The plan was for USC to spend this week resting veterans and focusing on developing young players.
Instead, in the aftermath of their upset defeat at Boston College, the Trojans will immerse themselves in a week of deep self-examination.
USC is in the midst of an identity crisis.
“We need to figure out exactly who we are,” Coach Steve Sarkisian said Sunday night during a teleconference with reporters.
USC’s 37-31 loss to a 17-point underdog dropped the Trojans eight spots to No. 17 in the Associated Press media poll.
Sarkisian said he would be among those self-scrutinized before USC plays again Sept. 27 against Oregon State.
“As I’m evaluating every player … I’m evaluating myself,” said Sarkisian, who took responsibility for the loss. “Part of myself is the play-caller.”
After rushing for only 20 net yards in 24 attempts, Sarkisian acknowledged that he must address the question “Where is stubborn too stubborn?”
“I love to run the football,” he said, “but at some point, when is the time right to throw it to set up the run?
“Last night might have been a classic example.”
The Trojans’ larger issue appears to be the line of scrimmage.
The offensive line gave up a season-high five sacks.
“We just missed some tiny assignments” and made uncharacteristic mistakes, quarterback Cody Kessler said after the game. “And we’ve got to get those fixed.”
The defense also needs repairs after coordinator Justin Wilcox‘s unit gave up 506 yards.
Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy ran through USC’s front seven seemingly at will. The graduate transfer ran for 191 of the Eagles’ 452 yards rushing, including a 66-yard touchdown.
“There was hesitation … that caused a lack of communication that unfortunately gave them some plays where we didn’t make it very hard on him,” Sarkisian said, adding that in some instances “there was nobody playing the quarterback, never mind somebody.”
USC was without linebacker Hayes Pullard for the first half because of his suspension for targeting against Stanford. But the senior’s presence during the second half did not slow down the Eagles.
“They were doing the same stuff,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian did not rule out personnel changes before the Trojans resume their schedule.
“We’ll find out a lot about our team from a sheer personality standpoint,” he said, adding, “The end result is this: I think we have a really good football team.”
Finding a place
USC might be wise to spend the next two weeks figuring out a way to incorporate Adoree’ Jackson into a greater role on offense.
The freshman showed his playmaking ability again on Saturday, returning three kickoffs for 81 yards, including one for 50 yards. He also played cornerback and had two tackles, both for losses.
In the opener against Fresno State, Jackson caught three passes, one for a touchdown.
But he had no receptions against Stanford.
Jackson had one catch for minus-four yards against Boston College.
“We had a plan for him offensively,” Sarkisian said. “The game really didn’t go that way to get him involved as much as we would like.”
Agholor matches best
For the second consecutive game, Nelson Agholor caught a career-best nine passes, including a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that pulled the Trojans to within 30-24.
Agholor finished with 64 yards receiving.
Agholor has 23 receptions for 212 yards and three touchdowns this season.
In 2013, he caught 56 passes for 918 yards and six touchdowns.
USC is off Monday and will resume practice Tuesday…. The Trojans are ranked No. 21 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.