Eric He | Daily TrojanIt started with a bad snap. It only got worse from there. The final score read 49-14 in favor of Notre Dame, and it was every bit as lopsided, every bit as painful, torturous and agonizing as one might imagine. USC rolled into South Bend on Saturday night as the 11th-ranked team in the country, a fringe contender for the national championship. It departed back for Los Angeles with those hopes now dashed, the hype train completely derailed and the sense that this team — in what was supposed to be a landmark season —was vastly overrated. We could have seen it coming. The Trojans were asking for the pummeling they received. Sure, they started the season 6-1 with a respectable lone loss coming at Washington State. But — as I’ve described in this column week after week — despite piling up wins, USC was not piling up confidence, nor was it getting better week-to-week. Almost every single week, we’ve seen issues with some key facet of the game —redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold struggling, wide receivers dropping balls, the offensive line falling prey to injury, the playcalling being questioned, the secondary giving up long completions. And on Saturday, in front of a raucous sold-out crowd of 77,622 at Notre Dame Stadium in primetime, every single issue that has plagued the Trojans this season came to light. It was like a dam that could no longer hold in the water that had slowly but surely been encroaching as the season progressed, and on the big stage in a historic rivalry game, the floodwaters poured through. Darnold was asked where he would start when he looked back at the film. “Play one,” he said. “Play one,” in a sense, encapsulated the season for USC. The defense had given Darnold and the offense an ideal start to the game, forcing a three-and-out and decent field position for the Trojans. But the first snap to Darnold sailed high. He readjusted to catch it, but as he pushed to salvage some yards, coughed up the ball at the bottom of the pile. Notre Dame recovered, and three quick plays later, the Irish were in the end zone. It’s happened time and time again this season: The defense hands the offense the ball in great scoring position, only to have the offense drop the ball —literally. After that sequence, there would be no more bailing out. The offense being shut down in the first half meant the defense was consistently on the field — and it was not ready whatsoever for Notre Dame’s rushing attack. The Irish torched the Trojans on the ground for 377 yards, averaging eight yards per carry. Running back Josh Adams came six yards shy of a 200-yard night, scoring three touchdowns and, at times, sprinting right through tackles or wide open gaps like the defense didn’t exist. So did quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who looked like more of a running back the way USC parted for him. Sure, the Trojans had several key injuries. But that’s no excuse for Darnold to fumble or to throw a telegraphed interception or to somehow miss a wide-open redshirt senior wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. downfield, for reliable freshman placekicker Chase McGrath to miss a 27-yard field goal, for sophomore punt returner Jack Jones to fumble away a fair catch or for the entire defensive unit to forget how to tackle. There are the playoff-caliber teams who don’t make those simple mistakes, who take care of the ball and finish off the routine plays that can go a long way to winning a game. And then there are the Trojans, who have five-star talent up and down their roster and somehow look like a junior varsity squad against a team that they should match up with. Whether it’s shooting itself in the foot, bad coaching or too-lofty expectations, Saturday night’s game ended any debate: USC just isn’t very good. It was easy to overlook when the Trojans were winning. When they squeaked past Texas in double overtime, we praised Darnold for being clutch. When they only beat Utah by a point, we exulted in how stellar the defense was. The team never fixed the problems that led to games being close in the first place. They were never fully prepared for an unfamiliar opponent in Notre Dame, which may be far and away the best team USC plays this season. So, after an uplifting season last year when the Trojans had found “The Next Big Thing” at quarterback and everybody proclaimed, “USC is back” after the Rose Bowl win, it’s clear now that USC is not back, and it never was. Instead, it’s back to being underwhelming, to playing in the Holiday Bowl instead of the Rose Bowl, to continuously failing to recapture the dominance of the Pete Caroll era. In the midst of the blowout on Saturday, media members in the press box bet on whether head coach Clay Helton would mention that USC still controlled its own destiny in the Pac-12 South and was still in play for a Pac-12 championship. And Helton did exactly that in his postgame presser, almost word-for-word, as did other coaches and players. Sure, the goal articulated by both Helton and Athletic Director Lynn Swann for this season was a Pac-12 Championship. And, sitting atop the Pac-12 South, that is very much still in play. Still, it is clear that no matter how many games USC wins the rest of the way, its season will be seen as a disappointment by the fans, by the media and hopefully by the team itself. We were led to believe that the Trojans were better than this, that this would be the breakthrough season, that the return to glory was on the horizon. We were all wrong.Before the game on Saturday, there was a magnificent sunset above the stadium, glistening in the twilight. It was an idyllic sight with the picturesque Notre Dame campus in the backdrop. But as kickoff approached, it faded away and the lights took full effect as darkness enveloped Notre Dame Stadium. The sun had set on South Bend, and three hours later, it would also set on USC’s season.Eric He is a junior studying print and digital journalism. He is also the associate managing editor for the Daily Trojan. His column, Grinding Gears, runs Mondays.
Minister Augustus Flomo addresses participants at the 9th Summit of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Heads of State and Government and Ministerial Discussion.…Says Deputy Economic Finance MinisterAugustus J. Flomo, Deputy Minister for Economic Management at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) believes that the agriculture value chain will enhance job creation, economic expansion, as well as ensuring the domestic revenue capacity of each country.Mr. Flomo spoke at the 9th Summit of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Heads of State and Government and Ministerial Discussion which is underway in Nairobi, Kenya.The Summit comes at an auspicious time for the ACP Group as it prepares to finalize the Post-Cotonou negotiations as well as the revision to its Constitutive Act, the Georgetown Agreement.Flomo told the gathering that discussions held over the last few days are important in moving the future of ACP and enhancing the ability of member countries to strengthening and developing development programs of the organization activities.He explained that SMEs are strong pillars of sustainable economic development in ACP countries and the declaration should highlight and support the development and sustainability of SMEs in their respective economies as they serve as the bedrock for economic growth.“We are aware that SMEs are strong pillars of sustainable economic development in our respective countries and so the declaration should highlight and support the development and sustainability of SMEs in our respective economies as they serve as the bedrock for our economic growth,” Hon. Flomo asserted.He said the ACP agriculture value chain program as highlighted in the declaration will focus on sustainable agriculture to promote especially countries that have survived on agriculture for the purpose of food security.He noted that private sector development and promoting economic development and growth are critical to the sustaining of countries.“We would like to encourage that ACP agriculture value chain program, as we highlighted in the declaration, will focus on sustainable agriculture to promote, especially countries that have survived on agriculture just for the purpose of food security. We also believe that private sector development and promoting economic development and growth is critical to the sustaining of our respective countries,” he added.He expressed the need for the enhance program design and development of the ACP execution which supports strengthening the future as ACP countries and, at the same time, strengthening the union.He commended the drafters of the declaration, stating that Liberia fully supports the draft declaration with considered inputs.During the summit, discussions focused on areas including: Value chain development of agriculture; Private sector development and economic growth; the future of our ACP, including the development finance Corporation; and the opportunity that we have now to witness the change of leadership very soon beginning with the selection of our new secretary general which we will also like to congratulate.However, the Deputy Finance Minister for Economic Management thanked the organizers of the summit for its successful conduct and expressed sympathy on behalf of the Government of Liberia to the people Kenya, for the loss of lives during the challenging time of climate change encountered in that country during the summit.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)