USC just finished a lethargic, 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, which puts the Pac-12 bowl record at 2-4 and ensures that the best it can do is a .500 record with Stanford and Oregon left to play.
It also puts USC’s all-time record in the Sun at 0-3. Which makes it hard to separate the losses from the fact that usually when you don’t want to be there, you aren’t going to perform very well.
OK, give the Trojans a bit of a pass for the loss of quarterback Matt Barkley. His replacement, Max Wittek, was simply terrible on a windy day, and Wittek’s performance will no doubt fuel speculation that the job will be wide-open when Max Browne of Skyline High arrives on campus. The great USC receivers, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, were caught on camera openly expressing frustration at various points as USC insisted on throwing short, and many of Wittek’s attempts sailed high or wide. He was 14 for 37 for 107 yards, a ridiculously ineffective effort against the nation’s 82nd-ranked pass-efficiency defense.
But there’s also the reality that USC gave the impression of being too good to be at this bowl, an opinion expressed on Twitter that got a couple of Trojans in hot water.
Then there was a combined team dinner last week — CBS veteran play-by-play man Verne Lundquist mentioned it for the national audience near the end of the telecast — in which USC showed up from 30-60 minutes late (depending on who was telling the story). Georgia Tech was allowed to leave.
The El Paso Times quoted a bowl official as explaining via Twitter that the Trojans were practicing that afternoon well across town, and practice also ran late.
Judging by their performance, the Trojans didn’t practice enough.
The LA Daily News wrote Sunday that the Trojans wrote notes of appreciation to Sun Bowl volunteers (who work really hard to put on a good show), but unfortunately, that’s a gesture that’s apt to get lost amid USC’s generally bad comportment.
Two other thoughts after a loss that drops USC’s record to 7-6: The dinner fiasco is one more niggling, hard-to-fathom indiscretion by Trojans coach Lane Kiffin, who has piled up a bunch of them this year (jersey deception, deflated footballs, the controversy over his coaches-poll vote), and you wonder when athletic director Pat Haden might get tired of them.
Second, nice post-season by the LA schools. UCLA got routed by Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. But as far as we know, the Bruins made it to dinner on time.