November 24, 2009

QBs, LBs struggle after good starts

It's not all that often that you hear a head coach go out of his way to tell the media it was right. But Pete Carroll beat the press to the punch, robbing them of an "I-told-you-so" moment.

Before this season ever began, Carroll remembers answering question after question about two specific areas. People wanted to know about the quarterbacks, and people wanted to know about the linebackers.

Tuesday during his weekly luncheon, Carroll admitted those questions were on point.

"In one sense," he said, "you guys have been on it."

But for the first half of this season, Carroll wouldn't have been so quick to praise the media for its observation. Despite losing Mark Sanchez, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga and Kaluka Maiava to the NFL, the players replacing them all started the season hot.

Through USC's first five and a half games, things looked just fine. Matt Barkley was playing efficiently, and the USC defense looked like it hadn't missed a beat despite the heavy losses to the NFL.

Then, Notre Dame scored 20 points in the second half, and for whatever reason, things changed.

Prior to the win at Notre Dame, the USC defense allowed just 8.6 points per game. In the four games after that win, that same defense allowed 36.75 points.

"We had a great start to it. We were scrambling around," Carroll said. "We've hit some harder times now, and we're trying to come back from that and finish really well."

The same can be said on the offensive side of things, where Barkley has not enjoyed the same success as he did earlier in the season. Carroll said the inconsistencies are expected when you're playing such a young quarterback.

"There is a learning curve," he said. "There are certainly going to be issues. There are going to be times when they had wished they had known something that they fell prey to and all that."

UCLA has its own young quarterback in redshirt freshman Kevin Prince, and Carroll is expecting Prince and Barkley to meet in a number of big games over the next three or four years.

"We're fortunate to have guys of this caliber playing for us because they're really big timers," Carroll said. "They're going to be fun to be around. They're going to be big-time winners, I think.

"It will be exciting to watch the match-ups over the years is they come along. We expect nothing but great things."

For USC to experience great things Saturday against the Bruins, Carroll and company will have to deal with a team that's won three-straight games. Despite the wins coming over teams at the bottom of the league, Carroll said UCLA is doing a lot of good things.

"The schedule is what it is. It's their turn to play those teams," he said. "They have been playing good football though. They've taken the ball away. They've been secure with the ball on the offensive side. They've played good, solid ball."




 

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