10 thoughts on a harsh senior night...
- For the most part, I try to keep the blog fair and (relatively) impartial. However, what separates this space from others that cover USC is that I get a chance to know these young men. Ronald Johnson is as good a man as you will ever want to meet. He dropped a ball on the final USC drive that would have changed the outcome of the game. He felt the cruel reality of sports tonight just as the Boise State kicker did yesterday. I feel for him and the Trojan family should support a senior, who did it the right way for four years.
- "It's just part of the game. You drop balls," said Mitch Mustain about the unforgettable play. "That one probably would've changed the outcome, but it doesn't matter. I don't know if there's a worse feeling than that."
- As for the play of the first time starter at quarterback, Mustain was reined in most of the night. "Obviously, we played pretty conservative," said Lane Kiffin about the gameplan. The head coach's plan was to avoid negative plays like sacks and turnovers. Mustain was never sacked and the Trojans were +4 in turnovers until the game-clinching interception. "If we execute and do our role and our part, we win the game," said Mustain, who applauded Kiffin's plan despite his natural urge to cut it loose.
- Kiffin had trouble assessing Mustain's performance due to the swing nature of the one big play. "We're talking about him being a hero if we catch that ball," said Kiffin. "He was a little shaky early, but I thought he settled down."
- The defense's performance is hard to label as well. They willed the team back into the game behind a ferocious rally, including three turnovers, which set up all 13 second half points. All the sudden, they were jumping nearly every pass play like they were in the Irish huddle. "We knew what they were doing the whole time," said safety Marshall Jones. "We made our adjustments and we were right with it."
- Jones was forced to play next to walk-on Tony Burnett after T.J. McDonald injured his shoulder (likely a separation, according to Kiffin) on the first series. Burnett had run track at USC, but this is his first season playing football. "Tony did great," said Jones. "At first, I was a little shaky, but he came in making tackles, making plays."
- While the defense was mostly positive, they could not keep Notre Dame from powering down the field on the game-winning drive. "If you can't finish, none of that matters," said LB Chris Galippo about the good things the defense did most of the night. Kiffin turned it on the offense though for putting the D in that position. "You can't let people keep hanging around," said the head coach.
- If things had worked out differently, Manti Te'o and Michael Floyd could have been wearing cardinal and gold tonight. Both players were looked at as future Trojans, but chose Notre Dame at the crucial moment of asking. Te'o was everywhere tonight and Floyd hauled in 11 receptions. Kiffin and Ed Orgeron know as well as anyone in this business that February results set the table for November glory.
- At halftime, I asked senior associate athletic director J.K. McKay what his record was against Notre Dame as a Trojan wideout. He was 2-1. Plus, he pointed out the winner of the game went on to win the national championship all three seasons. In the big picture, both these programs have a ways to go to return the rivalry to what it was.
- USC had another big night on special teams, headlined by senior Joe Houston's career performance. He made all three field goals, including a 45-yarder, which was the first time he was successful from 40+ yards. As you can see for yourself below, he had no interest in talking about his individual success...