Costly holds, late hits, personal fouls and even an ejection.
USC football returned to Los Angeles for the first time following NCAA sanctions -- and a lot stupid things remained exactly the same. The Trojans played like fools, amassing 13 fouls for 140 yards in a sloppy 17-14 win over a Virginia Cavaliers team that's predicted to finish last in the ACC.
It was the same ol' story that USC fans have seen for the last two years as the team erased touchdowns and momentum with careless penalties, culminating with Rhett Ellison's head butt following an onside kick recovery that led to a 30-yard infraction and his disqualification. It was a a fitting finish to a terrible game.
The Cavs imploded on themselves with penalties as well though Virginia did rack up 340 yards in total offense against Monte Kiffin's supposedly vaunted defense. Kiffin runs a similar defense to what Pete Caroll did and the results were similar; a break but don't break D that failed to create much havoc. In fact the defense tried to sabotage itself. Safety TJ McDonald, who had an easy pick in the endzone, was constantly head-hunting and drew a couple of 15-yard penalties due to his high strikes. MLD Devon Kennard was consistently late at reading the running back and was often left in the dust. The defensive line managed two sacks but was manhandled by the Cavs O-line for most of the game. Poor tackling and failing to wrap ballhandlers led to plenty of YAC for the Cavs.
The offense was better but not by much. The stagnant running game averaged less than four yards a carry. Dillon Baxter looked fine in his collegiate debut. Once he ran vertical the yards followed. Nothing splashy but credit the Virginia defense for playing smart and hard the whole game. Marc Tyler looked nothing like the shifty bruiser from the Hawaii game. Tyler was slow and rarely had a second effort that went far.
Matt Barkley looked pretty good though his accuracy was a little off in the second half. Ronald Johnson was sensational. If not for a holding penalty RoJo would have been credited with a long TD haul. Also if Barkley had thrown a few better balls a 150-yard game was possible.
Jordan Cameron did a great job jumping up and snagging the onside kick late. He also did a nifty job reaching up for a touchdown. USC has lacked a TE option since Anthony McCoy graduated. Maybe Jordan is the answer at that position but there still plenty of questions as to whether the Trojans can play solid, disciplined football.