The Official Candy Report: USC

I am going to be honest, I hate writing this after a game like Saturday’s.  It is hard as a fan to relive some bad moments.  It is also rough to look at what is there and realize that a golden opportunity slipped by you because of basically choices made by the coaching staff.

I also hate having to undo all the really wrong and uneducated announcing that went with the televised broadcast.  I am sure the announcers are nice people, but here are some things I need to get off my chest first and foremost:

1. Mannion was under pressure because of coverage, not because of breakdowns on the line.
2. Mannion did not look stressed in the pocket, his dump off play to Woods and a few huge throws that were either tipped or dropped were not because of issues he had with protection.
3. When you want to promote all the Leonard WIlliams does, don’t show the play where he gets knocked to the ground by Roman Sapolu one on one.
4. The Hail Mary was not the turning point. The interception prior to it was.

And that is it really. There is no way you can watch that game and think that OSU’s defense is anything but spectacular.  They were able to weather almost anything, until the constant 3 and outs on the offense and injuries took them out of their game.  USC sped up the pace, OSU  matched it and stopped them.  USC made a lot of huge plays late, but the real damage was done on the other side of the ball.

I don’t want to rehash it too much, but when both of your main backs are averaging over 4 yards a carry, and you basically shelve the run in a close game, you are not going to win.  Especially when you not only abandon the run, but other plays that worked great.  It is easy to look at plays that failed and say “you should have run the ball!”  You are always smart when the offense makes a mistake and you say they should have done something else.

But dang it, RUN THE BALL!  Not only because it worked, not only because it controls the clock and gives your defense a rest, but there is one more thing we need to be 100% honest about. THE BEST player on that field Saturday was named Storm Woods.  The guy was running with his hair on fire, averaged 6 yards per carry, blocked like a demon, caught ridiculous passes and got extra yards and protected the ball.  When you have a guy playing like that, GIVE THEM THE DANG BALL!  This used to be a staple of the OSU offense, from Simonton to Jackson to Bernard to Quizz, you get your top guys the ball.  And guess what, Storm Woods is playing his ass off.

I love Ward as well, and think he offers a lot, but if I am being honest, at times it felt like any time someone not named Storm got the ball on Saturday we were not putting our best foot forward.

So mistakes, tipped passes, luck job Hail Mary’s and the ridiculous disregard for holding against the Trojans (did you guys see Alexander get spun around by his jersey?  FREAKING RIDICULOUS!)  aside, the reason this game turned out the way it did was because of a conscious, or unconscious, decision to stop putting the ball into the hands of the player or players having the best game.  Mullaney was our best receiver, easily, and Woods was running like a man possessed. Oh, and our line?  The guys people like to bitch and complain about and wonder why we still pay Coach Cav?  That line was driving USC linemen three and four yards back while getting free releases on the linebackers. They blocked so well that I thought I was watching the 1994 Dallas Cowboys.

So no, this game had some bad moments, but in my opinion, as a card carrying Orange Glasses Lifetime Board Member, this game came down to coaching and OSU chose to continue to go to the part of their team with the least experience and that was having the toughest time.  The receivers.

Go with what works and you have a shot.  If OSU runs at the end of the first half and even just goes for a field goal, the game ends up being 14 – 13 at halftime and the Beavers get the ball back.  Instead?  21 – 10.  You don’t want to get all caught up in one bad game or one bad loss and throw out the baby with the bath water, but lets be honest. These are not new issues and the game was not about a USC team that was just far superior to OSU. It was about efficiency and decisions and those have not been our strong suit for a while.  Colorado is going to be a tough offense to contain, so we need to make sure we are ready and that offensively, we are putting our best foot forward.

8 thoughts on “The Official Candy Report: USC

  1. Gary Chesnutis

    Totally agree, Peter! As you pointed out in your other blog, this has been going on for YEARS! This loss (and the many more coming this year) is totally on the coaches–and MR in particular. If I hear “we should have run more” or “we need to be more balanced” or “the players need to execute better” I am going to puke! If Riley is calling the plays, why are we not running more? Why are we not more balanced? Those responses which we hear every week are insanity.

    I love Mike Riley, the person. Mike Riley, the coach–not so much any more. Same excuses, different game.

    1. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

      Well, i would also say that Mike Riley the coach has changed a lot. Mike Riley the Coach in 2006 was fantastic. Additionally, I would also change that to Mike Riley the play caller. Mike Riley is a fantastic head coach and produces teams, players and athletes we can all be proud of. Mike Riley also uses a system that is very effective and could put up crazy numbers and, more importantly, crazy wins. Mike Riley the play caller and game manager has seen some changes that I am not sure are for the best. This is one game, but I would say some of the same issues plagued us against Hawaii and against PSU.

      And maybe it will be different this week, I just am not sure it will unless, like last year, he hands things over to Garrett. If our sample size is from 2012, the year that Mike took over for Danny, then I would say we are not doing as well as we did then.

  2. Building the Dam (@BuildingTheDam)

    I disagree a little bit about the o-line, as there were issues, not with the initial matchups, but with blitz pickups, and that for the 2nd week in a row, led to a lot of TEs committed to the issue. But with 4 new starters, like the inexperienced WRs, some of that was to be expected, but also should have been better prepared for (run the ball, release TEs & RBs for plays behind the blitzers; that will help the o-line by giving the Trojans cause for pause), because it could be anticipated.

    I’m not convinced that even if all the bad decisions were made better that USC wouldn’t still have won, but the disappointing thing about the game was Oregon St. took themselves out of any chance to win with poor decisions that were of their own doing, much more so than anything USC did, other than to 1) make OSU make decisions, and 2) capitalize on mistakes, and opportunities they shouldn’t have had.

    1. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

      I am not sure there were that many blitz pickup issues as there were calls that should have been changed. The reverse to Hawkins was never going to work no matter what they did because USC had more players on the line to stop it than OSU had to block it. In terms of the blitzing on pass plays, there are two issues that are not being addressed that need to be. First, bringing on Tight ends gives you outside help but it cannot always give you inside help if it comes on a delayed blitz. Once you are committed, you are committed. Secondly, if the play doesn’t come in early enough, you cannot make the adjustments or calls you need to make. How many times did OSU line up with five seconds on the clock and then be forced to run the play that was called because they didn’t have time to call out the changes? Blitz pickup is about recognizing what is coming and adjusting. It is hard to have your backs to the defense and then come out and make those changes if you have to snap the ball right away.

      OSU was handling them one on one and in most cases. Often pressure didn’t come until seconds four and five of the play, but because there was no one open, OSU had to scramble.

      Also, to be honest, if there are Bltiz pickup issues, the more reason to run and use fly sweeps, fly sweep motion and so on to keep them from blitzing inside and force it outside. I honestly would love to see us do more fly motion and run opposite it to force teams to cover the entire field horizontally, but that is just me.

      1. Building the Dam (@BuildingTheDam)

        “fly motion and run opposite it”

        Show tendencies and then run against it. Another good play-calling strategy to give defenses multiple things to have to address, instead of discounting some of them. It would be good to see, but that has to come from the play calling; Mannion can’t just do that in a lot of cases.

        1. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

          I agree 100%. The root of my angst this week is really the play calling. I thought the players did very well and I thought the defense was amazing. I feel like OSU had no rhythm and that they set very little up, or abandoned things too soon. They ran the fly once, they ran that isolation route with Mullaney three times and then kind of left it. I just feel like there was a lot to be desired. I know that bye and large I am just a fan and have no insight into why they are doing things or what they are seeing, but things like getting the plays in quickly or continuing with what works is not rocket science.

  3. Ken Rowlett

    Its really disappointing to watch the same errors and omissions year after year after year. I’m 62 years old and remember
    grade school ball in the 5-6 grade. When you had a mismatch you rang the bell all day long. If they cant stop you well then they lose by 50-60-70 points. You take what they give you ! We ran the ball fairly well so what does MR do ? Goes to the pass. He could not play on that 6th grade team because the other team members would kick his hind end off the field . They actually want to win !!
    Bizarre is being to kind to MR. He needs to wake up or pack his bags .

    1. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

      I totally understand the frustration, but I don’t think Mike needs to go. I think he may need to let go of game management and focus more on the rest of the team like he did before. Mike is a great ambassador for OSU, a great culture generator and he does things the right way in terms of the whole team identity. I think he just is struggling with in game play calling. Which is very important. But like Paterno or Billotti, sometimes it is good to get help with those things.


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