USC desperate to atone for its defensive lapses in Cotton Bowl

Three weeks later, all of it nonetheless haunts Alex Grinch. The missed tackles, the dropped interceptions, the blown lead.

The defensive collapse towards Utah that price USC a Pac-12 championship and its spot within the Faculty Soccer Playoff remains to be recent within the defensive coordinator’s thoughts.

“We didn’t finish,” Grinch stated Thursday after apply. “And we haven’t done that for 13 games, by and large. It didn’t hurt us in 11 of them and it hurt us in two and that’s why we’re not champions right now. So it’s really disappointing and sometimes you gotta lose a game to maybe land the message but man, championship ball games, you don’t get a lot of those opportunities.”

The Trojans get an opportunity to atone for his or her defensive sins by ending their season on a constructive observe towards Tulane within the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.

The New Yr’s Six bowl — this system’s first since 2017 — seems like an insignificant comfort prize to what USC almost achieved. Had they avenged their regular-season loss to Utah with a convention championship, the Trojans would have been within the Playoff. The offense, led by Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams, had the firepower to hold them there. However the protection lagged, placing additional emphasis on the bowl sport for a unit that has one thing to show.

“People feel like we’re overrated, I would say,” security Calen Bullock stated, “so we’re just trying to go out there and show the world what we’re capable of and finishing.”

Opponents outscored the Trojans 130-128 within the fourth quarter this 12 months, the one interval wherein USC didn’t have a scoring benefit. Utah gained the fourth quarter 38-14 in its two victories over USC, together with a 23-7 benefit within the Pac-12 championship sport that turned a three-point sport with 10:52 remaining right into a blowout.

USC defensive coordinator coach Alex Grinch watches from the sideline throughout a win over Cal on Nov. 5.

(Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire through Getty Photos)

Utah capitalized on 24 USC missed tackles, in response to Professional Soccer Focus. The failed tackles was lengthy touchdowns for the Utes, who scored on performs of 60, 53 and 23 yards within the fourth quarter. Bullock missed a touchdown-saving deal with that may have stored USC inside three factors when tight finish Thomas Yassmin shrugged the sophomore security off on the 13-yard line and crushed the momentum from USC’s comeback try.

Like Grinch, Bullock stated he’s nonetheless pissed off by the staff’s lack of ability to complete the crucial sport down the stretch. A 12 months after the teaching change, there’s no variety of pep talks or drills that may save the Trojans from the blown tackles. It’s simply as much as gamers to execute.

“A lot of it is mentality and want-to as opposed to just technique,” Grinch stated. “If we use great technique, so they just fall down for us? No, it doesn’t work that way. You gotta be dialed into it and you gotta want to get him on the ground.”

In following head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, Grinch was tasked with saving a protection that set faculty information for futility in factors allowed (31.8 per sport) and yards allowed (6.5 per play). He coached the Pac-12 defensive participant of the 12 months with Tuli Tuipulotu, however USC’s defensive efficiency solely improved barely to 27.9 factors allowed and 6.3 yards allowed per play.

“It’s a good steppingstone for where we need to go,” defensive lineman Nick Figueroa stated. “It’s a process. Stuff’s not going to happen overnight but there’s been a lot of progress and sometimes maybe it doesn’t always manifest on the field … but I know that we’re in the position we want to be moving forward.”

Grinch is acquainted with attempting to rebuild a unit in shambles. When he took over at Oklahoma, the Sooners have been ranked a hundred and first within the nation in scoring protection, permitting 33.3 factors per sport. Throughout Grinch’s first 12 months, they improved to 27.3 factors allowed per sport. At Washington State, he took a Cougar protection from 38.6 factors allowed to 27.7 in his first season.

However the instant enchancment hardly ever continued sufficient to make the leap into the nation’s elite. At 21.7 factors allowed, the 2020 Sooners are the one considered one of Grinch’s defenses to surrender lower than 25 factors per sport for an entire season. No staff previously two years has made the Playoff permitting greater than 25 factors per sport.