The ending at frantic AT&T Stadium appeared like a lot of the beautiful half-hour that preceded it.
Tulane gamers working wildly throughout the sphere, swarming from sideline to sideline, sprinting unimpeded and uninhibited.
USC gamers simply standing there.
Tulane gamers bouncing in circles across the turf and one another, leaping, lunging, crazy.
USC gamers observing them by tears.
An ESPN tv reporter requested Tulane coach Willie Fritz what simply occurred.
“I’m not sure,” he mentioned.
Oh, quite the opposite, within the wake of Tulane’s surprising 46-45 upset of USC in Monday’s Cotton Bowl, it’s clear what simply occurred.
The reeking stain in Lincoln Riley’s regime occurred. The bane of the USC fan’s existence occurred. The Trojans’ weekly embarrassment, month-to-month humiliation, and season-long shame occurred.
The USC protection occurred.
Simply questioning, however how a lot of offensive genius Riley’s estimated $10-million annual wage is being paid for him to educate the opposite facet of the ball?
Apparently, nothing, as a result of that’s what his protection did for the umpteenth recreation in finishing this staff’s startling tumble from the doorstep of the Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinals to a pitiable pile of smoking wreckage.
Keep in mind their most up-to-date debacle, the 533 complete yards given up by the Trojans throughout a second-half collapse in opposition to Utah within the Pac-12 championship?
That was Wild Bunch stuff in comparison with Monday afternoon, when the tire tracks have been deep and indelible throughout a protection that gave up 539 yards whereas serving to blow a 15-point lead within the remaining four-and-a-half minutes.
Significantly, this is likely to be the worst protection in USC soccer historical past. The Trojans can’t deal with. They will’t cowl.
They. Can’t. Cease. Anyone.
One second, Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams was hugging and slapping on the sidelines whereas reveling within the masterpiece of his younger profession, 462 passing yards and 5 passing touchdowns on a young hamstring.
The subsequent second, Williams was sitting helplessly on the bench, staring on the sky as his defensive teammates have been getting pummeled right into a messy pool of cardinal and gold.
One second, the Trojans and their unstoppable offense have been in management, their lead was 45-30, the overmatched and outmanned Inexperienced Wave have been exhausted, this recreation was over.
The subsequent second, the Trojan protection gave up a landing after a 59-yard move completion from Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt to Duece Watts. Quickly thereafter, USC gave up the successful landing on a six-yard move from Pratt to Alex Bauman on the finish of a 66-yard drive with no timeouts that included two fourth-down conversions.
That’s proper, two fourth-down conversions.
In the course of all that, the Trojans’ Mario Williams mishandled a kickoff that led to an eventual security, however please, don’t blame the child or the offense.
This was a few protection that brutally chipped all of the shine off one other offensive gem. This was a few protection that threatened Riley’s teaching credibility in Oklahoma and is doing so once more.
Riley will certainly make offseason modifications to his defensive management starting with embattled coordinator Alex Grinch, proper? Riley certainly realizes he’s risking the ruination of the ultimate season of arguably the best quarterback in USC historical past by forcing Williams to tote this unpleasant defensive baggage, appropriate?
For the report, it’s utterly absurd to assume that Williams’ representatives would march into Riley’s workplace this week and demand defensive modifications or the quarterback will enter the switch portal.
Or is it?
“It’s going to linger … it’s going to burn,” Williams informed reporters after Monday’s nightmare.
No matter occurs throughout the program, tolerating a protection that started the day ranked 119th out of 131 FBS groups is unfair to Williams, unfair to USC followers and a dereliction of the duty that goes with that enormous contract bestowed on Riley when he took the job final winter.
He’s supposed to educate the entire staff, OK? Something much less and Riley isn’t fulfilling the vow he made to show the Trojans into championship contenders.
After one season, regardless of remodeling this system from 4-8 to 11-3, that continues to be a promise unkept.
“As tough a loss as I can remember in my entire career,” Riley mentioned. “We obviously put ourselves in phenomenal position to get it done.”
They did. They scored the primary two instances they possessed the ball, bullying blocking, receivers open, Williams good and at one level within the second quarter, that they had outgained Tulane, 185-21.
However then the protection was pushed, and, as feared, it promptly folded.
“Offense is out there, they know they have to make a play, so the defense can’t sit on their heels to get a stop,” defensive lineman Nick Figueroa mentioned. “No, you have to make a play.”
The Trojans didn’t. As an alternative, in a wide range of methods, they have been performed.
Tulane scored after a 40-yard run by Pratt. Tulane scored once more to tie the rating on an 87-yard move to Jha’Quan Jackson.
USC scored twice earlier than halftime to take one other 14-point lead, however within the second half, its protection merely couldn’t shut the deal, giving up large performs in large conditions.
Runs of 47 yards and 62 yards by Tyjae Spears led to touchdowns that stored the Inexperienced Wave shut earlier than they lastly demoralized USC in the long run. General, Spears gained 205 yards, Tulane ran for 305 yards and Riley mentioned that was the distinction.
“Our tackling hurt us against a good back,” Riley mentioned. “That was the story. That’s the entire game right there.”
Although Riley was cautious to not brazenly criticize Grinch or any defender individually, he acknowledged that he was involved about all these gashing runs and lengthy passes.
“We gave up the big plays … no tackling to the level that we expect … very, very alarming … something we’ve got to do a much better job of,” he mentioned.
That job begins with him. That job begins now.
He has a quarterback who deserves a shot at a nationwide championship. He has a fan base that deserves a return to sustained greatness. He must cease waxing in regards to the success of their one-year turnaround and notice no one goes to be comfortable except he can end the job by constructing a protection that may end the sport.
Till he does, there is no such thing as a distinction between Lincoln Riley and the passel of failed USC coaches that preceded him.
“There is a ton of great momentum in this program,” Riley claimed. “Today’s result, as sick as it is, does not change that. The reality is that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere.”
If he doesn’t repair the protection, he’s precisely proper.
The USC soccer program, as soon as once more, isn’t going anyplace.