Advertisement
Sports

Column: USC fans shouldn’t blame Steve Sarkisian for latest losses

Steve Sarkisian
USC Coach Steve Sarkisian barks instructions on his headset during the victory over Utah.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

USC fans have the answer for everything wrong in the world today — “Blame Sark.”

The Trojans should change their horse’s name from “Traveler” to Roy Rogers’ lesser-known backup mount: “Hair-Trigger.”

No one weeps for Steve Sarkisian because he makes a fortune, yet the first-year coach does have the misfortune of presiding over a whiny, entitled franchise in the shameless era of dingbat social media.

He also is chopping wood, well under the scholarship cap, in a Pac-12 that has never been better.

Advertisement

Not every Trojans fan wants Sarkisian sacked for being 5-3 through eight games, but even one is too many.

Pete Carroll, had Twitter been invented in 2001, would be answering to these same yahoos after his way-more-dismal 1-4 start.

Pajama-posters would present comparative charts of Carroll vs. Paul Hackett while wondering behind pseudonyms how an unemployed former NFL washout was allowed to grace the hallowed halls of Heritage Hall.

Sarkisian has made mistakes — all coaches do — and they are magnified on the big stages.

Advertisement

Did you see the gaffe Mississippi Coach Hugh Freeze pulled Saturday night against Louisiana State?

Hugh Freeze met brain freeze.

The leader of the nation’s third-ranked team, trailing by three, declined a chance to tie the game with a late field-goal attempt.

With nine seconds left, he allowed senior quarterback Bo Wallace a last chance to win the game with a touchdown.

Wallace pillow-fluffed a deep pass that was intercepted inside the five-yard line.

Freeze trusted his veteran quarterback would throw the ball away instead of throwing into double coverage … oops.

It was important only because it cost Ole Miss a chance to win the game and possibly the national title.

It was a situation not unlike one that Sarkisian faced against Utah.

Advertisement

Those clamoring that USC should have hired Chris Petersen should note that Washington is 1-3 in the Pac-12 North and USC is 4-2 in the South. And that Washington has its full allotment of NCAA scholarships.

It seems from my observational tower that Sarkisian deserves direct blame for not having USC ready to play at Boston College, one week after an emotional win at Stanford.

It was Sarkisian’s job to have his team prepared for the kind of tricky, nonconference road games most Southeastern Conference teams would never think to schedule.

Florida hasn’t played a nonconference game west of the Mississippi since 1983.

One of Texas A&M’s most important moves since joining the SEC was canceling a home-and-home series with Oregon.

USC took the Boston College challenge, though, and jumped to an early lead before thinking the game was over. And it was, for the Trojans.

That loss is on the head ball coach.

Blaming Sarkisian for USC’s second and third defeats, however, is almost laughable.

Advertisement

First, the defeats came against very good teams — something myopic USC fans never consider in their after-game autopsies.

Arizona State is the defending Pac-12 South champion and is currently ranked No. 15 in Sunday’s Associated Press media poll.

USC lost to Arizona State on a Hail Mary in which Trojans defenders were perfectly positioned to swat away the pass — they just didn’t.

We’re pretty sure Sarkisian’s last words were not: “Don’t meet the ball at its highest point. Let the ball come to you like you were making a fair catch.”

Sarkisian should have also raced on the field to tackle Buck Allen, instead of letting his tailback run free for a 53-yard touchdown with 3:02 left. It gave USC a nine-point lead but also provided the only comeback avenue for Arizona State.

Had Sarkisian ankle-tackled Allen short of the goal line, USC might have been able to run out the clock.

Some USC fans now blame Sarkisian for Saturday night’s thrilling, three-point loss to a better Utah team than the one that last year defeated Stanford.

Sarkisian first blew it when the perfectly fine pass play he called on third and two, from the Utah 28, slipped out of quarterback Cody Kessler’s hand.

A simple completion would have likely secured victory, but everyone knows a competent head coach would have thought to bring a portable, bowling alley hand blower.

And not only did Sarkisian make the right choice to go for it on fourth and two, it was just like the 2005 title game against Texas in that Reggie Bush wasn’t on the field either time.

Sarkisian called a clinching-worthy play against Utah that failed because Nelson Agholor stepped out of bounds short of the first-down stick.

This must have been the coach’s fault for not improving Agholor’s footwork by enrolling him in that USC ballroom dancing class made popular by Matt Leinart.

Utah made USC pay by scoring the game-winner with eight seconds left, on a one-yard scoring pass from Travis Wilson to Kaelin Clay.

A review of the play showed Utah may have used a pick play similar to one that was called a penalty on Notre Dame, last week, against Florida State.

Blame Sark for not insisting on Atlantic Coast Conference officials for Saturday’s game.

The only upside of defeat is that Athletic Director Pat Haden, who is on the College Football Playoff selection committee, will not have to leave the room for discussions concerning USC.

There won’t be any.

Haden might view his sequestered time in Dallas, however, as a nice diversion from all the Sark barking back home.

Fans used to give a coach three years to get the program moving — now, it’s about three months.

Sarkisian may, or may not, be the right coach at USC.

But shouldn’t we at least wait until next May?

To be fair, the overwhelming majority of Trojans backers seem to get the big picture.

They’re giving Sark until Thanksgiving to turn it around.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com


Newsletters
Get our daily Sports Report newsletter
Advertisement