Analysis: A shaky start for USC’s defense

Pete Fiutak

Note to Hawaii and USC … it’s called a tackle. Look into it.

Everyone knows the Warriors can’t hit. They’re spunky , the fly around, and they never quit, but outside of the NFL types who seem to pass through every once in a while, the run defense hasn’t exactly been stout. But the bigger story is how USC’s secondary couldn’t come up with an open-field stop as Warrior after Warrior ran free.

Hawaii’s offense always puts up passing numbers, but there was a way-too-easy one-yard Alex Green touchdown run to keep the Warriors alive, and there was big pass play after big pass play as the Trojans gave up 459 yards through the air. Remember, it was only two years ago when USC was a brick wall against virtually everyone’s passing attack.

After all the off-the-field drama and all the issues, it was a great sign that Matt Barkley appeared to take control of the offense and the team with a flawless performance, and the Trojan offense had big plays of its own to keep the game from ever truly being in question, but the defense had better get more physical in a hurry (and not in the cheap-shot-hit-to-Hawaii-QB-Bryant-Moniz’s-head sort of way). The fact is that USC is going to be more like 2009 than 2008 over the next three years, even with the talent that’s in place. Even in the best of times, the Trojans struggled with their consistency and didn’t play up to their talent level, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. Accept it; this is going to be USC football for a few years — with the talent in place to win, and just enough problems to make it interesting.

One thing is for sure after this game; the USC coaching staff will do some screaming this week, and there could be a much, much more physical team coming out over the next few games. The Trojan fans have to hope so.

Richard Cirminiello

Finally.

It only seemed fitting that USC opened its 2010 season on Thursday night, because waiting even two more days might seem cruel for a program that couldn’t waited to get back on the field. After enduring one of the most difficult and distracting offseasons by any program in NCAA history, the Trojans were content to make headlines for something other than NCAA sanctions or coaching and personnel exits out of the program. USC had a football game and a welcome opportunity to tune out all of the noise.

The Trojans began the Lane Kiffin era with a victory over Hawaii. Considering the talent level of the two schools and the motivation you’d figure USC would have bottled up, the game was far closer than it should have been. Heck, if not for the heroics of Matt Barkley and Ronald Johnson, who was dynamic whenever he touched the ball, USC might have been ripe for the picking. Monte Kiffin’s defense, in particular, was horrible, missing tackles and allowing too many Warriors to exploit seams and get into space. This group has plenty of talent, and a long way to go before it gels into a cohesive unit. It’s just one game, but this is not a team that’s going to run the table and give AP pollsters a reason to ponder at the end of the bowl season. If Bryant Moniz can carve these guys up, Andrew Luck, Jake Locker, and Nick Foles will enjoy three-hour feasts.

The long offseason is over. The regular season has begun. USC is an imperfect product, but after being dragged through the tabloids for more than six months, getting tested by an average Hawaii team is nothing these embattled Trojans can’t handle. They’re just ecstatic to be back on the field and off the back page for now.