USC Football: Trojans Improve but Still Have a Ways to Go

Rick McMahanSenior Writer INovember 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 10: Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans seets to pass as lonebacker Carl Bradford #52 of the Arizona State Sun Devils rushes at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 10, 2012  in Los Angeles, California. USC won 38-17.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

On a blustery Southern California day, that last small gust of wind emanating from the Coliseum was a collective sigh of relief from an still-all-too nervous Trojan fanbase.

In a game the Trojans had to win, they did enough to halt a two-game losing streak, and they served notice that they are still capable of beating a decent team if they so desire in the process.

Or did they?

The fact of the matter is that this team still has an abundance of flaws, and while some very troublesome areas in their game were addressed Saturday, there is plenty to be concerned about with next week's game against their crosstown rival looming in the headlights.

But first, let's look at the things the Trojans did right, and it all starts with their beleaguered defense.

Against Arizona State, Monte Kiffin's boys acquitted themselves nicely.

After two defensive nightmares against Arizona and Oregon, USC's defense held the Sun Devils to a measly 250 total yards. Not only that, but of the 17 points given up, they were only really responsible for seven.

Couple that with four forced turnovers, and there was plenty to smile about on that side of the ball.

With a vastly improved UCLA on the horizon, a solid effort by the defense was absolutely critical and on this day, it gave the Trojan faithful hope going forward.

Lane Kiffin should also be pleased with the discipline his team exhibited against the Sun Devils as well.

The nation's most-penalized team was—at least for them—relatively free of the yellow hankies that have plagued them all season long as they were only called for a paltry four infractions for 30 yards.

And of course, the weekly highlight show that is wide receiver Marqise Lee was in full effect.

Lee was responsible for 227 total yards, including 10 receptions for 166 yards.

Just another day at the office for the all-everything sophomore.

Also, running back Curtis McNeal had a huge day with 166 yards and two touchdowns, which was crucial because tailback Silas Redd was held out of the game for undisclosed reasons.

Of course, there was one blemish on his ledger. That came in the form of a fumble, but on this day, his turnover was only one of many, but let's save that for later.

Finally, on the plus side, the Trojans did manage to put 38 points on the scoreboard, and to go along with that, they gained 447 total yards.

Not bad, but there is a significant caveat, which brings us to the negatives that came out of this game.

Over the past few games, the Trojans have turned into a turnover machine.

Chalk up another five of them against ASU, which brings them to about a gazillion, though most of them have occurred in the last three games.

They got away with it against the Sun Devils, but they won't against UCLA or Notre Dame.

Speaking of turnovers, quarterback Matt Barkley threw three more interceptions, not all of which were his fault. Nonetheless, this continues to be a serious problem for the Trojans, and it must not continue if the Trojans want to finish the season with a smile.

And one more thing about the passing game. Where is Robert Woods?

Against ASU, the All-American flanker caught two passes for—get this—minus-three yards.

Are you kidding me?

For the Trojans offense to be what so many envisioned when the season started, Woods needs to get back to being the threat he has been ever since he set foot on the field sporting the cardinal and gold.

So while USC did play pretty well Saturday, there is still a lot to fix and the time is running out to do it.

In case you haven't noticed, UCLA is playing pretty well these days, and the Bruins even have the temerity to believe they can win next week.

The problem is that if the Trojans can't fix what ails them, they may be right.

And that would just about finish any "unfinished business" the Trojans have left in 2012.