By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com
In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.
Still in play: Despite the disappointing 30-27 upset at Washington State on Friday night, perspective would remind Trojans fans that there are still seven games to go in the regular season and real opportunity still remains to make a statement both in the Pac-12 and nationally. Granted, the Trojans (AP No. 14/CP No. 15) have not been playing very well and to expectations, but their destiny is still in their hands in terms of the Pac-12 South Division, the first step to any championship goals.
Still in play – Part 2: After next Saturday’s game with Oregon State in the Coliseum (1 p.m. PT), the Trojans will face a possible undefeated Utah squad (4-0) in a Pac-12 South Division showdown and a possible once-beaten Notre Dame team (4-1), which could improve their national perception. If the Trojans are healthy for those two games, a lot of what happened up in Pullman will be tempered a bit, especially if Washington State (AP/CP No. 11) keeps winning, which adds to strength of schedule. FYI, next Saturday Utah (AP No. 20/CP No. 18) plays at Stanford (3-2) while Notre Dame (AP No. 21/CP No. 22) trips to North Carolina (1-4).
The race track: For the record, the current Pac-12 South Division race in order: 1. Utah (1-0), 2. USC (2-1), 3. UCLA/ASU (1-1), 4. Arizona (0-1), 5. Colorado (0-2).
The debate: After five games, are these 2017 Trojans what you see is what you get? Are these Trojans improving or are they too hurt to improve? It appears that this team is not a whole lot different from the team that opened this season against Western Michigan, and even back then the Trojans had to play into the final quarter to assure the win. IMHO, I don’t yet see the improvement at this juncture that I saw in the 2016 team, especially on offense. The 2017 Trojans may have potential, but you know what they say about potential: Unproven talent. Yet, these Trojans are still 4-1 and ranked.
History lesson: Based on last season, you can bet that Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton and his staff will know how to emotionally get the Cardinal and Gold ready for the remaining seven regular season games. In the locker room after Friday night’s game, Helton said he told his team how much he loved and cared about them. Nothing like a little TLC in difficult times. Hey, and the coach probably needs a little himself.
The hawk is wounded: After Friday night’s game, Trojans senior safety Chris Hawkins said he cried over the loss in the locker room. Nobody should question Hawkins devotion to his football team. There were also others that were just as emotional afterward. That must have been a long flight back to LAX.
Heartbreaking: There was no other word for me to describe watching Sam Darnold scramble for his life while trying to make something happen at Martin Stadium.
Vengeance: Sam Darnold and teammates will no doubt want to vent their anger on a vulnerable Oregon State team (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12), which is the next best thing to a bye week. But you can be sure the Trojans won’t treat the Beavers as a bye week.
Say what: It’s still a little hard to fathom that Washington State quarterback Luke Falk dramatically out-passed Sam Darnold 340 to 164 in yardage. You have to give both quarterback credit in the courage department. Both took some vicious shots during the game. Darnold was sacked twice while Falk was dropped five times, one a near lethal shot by safety Marvell Tell lll on a blitz.
Carr trouble: It has been reported that Trojans’ super freshman tailback Stephen Carr was seen leaving Martin Stadium with an apparent ankle injury that leaves his status for next week’s Oregon State game in limbo. When it rains, it you-know-what.
Difference makers: WSU quarterback Luke Falk got a lot of credit for Friday night’s victory, but it was the Cougars’ defense and an effective running game that helped win the game.
The strategy: It appears that a defensive strategy for defending Sam Darnold has come to dropping more players back into coverage than putting an all-out rush, especially if you can do it with four linemen. The strategy is that the Trojans’ offensive line will break down and Darnold will become a sitting or rolling out duck.
From the press box…
Jack in the box: So how many of you jumped out of your seat when the Trojans attempted a second-and –goal pass to the opposite sideline to freshman tight end Josh Falo that was almost returned for a 100-yard pick-six? Okay, how about that flea-flicker? Pass the Maalox.
MIA: Perhaps the biggest loss of the evening at Washington State was the departure of starting right tackle Chuma Edoga, who the Trojans count on for running off the right side. Edoga suffered an apparent ankle injury in the first quarter. Don’t kid yourself, losing Edoga was a big deal.
Improvement: You had to like what you saw in redshirt receiver Tyler Vaughns (6 for 89 yds.). All that’s needed now is for the other young receivers to step up and heal the wounded veterans like receiver Steven Mitchell Jr.
That was bad: The offensive pass interference on wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, who had hauled in a long pass from Sam Darnold, was, IMHO, one of the worst calls I’ve seen for any game this season. Absolutely brutal. Then again, it’s the Pac-12 officials at their finest.
No change: IMHO, I continue to believe that Trojans junior corner Iman Marshall is a strong safety playing corner.
The night’s quote: On the atmosphere at Martin Stadium on Friday night, eccentric Washington State coach Mike Leach said, “It’s like Woodstock, except everybody’s got their clothes on.” The only thing missing apparently was an appearance from Jimi Hendrix.
The post-game show…
The red sea: After the game, Washington State fans descended to the field in mass, coving the playing surface that become one big sea of crimson and grey, which was interesting since the hometown team wore all-grey uniforms with white numbers and names. The Trojans wore their traditional road uniforms. And, please, don’t tell me the Trojans are again thinking of a one-game alternative home uniform for 2018.
Overconfident: I know I felt more positive than negative regarding the Trojans chances when Sam Darnold had the ball with about 1:37 remaining in the game. In fact, knowing that the Trojans had no timeouts left, the table was set for the perfect Captain Comeback moment.
The finale: It just wasn’t the Trojans night when Sam Darnold fumbled on the final attempted winning drive. It was kind of the exclamation point to the frustration of the whole evening.
Attendance count: So, what’s your attendance prediction for the Coliseum when the Trojans return home next Saturday’s game against Oregon State?
No doubt: It certainly appears that the premier teams in the Pac-12 North are superior to their counterparts in the South.
The last word: Apparently during warm-ups before the Washington State game, Trojans’ linebacker Jordan Iosefa and wide receiver Jalen Greene collided in warmups and suffered concussion symptoms. It was that kind of a night.