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USC 17, Virginia 14

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10 observations and our players of the game...

  • Lane Kiffin called this a "flip-flop" game.  The defense flipped the script after being shredded against Hawaii, while the offense flopped due to an excessive number of penalties.  Penalties and discipline are the buzz words to take out of this one.  The Trojans committed 13 penalties for 140 yards, including holding penalties that called back a touchdown and a 4th down conversion.  Plus, Rhett Ellison was ejected in the dying seconds.  "We have to keep our composure in tough situations," captain Malcolm Smith said of his message to the team.  "We have to make sure we practice with a discipline nature and things will handle themselves."
  • Nickell Robey was one of many bright spots in the secondary, which improved dramatically from week one.  While the freshman wore out against the Warriors, he rose to the energy of the home crowd tonight.  All week, the coaches emphasized getting turned on deep balls and forcing the receiver to the boundary on fades, which Robey executed on two different sideline routes.
  • The defensive line lost Nick Perry again (no real update, but he was on crutches after the game with what appeared to be a similar injury to his high ankle sprain in camp), but they got a boost from DT DaJohn Harris, who picked up a confidence building sack.  "I had a bad game (against Hawaii), jumped offsides twice, but I just wanted to come back and prove to the coaching staff that I can play and that I am 'a guy.'"
  • Punter Jake Harfman would have to be a dark horse candidate for game MVP honors.  He punted seven times at a 42.7 yard average plus a great pooch kick inside the five.  He also does a pretty decent David Buehler impression on kickoffs.
  • Matt Barkley concentrated on his diet and fitness in the offseason and it paid off tonight.  His increased mobility took center stage on the TD drive going into halftime.  He scrambled for 20 yards (plus 15 on the penalty) and bought time before hitting Brandon Carswell for the score.  "I feel great," Barkley said.  "Who knows if I would have been able to make those plays last year?"
  • Speaking of Brandon Carswell, he seems to be moving up in the pecking order to the #4 or #5 receiver.  "It feels good," Carswell said in the locker room.  "I've been hurt almost the whole time I've been here.  Just a broken play, found the open spot and I got the touchdown."  Carswell's rise could spell a redshirt season for Markeith Ambles, but the coaches don't have to make that decision for another couple games.
  • The offense caught fire in the two-minute drill for the second straight week, which could lead to a no-huddle package going forward, but Lane Kiffin is wary of losing balance in his offense.  He recognizes that Barkley excels in that scenario, but he regards it as dangerous to throw upwards of 40 times per game.
  • The offensive line had a rough night after a dominant opener against Hawaii.  They were at the center of the penalty problem, the lone turnover on a strip sack and the rushing mediocrity (3.8 yards per carry).  "I guess it didn't go quite how we thought it was going to go, but we're going to get back to our X's and O's and grind it out on the field this week," OG Butch Lewis said.  Lewis was impressed with Virginia's stout front four.
  • For the second straight week, USC struggled with speedy running backs.  While they did fairly well to bottle up power runner Keith Payne, 5'8" Perry Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry.  With Jacquizz Rodgers and LaMichael James on the schedule, they'll need to solve that problem.  "A couple of times we just got out of whack and lost our assignments," Smith explained on losing outside contain.
  • As many of you may feel frustrated with the first two performances, you can take solace that the players are about as disappointed as a 2-0 team can be.  Lane Kiffin called it the most disappointing win of his head coaching career.  "The disappointment mostly is for the Trojan Family, the Trojan fans, I know how excited they were," Kiffin said about the atmosphere.  "The crowd was great and we disappointed them.  Even at half as they were hanging around, if we had just blown it open, it would've been like the old days.  I think that's probably the biggest disappointment."
  • Matt Barkley (7 TDs to 0 INTs this season) and T.J. McDonald (red zone interception) were our players of the game.  Click here to watch their press conference plus Lane Kiffin's media session.

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A disappointing victory is always better than an inspirational loss.

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