Loss to Cougars different than most


Nineteen.

That’s how many USC home football games I had attended in my three years as a student here before Saturday. Six of those were losses. Some of them were bad losses. Some were frustrating beyond belief. Some were maddening beyond description.

I’ve seen the Coliseum crowd shocked after wide receiver Ronald Johnson let a potential game-winning touchdown slip through his fingers in the rain against Notre Dame in 2010.

I’ve seen it heartbroken after running back Curtis McNeal fumbled inside the 5-yard line to end the Trojans’ quest to upset Stanford in 2011.

I’ve seen it exasperated after USC put up 51 points against Oregon last season, only to give up the most points (62) and yards (730) of any team in Trojan history.

But I’ve never seen it like it was on Saturday.

It’s a sentiment I’ve heard echoed by many over the last few days. Every fan, employee and media member has seen USC lose, and lose much worse (on the scoreboard, at least) than on Saturday. But still, this one felt different.

“Embarrassed” is the first word that comes to mind, and the word I’ve heard thrown around most in the aftermath.

But simple embarrassment doesn’t cause fans to boo a team off the field at halftime or audibly chant for the head coach to be fired. No, that’s something else. That’s more than embarrassment, frustration or humiliation.

That is anger.

The Coliseum was angry, and made it known. This campus is still angry. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced following a defeat here.

After any given USC loss, I can usually pop on social media and see posts such as, “I’d rather lose as a Trojan than win as (insert winning team here).” Not after Saturday. I didn’t see or hear one single “Win or lose, we still booze.” Nothing about how it’s still great to be a Trojan — just a lot of disbelief and frustration.

And anger.

How else do you describe fans openly booing the team into the locker room?

How else do you describe the “Fire Kiffin” chant that echoed through the Coliseum as the clock wound down?

How else can you describe the feeling in there on Saturday?

It’s coming from more than just fans. Without getting into specifics about what was said up the tunnel after the game, believe me, there was plenty of anger there as well. Players don’t come to USC to lose six games a season, or to ever lose to Washington State — a team that hasn’t had a winning record since 2003, has lost 49 games in the last five years and, as a reminder, is Washington State.

As the saying goes, “You win some, you lose some.” Such is the nature of sports. At USC, however, the expectation is that you win a considerable amount more than you lose. And the reality is this: USC is 8-7 since the beginning of the 2012 season. They are 2-6 in their last eight games. In the four games since Matt Barkley’s injury at UCLA, they have scored five offensive touchdowns.

We can argue forever about the morals of booing your own team, especially when that team is comprised of amateurs. But it’s hard to blame fans for making their feelings heard after Saturday’s debacle. There are people at this school who couldn’t explain a football concept as basic as a handoff, yet could draw a detailed diagram of a bubble screen.

The “definitive” choice of a quarterback should help, especially from a game plan standpoint. USC head coach Lane Kiffin will be able to better tailor the offense to sophomore Cody Kessler.

And of course, the defense has been outstanding, surrendering just 14 points in the first two games while recording 11 sacks and seven takeaways, and giving up an amazing 0.6 yards per carry.

The talent is there for this team to play with almost any opponent. But then again, that was the case last year, too. And Saturday’s loss felt a lot worse than any of the six suffered in 2012 — ask anyone who was there. The feeling permeating from the stands was totally foreign, but also completely undeniable: Anger.

And somehow, no matter what happens this Saturday — lose by three or win by 30 — I don’t think it’s going away.

 

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