Hint: it wasn’t USC-Stanford. Would you believe… Akron-Western Michigan?
Come to think of it, that ending was rather remiscent of another game involving Stanford, back in the day.
Bill Cubit walked in, smacked his hat on the table, sat down and stared. For about five minutes Saturday night, Western Michigan University’s football coach didn’t raise his eyes from the table in the postgame interview room in the bowels of Waldo Stadium.
Cubit needed time to digest what had just taken place.
Moments earlier, he must have figured he’d be talking about his team’s third straight win and an impressive second half against a surprisingly game Akron program.
Instead, the Broncos’ coach had to relive a heart-wrenching 39-38 defeat, one that appeared certain to be a victory with a few seconds remaining.
“Obviously, it was just unbelievable,” Cubit finally began. “I don’t know what else to say.”
With a 38-31 lead and time winding down, WMU (2-4) elected to take a safety on fourth down with 15 seconds remaining rather than chance a traditional punt.
Akron’s Alphonso Owen took the free kick from Broncos punter Jim Laney at the 11-yard line and began upfield. In the grasp of WMU’s Boston McCornell at about the 25-yard line, Owen found teammate Andre Jones streaking up the left sideline.
Jones grabbed the short lateral and reversed field, beating WMU’s coverage deep into Broncos territory before slipping past C.J. Wilson at the 5-yard line and ducking into the end zone for the victory after time had expired.
Like I said: weird, wild stuff.
Some people say Joe Lieberman is not liberal enough. I say he’s not literal enough!
Forgive me whilst I gloat over this.
Next Round–Indians and Red Sox // Rockies and Diamondbacks.
Let’s go Sawx!
A few thoughts on one of the most disastrous occasions for a Trojan in living memory….
1. Despite the provocative title, while I think this is definitely the worst loss in USC football history, I believe the Michigan loss to Appalachian State was even more ignoble and pathetic. Michigan is the winningest program in collegiate football, was considered a strong national title contender, and lost to a "Hot, Hot, Hot" I-AA team with the lamest school promo video ever aired and which recruits kids from towns whose church leaders handle snakes.
As bad as Stanford is, they are a longstanding, hated rival of USC, they play us every year and are very familiar with our schemes and plays, and despite how horrible they have been the past few years, they still recruit classes ranked anywhere from 25-50 and regularly send players to the NFL (the League currently has 20 from the Farm).
2. I heard two things at the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday evening that surprised me at first… but then made total sense. The first surprise came after USC failed to score at the end of the first half despite two tries from the one-yard line. A few scattered boos rained down from the crowd, and after a couple seconds, built into a modest crescendo. USC fans, booing their own team???
Predictably, an even greater number of USC fans booed lustily as the USC fans immediately ran off the field into the tunnel. But the second surprise came as Bea and I moved to the aisle and were held up until some of the crowd could clear. It took a few minutes to make any progress whatsoever down the Coliseum’s upper reaches, and just before we started moving, I heard clapping. Not just a few people here and there either — but virtually an entire section of USC fans around the tunnel at the east end of the Coliseum, as the Stanford players and coaches jubilantly walked, skipped, and jogged back to their locker room.
While I refrained from the booing, I couldn’t help but join in the clapping. And I’ve been pondering ever since just why that was so. As for the boo-birds, the fact is, I feel the booing was completely justified. While I couldn’t bring myself to boo anything USC-related not named Paul Hackett or O.J. Simpson, like my fellow fans that night, I couldn’t handle the sight of a team that played lethargically in Seattle and barely escaped a completely outmatched Washington Huskies team (unfortunately, I saw that disgraceful performance live as well), only to turn around and pathetically play even worse against the Stanford Cardinal and flat-out give the game away. Few things are as angering as spending upwards of $60 for a ticket to watch the team you love — one that is full of ridiculous talent and led by an amazing coach — drop easy pass after easy pass, refuse to block rushers, make mental mistake after dumb penalty after mental mistake, and throw interceptions at the worst possible moments. If Stanford actually outplayed us in any facet of the game save for playing with some heart and focus, I could forgive the loss, but the fact is Stanford had nothing to be proud of on that stat sheet except what showed on the scoreboard.
Yet the emotion that rose up in the fans and twice turned much of the Coliseum into a disgruntled flock of boo-birds is the same reason many of us who were still around clapped for the hated Cardinal players as they ran off the field. The Stanford band may be the ultimate disgrace, and goddamn that ridiculous, loser tree of a mascot, but those Cardinal players showed guts, focus, heart, and a refuse-to-lose attitude all because of a crazy, wacky coach believed in his players and made them believe in themselves. I’d trade half the talent on the USC roster for a few ounces of the character that Stanford team showed that night, and the clapping from my fellow Trojans showed I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. The claps also showed that USC fans, in addition to having high standards and expectations for their team, can still display class to hated rivals even in the midst of utter humiliation — something some other tradition-rich fans completely lack (fUTLA has neither tradition nor class, and this is true of most of USC’s regular opponents save U-Dub and Notre Dame). The Stanford players just deserved a hand, that’s all there is to say.
3. John David Booty must be benched this week. In no way am I pinning the blame for the loss solely on Booty — as alluded to above, virtually everyone on the team made critical mistakes — but it’s apparent JDB just doesn’t have that special moxie that’s needed to pull a team out of a funk and will it on to victory. Actually, when it comes to lack of focus and heart, Booty not only isn’t part of the solution, he is part of the problem. It’s no coincidence that in the past two games which USC has looked horrible, Booty has thrown seven interceptions (one of them in the end zone, against Washington, was overturned on review). Teams rally to the quarterback, but this team simply doesn’t rally to John David Booty. And really, it shouldn’t be any surprise that this Evangel Christian star turned into a bust like the rest of his highly-coveted high-school predecessors. You don’t have to be a great quarterback to win a national title — see: Chris Leak, Florida, 2006 — but if you’re not a college phenom QB, you do have to command the fierce, outspoken loyalty of your team. And Booty clearly does not carry that type of swagger.
4. That being said, Pete Carroll has still backs Booty as his starter, if he is healthy enough to play this coming Saturday. Still, I say that, with or without Booty as our starting QB, I’ll be shocked if we lose another game. It is simply inconceivable we’ll come out this flat against ASU, Cal, Notre Dame, fUTLA, Oregon State, or Oregon. And while the team obviously didn’t learn its lesson after sleepwalking through the U-Dub game, I have to bet that the slap to their face this past Saturday finally woke them up. Indeed, if I’m PC, I’m handing out t-shirts to everyone on the team this week with big, bold letters that proclaim, "I LOST TO FREAKIN’ STANFORD!" The players should be forced to wear those shirts for the rest of the season under their jerseys, in practice, and in the games.
As for the chicken-littles who want to doubt USC and think we’re in deep, deep trouble, I call bullsh*t. Stats don’t win games, but they do speak to certain truths, and the truth is there isn’t a team on our schedule that can hang with us when we’re not beating ourselves. Really, who here wants to put their money where their mouth is and bet against the Trojans in Berkeley, in Eugene, or in Tempe? I’ll take that bet from each and every one of you, straight up. Despite three turnovers, Stanford couldn’t muster 100 yards on these Trojans through the first three quarters, and penalties (some stupid, some wrongly called) were the only reason Washington could keep a couple of drives alive against the Trojans. I’m not expecting USC to suddenly put it all together and play stellar for each of the next seven games, but no way do they have that many dropped passes, that many penalties, that many missed blocking assignments, and that many turnovers. Factor in getting some key starters back on our offensive line and on our defense, and we’re definitely due for a breakthrough.
5. Bitch about the polls all you want, but the reason USC is ranked 10 in one poll and 7 in the other is due mostly to the fact that, despite how badly USC killed itself, it barely lost this game, and most of the pollsters just couldn’t bring themselves to agree that there were more than six-to-nine teams that could beat USC if they played tomorrow. Few things are as predictable and as lame as whining about the placement of one-loss teams six weeks into the season. Words like "travesty" and "injustice" should be saved for the last couple of weeks of polling, when there are enough games played that more valid, unbiased comparisons can be made. I can’t help but point out that at this point in the season, even the recently-revered Stewart Mandel ranked South Carolina behind Georgia … two weeks in a row, after the Gamecocks handled the Bulldogs in Athens and then lost a brutally tough game in Baton Rouge to the now-unanimous #1 team.
My point is simple: If you can find a rational AP or Coaches’ ballot that lacks an obvious head-scratcher, you’re obviously not paying attention.
…be sure to enter the Irish Trojan Baby Pool!
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