Trojan Report Card: USC 34 Notre Dame 27


When the Trojans sauntered in to South Bend, many pundits, including myself, thought they would leave with a fairly easy victory.

Many of these pundits, once again, including myself, were wrong.

As this report card is submitted, it is altogether appropriate to ponder what was learned.

The Trojans learned that they are not good enough to make silly mistakes late in a rivalry game against a worthy opponent.

They also learned that this years version of the fighting Irish are far too good not to take advantage of what those mistakes offer.

While any Trojan victory in South Bend is ultimately a good victory, this report card comes with a cautionary note to Pete Carroll and his coaching parents that Tommy (Trojans) have the ability to be unruly and needs a stern talking to.

With this in mind, here is this weeks Trojan report card, along with with failing grade on the importance of being a good citizen on field, which resulted in a myriad of punishments in the form of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties:



For three quarters or so, Pete Carroll and Rocky Seto dialed up a good defensive game plan against what had been an explosive Irish offense led by quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate.

Then came the fourth quarter and Clausen started picking apart the soft cover two zone the Trojans defense kept running. However, that wasn’t Carroll’s biggest problem, his troops lack of discipline was.

Time after time in the second half, the Trojan defense either extended drives or Irish field position by committing silly personal fouls.

As the famous saying goes, one stupid personal foul mistake: shame on the player, Five stupid personal foul mistakes: shame on the coaching staff.

Grade: B-

Defensive Line:

As a whole, the defensive line came in and did what they have done all year long.

They only gave up 82 yards rushing and generally made Jimmy Clausen’s life in the Notre Dame miserable by sacking him five times and hurrying him on many others.

The fact that they were able to accomplish this by rushing no more than four linemen was huge in allowing the defensive secondary the man power to cover Notre Dame’s receivers, at least in the first three quarters.

However, in the fourth quarter, the pressure disappeared, and Clausen began his fourth quarter magic drawing the Irish to a last second possibility of an improbable win.

Factor in two silly after the whistle personal fouls, one on Everson Griffen, the other on Malik Jackson, both of which extended eventual touchdown drives, and the overall grade suffers.

Grade: B


One question, where the hell were they?

Seriously, with the exception of Chris Galippo, whose name I heard a couple of times, the linebacker trio, so heralded as an up and coming group, simply disappeared.

I can’t recall Michael Morgan’s name being called at all and Malcolm Smith, coming back from an injury was only in on a few plays.

Generally, the defense played well without dynamic contributions from the linebackers but think how good they could have been with a significant contribution from the back end of the defensive front seven.

Grade: C

Defensive Backfield:

The Trojans came into this game as the only division one (sorry, I am “old school.”) team that hadn’t given up a passing touchdown all year.

Flush that stat down the toilet.

Although the first Golden Tate touchdown, a 45 yard bomb, was covered well, the second Tate touchdown, a 15 yard slant, wasn’t.

Golden Tate, with his eight receptions and 117 yards, to go along with the aforementioned two touchdowns and Robby Perris, who had nine receptions for 92 yards, kept sliding under the Trojans zone, exploiting opportunities that the Trojans so charitably offered.

However, the real problem was that the defensive backfields lack of discipline almost cost the Trojans the game.

Time after time, silly personal fouls by Taylor Mays, Josh Pinkard, and the rest of the defensive backfield breathed new life into a Notre Dame offense that damn near made them pay for it.

Overall Defense Grade: C+



Sorry Jeremy Bates, I’m still not feeling you.

A marginal rushing attack needs to be focused on by Bates and his coaches in order to exploit Matt Barkley’s immense talent.

Given the fact that the Trojans can’t rely on a consistent running game means that despite the innovative passing game plan, which admittedly has been successful, the Trojans offense will continue to fall short of what it could be.

Now, before you ask me how I can be disappointed with 501 total yards, let me remind you that the Trojans put up that gaudy number with a rushing attack that accounted for all of 121 yards against an undersized Notre Dame defensive line.

This offense will not have the luxury of 380 passing from Barkley in every game.

Grade: C+


Watching Matt Barkley, it is so easy to forget that this is a true freshman.

So, following Pete Carroll’s advice, I am not going to view this special talent with the fog of that perspective anymore.

No, Barkley is wise and talented so far beyond his years that normative criteria no longer applies.

380 yards and two touchdowns through the air on the road against a hostile opponent and an even more angry crowd screams that this kid can’t be looked at the same way you would look at others in his position, at his age.

Sure, he had a tipped pass intercepted and his stats did come against the 110 ranked passing defense, but this was a special effort by a very special player.

Grade: A-


Wide receiver Damien Williams and tight end Anthony McCoy were practically unstoppable.

In a dizzying display of receiving prowess, both McCoy and Williams showed why the Irish pass defense was so lightly regarded.

Other contributions by wide receiver Brice Butler and reserve tight end Rhett Ellison just added to the very effective receiving corps.

Ronald Johnson, who will be a key contributor to the future passing game showed that he isn’t near 100% despite a nice reception of a tipped pass.

Grade: A-

Running Game:

Although there were a couple of nice runs by both Joe McKnight and Allen Bradford, by and large, the running game disappointed.

Of course, much of the blame for this must be shared by the offensive line but more on that later.

If you take away the big runs, of which there were only a very few, the rushing attack was pedestrian at best.

Grade: C

Offensive Line:

First the good.

The offensive line, so touted at the beginning of the year, did a good job of keeping Matt Barkley upright.

However, as has been the case all year long, the O-line fell short on opening holes in the rushing game.

121 yards on the ground, most of it gathered on a few long runs, exhibit deficiencies that must be fixed soon if the Trojans offense is to become complete.

Grade: C+

Overall Offensive Grade: B

Special Teams:

Two made field goals and decent coverage on kick returns tempered another whiff on a trick special teams play by the Irish that led to the first Notre Dame touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, an attempted reverse by the Trojans resulted in horrible field position.

Grade: C+


For the first three quarters, what looked like an impressive Trojan victory wound up as a nail biting escape from South Bend.

Lack of discipline and a meager running attack give the Trojans plenty to work on as they prepare for some payback when they host Oregon State next Saturday.

As USC attempts to continue improvement in this up and down season, the focus must be on eliminating mistakes that of are their own doing, and if they can, they should be fine.

But if not, teams like Oregon, who is far more talented than Notre Dame, will find a way to make the Trojans pay for their transgressions.

Overall Team Grade: B-