August 31, 2008
Maybe they'll feel differently after viewing the tape. Or if they embark on a significant winning streak. Or if Southern California proves unbeatable.
But in the immediate aftershock of their nationally televised football flogging Saturday, Virginia's Cavaliers were disgusted.
"We just made a lot of mistakes … that had nothing to with them," safety Byron Glaspy said following the Cavs' 52-7, season-opening defeat at Scott Stadium.
"Our attitude about our team is, it's not OK to play like that," coach Al Groh said.
Correct on both counts.
No matter how many Usain Bolts the third-ranked Trojans have at running back and wide receiver, and regardless of all the LaShawn Merritts they boast at linebacker and safety, some breakdowns can't be excused.
Like allowing a fourth-and-1 toss sweep to become a 33-yard touchdown.
Like watching a receiver run virtually uncovered on a post route that turns into a 49-yard score.
Like netting 32 yards on your first 15 plays.
Like fumbling away a simple shotgun snap.
So transpired the Cavaliers' most lopsided loss in 21 years, the worst at home in 24.
USC scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, outscored Virginia 28-0 after intermission and outrushed the Cavaliers 218-32.
"It wouldn't be right for me or anybody to say that anybody played well today," Groh said.
Indeed, why try to sugarcoat it?
Sure, Mikell Simpson outraced the Trojans' defense to the left pylon on a 7-yard, first-quarter touchdown sprint. And yes, freshman receiver Jared Green caught three passes, and linebacker Antonio Appleby intercepted one.
But those were anomalies.
"We were ready for them," freshman defensive end Matt Conrath said. "We thought."
Truth be told, there's no getting ready for a team of USC's caliber when you play in a second-tier conference such as the ACC and simply aren't accustomed to a game contested at warp speed.
Why, it seemed the Trojans had more top-flight skill folks than Hillary Clinton does glass-ceiling cracks.
Tailbacks CJ Gable, Joe McKnight, Allen Bradford and Stafon Johnson combined for 205 yards on 33 carries. They would be stars elsewhere.
Ditto receivers Damian Williams, Patrick Turner, Vidal Hazelton and Ronald Johnson, who combined for 17 receptions for 264 yards, often picking on freshman cornerback Chase Minnifield and junior safety Brandon Woods.
"They played as fast as they looked," Cavs linebacker Clint Sintim said.
Never more than in the first quarter, when they were Stepford-efficient, scoring 21 points in 11 minutes and gaining 182 yards — split almost evenly with 89 rushing and 93 passing.
Here's how unfair it got: On third-and-3 early in the second quarter, fullback Stanley Havili easily eluded the Cavaliers' zone coverage and caught a 14-yard pass.
Hey, at USC even fullbacks can motor.
OK, so this Virginia defense pales to last season's. But USC's speed and depth figure to overwhelm most, if not all, comers — Ohio State two weeks hence in Los Angeles is must-see TV.
"We got done exactly what we wanted to get done today," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said. "We practiced beautifully during the whole process, and it showed. … It has been evident in the years that when we prepare like this, we can expect to play at a really high level."
USC's quickness is not limited to the offense, where only two seniors started. Linebackers Brian Cushing, Ray Maualuga and Kaluka Maiava, not to mention safety Taylor Mays, made Virginia's defenders appear plodding by comparison.
One play sticks out.
On first-and-10 from USC's 38, Cedric Peerman caught a screen pass that would have gained 8-10 yards against most opponents, perhaps 15-20 versus next-up foe Richmond.
The Trojans swarmed him for a 2-yard gain, and the drive ended with Yannick Reyering's missed field goal from 46 yards.
Virginia trotted out all the trappings Saturday, from former coach George Welsh to former All-Americans Jim Dombrowski, Chris Long and the Barber twins. A record crowd of 64,947 squeezed into the stadium and saw a scoreboard video trumpeting program alums playing in the NFL.
Well, a film of USC's pro connections would be longer than "Gone With the Wind," and the pipeline shows no sign of slowing.
"USC was a big, fast, powerful football team with superior quarterback play today," Groh said. "We were anything but. … We've gotta do better than that."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com