all smiles, but a large amount of USC fans are concerned if the new prez will give Urban Meyer a look-see as a potential head coaching candidate if Clay Helton is not brought back in 2020

Caller No. 4: Mr. Kitty, what are you honestly hearing about the hiring of Mike Bohn as the new USC athletic director? Caller No. 4, I expected a question like this from you. I don’t believe Bohn was on the AD “A-list” of candidates. I was told that he wasn’t even in the picture earlier in the week before word leaked out that Auburn’s AD Allen Greene may have had the job. So much for that rumor. I have heard pros and cons regarding the enthusiastic Bohn, which kind of puts the brakes to some of the enthusiasm. His hiring of Colorado football coaches turned out to be a basic combined disaster. In fairness, two of the three candidates he hired (Boise State’s Dan Hawkins and San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre) had very good credentials before being hired at CU, but it just didn’t work out. As for the second hire, Jon Embree, a former CU player, he lasted just two seasons and was supposedly forced upon Bohn. This is what I do know: Bohn hired Luke Fickell, a former Ohio State assistant under Urban Meyer, for Cincinnati, and the Bearcats are having a great season, currently ranked No. 17. Would Fickell be on Bohn’s “B-list”?  One thing for certain, Mike Bohn will always be remembered at USC by his first head football coach hiring and then and only then will Dr. Folt and her new AD see whether the decision to or not to interview Urban Meyer was a noble decision or an exploding cigar, respectively.

Many of the media in attendance for his press conference gave new Trojans’ athletic director Mike Bohn (photo above) a thumps up for an early impression.

Caller No. 5: Mr. Katz, do you think that the Trojans’ secondary has improved under Coach Greg Burns? Yes, I think Greg has done a pretty good job with such young and inexperienced players. The secondary has gotten better throughout the season, and it has done so with a tremendous amount of misfortune due to injuries. Not to be jumping the gun too quickly, but it will be interesting to see when the new coach is hired if Greg is retained.   

Caller No. 6: Grego, come clean. Is the Helton era worse than the Paul Hacket era? Well, I will say this about Gentleman Clay, he won a Rose Bowl, won a Pac-12 title, and was a true gentleman in the face of some pretty big scrutiny brought on by himself. As for Hackett, he lost in a Sun Bowl, never won a Pac-12 title, and was a pseudo elitist who seemed to be more cut out to be a math teacher than a head football coach.So, I would have to say the Hackett years were worse, but you could make a case that the Helton era was the worse.

Caller No. 7: Have you seen Pat Haden at any of the football games? Caller No. 7, I personally haven’t seen him at any of the home games, and I think if he was attending a game, the media would sniff him out. Trying to put something like that past the media is like trying sneak a lambchop past a wolf. I think it is wise on Haden’s part to fly under the radar and stay completely out of the cardinal and gold limelight at this point.  

There have been sightings of former Trojans’ athletic director Pat Haden (photo above) since his ugly departure from USC.

Caller No. 8: G-man, do you think that Trojans Band Director Arthur C Bartner deserves a statue on campus for his great accomplishments with the TMB? Absolutely, but no statue has been built to my knowledge, but Dr. Bartner did have the Trojans Marching Band pavilion named after him. The Dr. Arthur C. Bartner Band Pavilion includes dedicated men’s and women’s locker rooms, instrument and uniform storage, a spacious student lounge and a rehearsal space. Previously, band members changed in the cramped administrative office in the basement of Stonier Hall and practiced wherever space was available on campus.

Caller No. 9: Sir, comparing coaching legends that coached against the Trojans -Alabama’s Bear Bryant or Notre Dame’s Ara Parseghian? Since I saw both up-close and personal against the Trojans, I can say I saw Bear Bryant during a John McKay spring practice back in the late 60s. The Bear was much taller than I thought and, yes, he was wearing his hounds tooth hat, his trademark, and he had that famous scowl. However, I loved Parseghian’s “Delaware Wing-T” with all its misdirection and power concepts, and Ara had an intensity in his face when I would watch when the Irish got off the bus in front of the famous players’ tunnel end of the Coliseum. Both were great coaches and great leaders of men and had an intimidating presence about them. 

Caller No. 10: Mr. Katz, who do you think is the greatest inside linebacker you have seen at SC? Believe it or not, the one player that I thought could truly control a game as an inside linebacker – with all due respects to WeAreSC’s own Kevin Bruce, is Chris Claiborne. He could stuff the inside and was a marvelous sideline-to-sideline inside backer. Yeah, maybe that’s why he won the Butkus Award (best college linebacker) and, BTW, the only Trojans to win it.

There are many that believe the best middle linebacker in USC history is Chris Claiborne (photo above)

Caller No. 11: Sir, I was slightly amused last week when you said that you drove a 1962 Chevy Impala when you went to your beloved Alhambra High School. This is probably a stupid question, but did you ever go cruising, and if you did, where did you cruise? Wow, unlocking the vault of my teenage years. Okay, I went cruising down a number of boulevard/streets. Locally, I would cruise down Valley Blvd. in Alhambra (my basic hood), and a popular eating spot was “The Hat.” It had a Bob’s Big Boy, which was an icon, along the route. Leaving my area, I’d cruise with my buds on occasion down Whittier Blvd. (remember the old Thee Midnighters’ hit “Whittier Blvd.”?). I would on occasion go to the San Fernando Valley and ride down Van Nuys Blvd and either hit another Bob’s or Mike’s Pizza. I once went down Tweedie Blvd in Bell. It was a real “American Graffiti” real-time experience. And I have to reveal that one time I, stupidly, went cruising down Pasadena’s Colorado Blvd. on New Year’s Eve. Big mistake! I had my window rolled down when midnight struck, and folks sitting on the curb rushed to the open driver’s window and threw a bag full of colored confetti into my car and in my face and lap. What a mess!  Ah, those were the days, my friends.

A popular cruising eating hangout was The Hat (photo above) in Alhambra on Valley Blvd. The Hat still remains today an icon from the past.
One of the most popular cruising spot in the 60s was Whittier Boulevard (photo above), which is still active today. In fact, one of the all-time cruising songs was “Whittier Boulevard” by Thee Midnighters with Little Willie G.


Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

More Articles By Greg