Who’s Worse? (Cont.)

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder after the Irish gave up 134 points in four games. USC’s allowed 117 points in four games so at least we know the bar for firing a coordinator.

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Morning Buzz: Is USC Improving Every Week?

darnold-utahClay Helton said he believes his team keeps getting better.

“The biggest thing for me as a head coach is, ‘Are we improving game to game?’ Did we improve from Alabama to Stanford? Did we improve from Stanford to Utah? I see that improvement. Now, I’m a realist, too. We lost those three games to good teams, and we expect to win.”

I would agree for two reasons: 1. Sam Darnold is now playing quarterback. 2. The opponents have gotten worse each week.

But you also need to ask if the offensive line is getting better? Is the defense improving? Can there be a game where a glaring coaching decision is not influencing the game? When those things change for the better, then USC might be a team to reckon with.

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Saturday With Clay Helton

helton-alabama

USC coach Clay Helton said tonight Justin Davis did not get ball in second half because there were only three drives and “limited opportunities” in the second half. Helton said it was a Catch 22 because he also wants to play Ronald Jones. The odd part was Aca’Cedric Ware and Dominic Davis entered the game in the fourth quarter but not Justin Davis.

Helton said USC has improved from the Alabama to the Stanford to the Utah games. Helton said he spoke with Lynn Swann today and Swann was “very supportive.” Helton said several players told him, “Coach, we’re close,” after the game.

Helton said he trusted the officials to make the correct spot on the third down in the fourth quarter before he controversially punted to allow Utah to come back for the victory.

Freshman cornerback Jack Jones sprained his ankle and is wearing a boot on it.

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Who’s Worse?

Notre Dame is 1-3. USC is 1-3. The last time each had three losses before October was 2001. And it’s only happened twice in 50 years. But the Irish have one thing going for them: A coach who has proven to be successful elsewhere and at Notre Dame.

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The Savior

pendergastFrom 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.

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USC Morning Buzz: New And Old Reasons For Utah Loss

adoree-utahUSC 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

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