USC needs to figure out a way to end its three-game losing streak to UCLA, and linebacker Su’a Cravens cut through the hype when analyzing how the Trojans can turn around their fortunes in the Crosstown Rivalry.
“It’s not about the battle of L.A., it’s not about the fans, it’s not about UCLA owns L.A., USC runs L.A., like we make it out to be every year,” Cravens said. “It’s going to be the same thing next year. It’s going to come down to the players on the field and it’s going to come down to execution.”
Cravens said he was not upset after the loss because USC played so poorly.
“I’m not mad, I’m disappointed,” he said. “You can’t be mad in a game you don’t deserve to win.”
The statistics backed Cravens’ words. USC was outgained by UCLA in total yards, 461-276.
Gutty little Trojans?
UCLA used to be known as the gutty little Bruins, but in Saturday’s Crosstown Rivalry, it was USC that got pushed around.
The Trojans’ wide receivers, who feasted at times this season on soft coverages, were unable to handle UCLA’s physical man-to-man coverages. The prime example was wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who compiled back-to-back 200-yard games against two of the nation’s worst pass defenses (Washington, California) but caught only three passes for 24 yards against the Bruins.
The other problems USC encountered were UCLA’s desire to be more physical up front and to mix up its pass coverages. This accounted for quarterback Cody Kessler being sacked six times. And even when Kessler had time to throw he sometimes struggled to find the open receiver.
“I think it’s a belief. I think it’s a mindset,” Sarkisian said of being more physical. He promised next season would feature more physical practices when the roster increases with more scholarship players.
The loss also demonstrated that even though Kessler’s numbers are impressive (30 touchdowns, four interceptions) he still has plenty of room for improvement in the big games.
“They did a really good job game-planning us,” Kessler said. “They covered a lot of our plays that we’ve been working on all year.”
State of the program
A loss to UCLA could magnify the problems USC experienced this season, but Sarkisian said it did little to alter his view.
“One game is not going to dramatically alter my feelings on our program,” he said. “Obviously that ball game means a lot and I’m very aware of that. I feel bad for our players and our fans.”
Rare Notre Dame day game
The USC-Notre Dame kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. It will be the first time since 2000 that the teams play a day game at the Coliseum and just the second time since 1990.
Sarkisian on Josh Shaw
Josh Shaw returned from his suspension and played nickel back against UCLA, making one tackle.
“I thought Josh was fine,” Sarkisian said. “Conditioning became a little bit of a factor.”
Sarkisian also said he found out Thursday afternoon that tight end Bryce Dixon was cleared to play following an incident involving another student. USC did not inform the media until right before kickoff.
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