Trojan Report Card: USC 30 Cal 3


“One for Stafon”

As the USC Trojans mantra evolved from “win one for Stafon” to “won one for Stafon,” one thing became abundantly clear.

Pete Carroll and his staff, along with the rest of the team, did a marvelous job of channelling their emotions for their fallen teammate, Stafon Johnson, who is back home recuperating from a serious weight room accident, into a complete domination of the Cal Bears at Strawberry Canyon, in Berkley.

There was some concern that the emotion of the Trojans could be a distraction rather than motivation as the Trojans travelled north to play an angry Cal team whose precipitous fall in the top 25 came as a result of their 42-3 embarrassing loss to Oregon the week before.

Pete Carroll and his staff would have none of it.

Vowing to clean up the Trojans game, whose fundamental flaws included 13 penalties the week before, the Trojans coaching staff set out to focus their young team on beating a quality Cal team while their hearts resided with Johnson who watched the game from his hospital bed in southern California.

The Trojans only commited five penalties and with a dominating defense, much improved special teams and an offense that made significant strides, consider the job well done.

Here is the Trojans report card, delivered with an ringing endorsement from Stafon Johnson:

Offensive Coaching:

It is sometimes difficult to remember that along with Trojans evolving, there also is a growing and familiarity period for Jeremy Bates as well, who is in his first season with the Trojans calling plays. Bates, who has been roundly criticized this year for his conservative play calling, continued to open up the game plan and in doing so, the Trojans racked up 451 yards against the Bears. Nice, but they still missed touchdown opportunities inside the Bear 10 yard line and the offense only scored two touchdowns. Another Bates head scratcher was his two calls of running plays on the Trojans third drive where they were stopped on third and fourth downs, continuing a trend of USC not being able to get that big yard when they need it.

Grade: B


Matt Barkley continues his amazing growth as the first true freshman quarterback to ever start for the Trojans. Barkley set another personal best for yardage with 283, completing 20 of 35 passes. Continuing to nurse his injured shoulder, Barkley missed several open receivers and threw an ill advised interception late in the game. Barkley’s lack of touchdown passes (none this game) is a direct correlation to the Trojans season long lack of success of getting touchdowns inside the red zone, particularly inside the 10 yard line and this must improve.

Grade: B


Damien Williams was a monster in this game with eight receptions for 101 yards. Time after time, Williams made big catches and extended drives. The tight ends, led by Anthony McCoy and Blake Ayles with two catches each, had very nice games. Lost in the statistics was McCoy’s absolute domination blocking throughout the game. David Ausberry finally showed up with two catches as did Brice Butler.

Grade: A-

Running Backs:

Welcome back Joe McKnight. McKnight, whose tremendous potential often fails to meet expectations on the field, put it all together against the Bears. Rushing for 119 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns, including a spectacular scoring run on the Trojans first possession, McKnight also contributed three receptions in possibly his most complete game for the men of Troy. Of considerable note was McKnight’s ability to hold on to the ball, which has been a continual source of concern for Pete Carroll and Trojan fans. Allen Bradford mixed in some nice runs but his numbers were fairly pedestrian. CJ Gable and Curtis McNeal got a few garbage time carries on the Trojans final possession after the game was out of hand.

Grade: A-

Offensive line:

This unit showed a lot of improvement by limiting penalties, opening holes for the running game and protecting Matt Barkley pretty much throughout the game. While there is still concern about the Trojans lack of success in short yardage situations, especially on fourth downs, the O-line can use this game to build on as they head into their bye week.

Grade: B+

Overall grade for the offense: B+

Defensive Coaching:

Rocky Seto, USC’s first year defensive coordinator, continues his quietly masterful job of molding a unit who lost nine starters from last year’s team into a top five national defense. Seto, a deeply religious man, has a special relationship with his players and their cohesion is a reflection of not only the Trojans abundant talent but also the immense respect they have for coach Seto and the rest of his staff. Against the Bears, the defensive game plan was to bottle up the Bears all-everything running back Jahvid Best and make quarterback Kevin Riley beat them with his arm and they succeeded admirably. Rocky Seto and his staff have been solid all season long.

Grade: A

Defensive Line:

The Trojans only managed two sacks as opposed to the eight they had last week against the Washington State Cougars but that was due to playing against a much better Cal Bear offensive line. Nick Perry, hobbled by a sore knee couldn’t add to his Pac-10 leading six sacks but like the rest of the line, was effective against the run. Nonetheless, this line harassed Kevin Riley all night as Riley’s woeful 15 completions in 40 attempts will attest to. Mix in the fabulous job the D-line did in limiting Jahved Best to 47 yards in 14 carries and it is easy to see why this line has exceeded all expectations, not only for this game but all year long.

Grade: A


Coach Ken Norton’s unit was banged up for this game but you couldn’t tell it by the results. With Malcolm Smith and Jordan Cameron both sidelined with injuries, Chris Galippo and Michael Morgan stepped up and continued their rock solid play as they have done all season long. Morgan continually shadowed Best and contained him throughout the game while Galippo took care of everything in the middle. Shane Horton, normally a safety who filled in for Malcolm Smith, did a fine job in both the run and pass defense.

Grade: A-

Defensive Secondary:

This unit continues to show why the Sporting News rated them as preseason best in the country. All night long the defensive secondary harassed the Bears wide receivers. Kevin Thomas and Josh Pinkard were solid on the edges and Taylor Mays finally got that interception he has been so hungry for. Mays pick off in the end zone on the Bears first offensive series was quite possibly a game changer in that it quieted the crowd and deflated the Bears offense who had put together a very nice opening drive.

Grade: A

Special Teams:

In this game the unit was well named. Jordon Congdon kicked three field goals in gusty wind conditions and Damien Williams had a sweet 66 yard punt return for a touchdown. The punt and kickoff cover units didn’t give up anything big and they finally cut down on their penalties. A scene that sticks out was Pete Carroll hugging much maligned new special teams coach Brian Schneider after Williams punt return.

Grade: A-


Going into their bye week, this was a game that the Trojans can definitely build on. Sure, the Trojans must find a way to turn field goals and missed fourth down conversions into touchdowns, but with two weeks to prepare for their trip to meet the fighting Irish in South Bend, don’t be surprised if those ills are cured. Pete Carroll and his staff expect to greet key returning players Ronald Johnson (his return is huge as he will stretch the field as the Trojans fastest wide receiver), defensive end Armond Armstead, and several others, including the aforementioned Malcolm Smith and Jordan Cameron. Meanwhile, other key players, such as Nick Perry will mend and should be at full strength for the Notre Dame game.

Overall Game Grade: A-