By Eric Lambkins II
Sports Reporter 

USC football fires Grinch, faces Oregon Saturday

 

November 9, 2023

Eric Lambkins II

Alex Grinch, fired as USC defensive coordinator

It was like a heavyweight bout, with both teams slugging while staggering and stumbling while slugging. It was a tale of the reigning Heisman, Southern California's Caleb Williams elusive, evasive and efficient, versus Washington's Michael Penix Jr. who was calm, cool and calculated. Ultimately, Washington walked out of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum victorious over USC in a 52-42 bout before 72,243 fans last Saturday night.

What remained was another wasted masterpiece by Williams, another squandered opportunity at a title run, another outing that left Trojans stunned and Williams weeping in the arms of his mother who was sitting in the stands. For that, Alex Grinch had to go.

In what has become a dismal and haunting reality. The story of the Trojan's season has been etched into the annals of ineptitude on defense. It's USC's head coach Lincoln Riley's refusal to rectify an irrefutably awful defense, permanently tattooing itself onto the hearts of USC fans.

This journey ended last Saturday night, playing out in front of a jubilant crowd that witnessed a potent 42-point performance by the Williams-led Trojans offense. Yet, in a devastating turn of events, despite this offensive brilliance, victory eluded them.

Why? The Grinch's defense, notoriously known for its vulnerabilities, allowing the Washington Huskies to score an insurmountable 52 points and amass a staggering 572 total yards, including an unfathomable 316 rushing yards against a team ranked 117th in rushing. The Huskies exploited Grinch's defensive scheme, taking advantage of misaligned players, shoving the Trojans to their third defeat and ultimately dashing their hopes of the Pac-12 championship with just two games remaining.

Grinch was relieved of his duties the following Sunday, but the damage was done. Riley finally prioritized the success of the Trojan's program over protecting his friendship, but it's been an excruciatingly delayed action.

From autumn brimming with aspirations of national glory, the Trojans have moved into the fall hoping to salvage their season if they can win their remaining two game.

It's the grim reality when you boast a top-five offense yet face an insurmountable obstacle due to an endlessly faltering defense. The players bore the weight of the defeat against Washington. Linebackers Shane Lee and Mason Cobb sitting dejectedly with their teammates, acknowledging that they weren't ready to step up. Calen Bullock echoed the confusion and frustration over the inability to maintain positioning and stop the big plays.

Ultimately, as the night ended, the emptiness of the Coliseum, with the Huskies jubilation signaling another team running the Trojans defense into the ground, the air was let out of the ballon. USC had the 111th-ranked defense nationally before this game and played as though they deserved the bottom spot.

Riley expressed frustration with the missed opportunity but was also responsible for the predicament. The blame falls on him for not acting sooner, as he refrained from ousting Grinch despite multiple failures. His loyalty to a friend caused cracks in the foundation of a program that he was brought in to build and nurture.

Grinch's removal finally arrived, but the damage had already been inflicted on the season. Riley bore the responsibility, yet his silence on whether the decision to replace Grinch should have been made long ago added to the disillusionment.

G Laase

Zacharia Branch breaks free for a first down.

Saturday night's game was a perfect chance for Grinch to redeem the defense, yet it only accentuated their failures. USC's defense let Washington running back Dillon Johnson rack up an astonishing 263 yards and four touchdowns. The words of the opposition, discussing how USC was slowing down and not pressing much, only added salt to the wound, clearly calling for a change in leadership.

Now the Trojans travel to Oregon on Friday to face the 8-1 and No. 6 Ducks at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on Chanel 11. The Trojans still have a lot to play for in their final two regular season games. They are 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Pac-12. If they upset Oregon and beat UCLA on November 18, the Trojans could find themselves in the Pac-12 Championship game in Las Vegas on December 2. They are currently in third place in the Pac-12 behind Washington, 6-0 and Oregon, 5-1.

Follow Eric on X @elambsquared and on Instagram @elamb5quared.

 

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