Oh, but it gets worse, my friends – of those, USC has 18 penalties for 169 yards. To phrase that another way, USC gifted Arizona 169 additional yards on the night.
Honestly, I see why fans of other conferences don’t take the Pac-12 seriously.
Why, USC? Just why? Why do the Trojans make what should be so easy – handling an Arizona team that ranks 98th in total defense, giving up 5.37 yards per play and 2,094 yards on the season – look so difficult week in and week out?
USC’s 18 penalties against Arizona are the most for an FBS team in a single game since Week 3 of 2016 when Arkansas State also committed 18 vs. Utah State.
In the last 15 years, only 7 teams have committed more in a single game. https://t.co/Q6SEBIz1TW
— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) September 30, 2018
Some USC under HC Clay Helton stats for you sabermetrics…TL;DR the penalties have been getting worse on both sides of the ball each season. I did not include special teams in my analysis. pic.twitter.com/qZ3vXcfNpu
— Jon (@takerofovers) September 30, 2018
The last time #USC had as many penalties as it did last night (18 for 169 yards) was 1999 against Oregon when it was flagged 21 times for 178 yards.
— Antonio Morales (@AntonioCMorales) September 30, 2018
It was just awful. Inexcusably bad.
Buried underneath that mountain of flags came one actually tremendous effort from the Trojan defense. USC held the Wildcats offense eight times within the five yards – seven of which were at the 1-yard line! – before ultimately giving up what would be the final score in the game. That drive was sustained by a pass interference penalty and a holding penalty committed by the Trojans, of course. But even in giving up the score on the 8th attempt, it was a very impressive performance from a unit that has struggled to get pressure up front so far this season.
USC heads into a bye week with the victory, and while a win is indeed a win, it didn’t feel very much like a victory for the Trojan faithful that have watched this team underachieve for the past three seasons. The lack of discipline, while partly a symptom of youth and inexperience, is largely a reflection of coaching. And to show that they mean business and intend to rectify the sloppy play, the coaching staff needs to hold the players accountable.
I have a few suggestions.
When the team reconvenes next week for practice, the players should just run for the entirety of it. And I mean all kinds of runs – laps around the field, 100-yard strides, and pyramid runs. And then, just to be annoying, make every single player who committed personal foul penalties or false starts roll the length of the field like on Last Chance U. Twice, even.
Whatever they decide, the coaching staff and the team as a whole have got to find a way to get these penalties under control. With undefeated Colorado looming out of the bye week and a tough road matchup against Utah the week after that, the Trojans cannot afford to help their opponents out by giving them an additional hundred yards on penalties.
Let’s hope the additional week of rest and focus helps this team find its mojo (and identity overall, but that’s another column) to power through the rest of the season. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long season and lots of late nights being frustrated as hell for those of us on the East Coast.