Instant Analysis - Emerald
USC 24 ... Boston College 13
Take a step back for a second.
USC is 9-4. Nine-and-four. This was a world-is-coming-to-an-end season
that became a disaster and was on that head coach Pete Carroll had said
that he just wants to be over, and the team still won nine games. At
most places a 9-4 campaign with a bowl victory would be seen as a
possible launching pad and a success, but, obviously, USC isn't most
places, but if this is the floor, if this is as bad as things can get,
you take it and run.
The Joe McKnight thing might be a jump the shark moment for the dynasty
and this current crop of tremendously talented young players might feel
more of a sense of entitlement than they should, but there was a win at
possible Rose Bowl winner, Ohio State, wins at Cal and Notre Dame, and a
28-7 thumping of rival UCLA. That the defense melted down against
Stanford and Oregon and the offense didn't show up against Washington
shouldn't be seen as the end of the era ... for now.
The problem with the 24-13 win over Boston College in the Emerald Bowl
wasn't effort, by all accounts the Trojans really were pumped up and
focused, even with the McKnight stuff, and it wasn't the lack of
some key personnel. The problem was that the team just didn't play well
this year, and it showed. But there were just enough star talents, most
notably Damian Williams, to make USC that much better than BC. However,
past SC teams would've thumped theses Eagles by 30.
Remember that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Matt Barkley
was a true freshman, four of last year's linebackers are starting in the
NFL, and there were issues in the backfield throughout the year from
McKnight to Stafon Johnson's throat. There were only three senior
starters on defense and three on offense, and while several
underclassmen (like Williams) will be off to the NFL, this will be a
matured and dangerous team coming back, helped by an easier schedule.
The sky isn't falling, USC fans, and while this game was hardly
impressive, it's not time to worry. If the team is a "mediocre" 9-4 next
year, then it'll be time to worry about the party being over.
Snicker if you must, but beating Boston College in the Emerald Bowl is a fairly big deal for USC and Pete Carroll.
No, it wasn’t Pasadena and the team in the other locker room wasn’t nationally ranked. Still, considering how Troy fell over the final month of the regular season, losing three of five games, it desperately needed to take a positive vibe into the offseason. Neither the players, the staff, nor the Pac-10 could afford another flop against an inferior opponent.
Hey, there’s no doubt the Trojans have issues that need to be addressed between now and the Sept. 2 opener at Hawaii. The offense still lacks explosiveness, and the overall intensity level isn’t what it used to be on defense. The talent on both sides of the ball, however, remains as deep as any team in the Pac-10. And as long as Carroll continues to corner many of the best and brightest recruits on the West Coast, USC will always be a factor in the conference and national title hunts. San Francisco was a much-needed starting point in the recovery process for Troy. Nothing more and nothing less. What happens over the next eight months will dictate whether this run-of-the-mill season was an anomaly or the start of a downward trend.
1) There were few officiating mishaps this season (cough, HACK, cough, wheeze, COUGH, CHOKE, sputter, gag, heave, COUGH), so it was nice to see the arbiters have such a pleasant evening in San Francisco. How generous of the replay booth reviewer at AT&T Park to give the USC Trojans a late Christmas present of 14 points on two of the worst non-reversals ever witnessed in major college football. If the LSU-Alabama, Florida-Mississippi State, and Indiana-Iowa games weren’t bad enough, this game reminded college football watchers that far too many replay booth reviewers are plainly incompetent. Hey, how much would Urban Meyer make to be a replay reviewer? He could do that job in his sleep, and without much stress. Any clear-eyed individual should be able to review calls; the fact that the actual employees can’t is a disgrace, and tonight, that disgrace decided the outcome of a bowl game. Boston College fought hard against USC, only to get two fat lumps of coal in its stocking.
2) Marshall-Ohio (Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl) featured sloppy football and some bird-brained penalties. Pittsburgh-North Carolina (Meineke Bowl) witnessed more sideways-spinning synaptic movements. Tonight’s tilt in the Emerald Bowl also involved some astonishingly stupid penalties, such as a late hit by a BC lineman and a pass interference by a USC linebacker on a three-yard dump-off pass… in a 3rd and 20 situation. Moreover, a waterfall of fumbles flowed from slippery hands in this contest. Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley also uncorked some awful aerials. Boston College – when given its one big chance to take the lead early in the third quarter – immediately coughed up the pill in the USC red zone.
This was a horrid day of football, proving that for all the glories of covering the college pigskin industry, some 10.5-hour viewing windows can provide far more punishment than pleasure. The three bowl games staged on December 26, 2009, made Walter Camp and the other founders of football roll over in their very dusty graves.
I tend to believe what you see in bowl games is a fair reflection of a team’s season. USC certainly proved that axiom right in the Emerald Bowl, for three quarters anyway.
Sure, there was a nice start as the Trojans took the 14-0 advantage. It was then offset by penalties, turnovers and blown coverage. Pete Carroll’s team, falling back into bad habits, was going to let Boston College hang around and possibly steal the game in the closing moments.
That’s when Carroll turned to a simple game plan – let Matt Barkley throw it up for Damian Williams.
In what was likely his last college game, Williams torched the Eagles all night long. The classy and talented junior put the dagger in with a 48-yard bomb, caught through three defenders.
The one-time Razorback, as complete a receiver as I have seen in my time covering USC, now has 22 receptions for 351 yards in two bowls.
But as Williams leaves, Barkley took his place as the leader of the team.
Aside from a short-armed interception and another pick to start the third quarter – if I could telegraph USC’s reliance on the slant in the first half, certainly BC’s staff could make that same adjustment – Barkley certainly capitalized on the time to relax and reflect, looking poised and confident while throwing for 350 yards.
If you believe bowl games are looks forward, however, look out for Barkley in 2010. There’s the little matter of replacing Williams, seeing if playcaller Jeremy Bates decides to rejoin Mike Shanahan in the NFL and fixing the defense.
However, a favorable schedule and Carroll-led program out for redemption could vault Barkley and the Trojans back into the BCS.