Weekly Musings: Notre Dame Edition

In what may go down as the craziest week I can remember, I enjoyed a delightful weekend in Chicago with my wife and daughter, but suffered my first loss in South Bend since 1999 (I’ve had good fortune on my trips out here, and I will again). USC deserves a lot of credit for not folding when it looked like Notre Dame was about to run away with the game in the early second quarter. And Notre Dame deserves a lot of credit for not folding when USC was about to go up 14 points late in the third quarter. What happened after that on both sides of the ball is a mystery. Let’s talk that game, other games, Sark, our new coach, and more in this week’s musings.

You will notice I said “about to go up 14” above. It never happened. And then everything sort of collapsed. USC’s defense pulverized Notre Dame on two possessions to start the third and we scored s touchdown in between. We were marching down field, running the ball, converting third downs, and masterfully controlling the clock. I believe it was 3rd and 4 and we called a well-designed screen pass. A Domer DL tipped it; the ball fell to the ground; and we had to punt. That to me was the play of the game. I do not believe Notre Dame keeps fighting if we go up 14 with the fourth quarter about to start. But that’s the way it goes. Cody’s two picks, the defensive meltdown of the 1st and 4th quarters, and we weren’t able to come out with a win.

Adoree is spectacular but he scares me with how much he tries to do. Once he caught that ball late in the second quarter in open space there was no reason to keep watching – a gazelle wouldn’t catch that guy in a foot race. I don’t know where exactly to put the blame on our defensive challenges. For all I know Justin Wilcox is a horrid defensive coordinator but I’m afraid that’s too simplistic of an answer. Some in Troy need to accept: We’re not that good on defense. Lots of holes. Little pass rush (it did turn on for a little there). And bad linebackers since Rey, Cush, and Clay left. Literally, that long. It seems to me that we ought to consider if Adoree really is our best option at DB or whether a full-time use for him on offense may be prudent. I suspect we don’t have the depth at corner to do that. But beyond his bad defensive night, we just have a total lack of pass rush combined with linebackers lost in space combined with very bad coverage.

And this brings me to the coaching search deal. While I’m impressed with the repeat naïveté of those who think a big splash hire is the cure to all our troubles, there is nothing our program needs more than a defensive-minded coach … I know people get all excited about Chip Kelly which I can understand, but defense wins championships and it always has. Chip is most likely not going to be our coach, as I just do not believe he would leave this present Philly contract unless forced out. If I am wrong I would admit to being enticed because of what I think he could do offensively and with the Southern California talent pool. But Chip has never been a big defensive-minded coach and it has cost him repeatedly. Would he come to SC with a commitment to hiring the best DC he could find? Perhaps. I am just saying he is not the slam dunk some are hoping for. The Kevin Sumlin name is really bizarre. They had one big win one time against Alabama and since then seem to give up 40 points per game. Sorry, but he’s not for us. My favorite coach is not going to be available either, but I sure hope the coach we hire cares about defense the way Pete Carroll did. He loved his secondary. His linebackers were beasts. And he recruited utter animals on the D-line. That band is not getting back together again, but Pete preached a culture of defense. That should be item #1 on our list.

My impression with both CLK and Sark was that they didn’t have a lot of passion for defense. They outsourced it. They didn’t recruit it. And they bought into the great Nike lie that offensive firepower is all you need. USC and Alabama are the two greatest football programs in history, and of the last 15 years, and they are DEFENSE FIRST programs. Period.

I like a couple of the pro names that have been mentioned but they’re not coming (Del Rio or Harbaugh). Maybe Del Rio. Not Harbaugh. A flashy coach with a flashy offense at a no-name school in a bad conference is a silly idea. Just silly. Defense wins championships.

The week behind us has been rough, and I am glad I have developed the skill to filter based on divine foresight what is worth reading and not reading on chat boards and forum discussion boards etc. Some posters should consider rehab themselves (I’m actually serious; think about the irony of some of the drunk fools out there talking trash on Sark). From a football standpoint, this was a bizarre ending and I will do nothing more than root every week for USC to win. Personally, the Sark thing really bothers me. I don’t believe for a moment people knew or should have known and that is because I know the ability an alcoholic has to fool people. Did some of the assistant coaches know? Maybe. That actually is my biggest concern with Justin Wilcox – not that Adoree got beat on a go route, but that Justin may well have been an insider or enabler to Sark’s downward spiral with alcohol. But the ignorant nonsense being thrown around this week by the press and the haters is sad. It sounds to me like Sark has it bad, or the better way to say it is that it has him bad. I will know how his recovery is going by whether or not he files a suit against USC, which I suspect he will. Part of recovery is accepting responsibility and making amends. May Sark do the deal, and begin his path to a remarkable redemption. That’s all any decent human can want. But he needs to be responsible for what has happened, as anyone in recovery learns. That ought not to include a wrongful termination lawsuit.

When you look into the heart of courage, you will see the spirit that is Troy. Fight on Sark, and fight on Trojans.

Around the country:

Geez I want a rematch with Stanford. Bad. They look terrific right now. Mora’s postgame talk to UCLA after that shellacking – “Guys, who cares. That wasn’t USC we played tonight.” They exude apathy when not playing us. It’s weird. Stanford has the toughness up front to keep going. I would love a second chance at them.

Well yes the Michigan/Michigan State game is the weirdest ending I’ve ever seen. It just seems to me a million things went wrong at once. But not making the tackle after the miffed snap is the worst of all of them.

The LSU fake field goal to beat Florida was a thing of beauty. How anyone doesn’t know Les Miles will run a trick play is beyond me. LSU looks solid.

Alabama would be favored in Vegas over any team they were to play right now, including Ohio State and Baylor.

Utah is the question mark of the country to me. Their record is all that counts, but they often look undisciplined and unimpressive. That quarterback is good, and that running back is great. Can USC avoid a three game losing streak in our own beloved Coliseum? We’re about to find out. FIGHT ON TROJANS!!!!!!!!