From Day 1, there was only one defensive coordinator that Clay Helton wanted to hire: Clancy Pendergast. Other expressed interest and were shot down. It was as if USC found a savior, never mind the 62 points scored by Arizona State in 2013 against Pendergast.
Now he is back. And USC leaks points like a Justin Wilcox-led defense. When do the Trojans blitz? Utah started the game with 12 straight runs and it looked like the defense was in a nickel defense every play.
After the Alabama game, a former USC assistant told me when you are primarily an NFL guy (like Pendergast), it can be tough to handle college offenses, which tend to be more unpredictable than pro offenses. And tough to go away from your preferred formations. True or not, Pendergast is no savior for USC.
USC found some new ways to lose Friday night: It didn’t get Justin Davis a carry in the fourth quarter despite the fact he gained 126 yards through three quarters. It blew a wonderful performance from Sam Darnold. It failed to register a sack. And Clay Helton failed to go for it on fourth down. Again.
I address some of this in my analysis of the game. Excerpt: “Is Helton ever up for it? Three games were burned before the constipated decision-making process finally allowed the best player to play quarterback. Would you ever imagine Nick Saban or Jim Harbaugh waiting this long to play the best quarterback? Saban waited two series to play its best QB. USC waited three games.” Full story here
Anyone who reads my blog knows I thought Sam Darnold was the top QB during spring/summer practices. But here’s the Clay Helton quote from August that Max Browne probably would like to remind him about today.
“I never want a guy to be looking over his back all the time, like, `Oh, this series, if I don’t do good, I’m out.’ I just think that puts undue stress on a kid,” Helton said.
Do you have a good feel for this game? I don’t. USC has so many distractions and attacks on its confidence that it could be a really difficult game. But USC is the more talented team and at some point it will play like it is expected. Is this the game?
I’m just interested to see how Sam Darnold plays for four quarters. He won’t have to look over his shoulder like Max Browne did during his three-game reign. And remember Clay Helton said he didn’t want a quarterback to look over their shoulder, except for Browne of course.
Maybe USC just needs to avoid giving up touchdowns to start the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium (above).
The last time USC played Utah in Rice-Eccles Stadium was two years ago. Did you know that during that game, former athletic director Pat Haden went into the coaches’ booth and wore headsets? At least we know that won’t happen tonight. Hopefully.
Several USC boosters that routinely run into Pat Haden tell me there’s been no sight of the former athletic director in recent months. Was he so burned by the public backlash that he does not want to be seen? Maybe if USC win some games he will show his face.