USC still looks like a second-tier error after a dud-filled mistake against Iowa

SAN DIEGO – USC coach Clay Helton left the field in San Diego on Friday night and then started running as he approached the tunnel.

Helton saw the small group of Trojans fans staying at the SDCCU Stadium booth and knew what was to come: more boos headed to the front coach.

No. 19 Iowa had just dismantled No. 22 USC 49-24 in the Holiday Bowl, giving another black eye to the program, after athletic director Mike Bohn announced that Helton would return next season.

WOLF: USC, Bohn should answer Helton’s question sooner rather than later

“They played better than us,” Helton said of the loss. “So simple.”

Elton was right. Iowa was worth the win and it was easy to see why. USC repeated the same mistakes that caused this year’s games. The defense could not stop Iowa, the offense never ran the ball and the teams committed a crucial mistake.

Not that anything discouraged Helton after the game.

“We believe in leagues here,” he said. “Just as the fan base can be frustrated, the coaching staff and players are frustrated … (but) we will be a very good team next year.”

Former American skyscraper Reggie Bush was more intense in his sum:

“At the end of the day, American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American police And although Helton returns next season, some assistants they are not expected to be so lucky.

Helton did not want to deal with post-game staff changes, but defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and special teams coach John Baxter are two assistants who may no longer be on staff next season. No one looked great on Friday.

Iowa scored 49 points in USC training – even Middle Tennessee held the Hawkeyes to 48 – with just 328 yards. But the Hawkeyes converted 8 of 13 third-down attempts and a fourth. Quarterback Nate Stanley completed 18 of 27 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Tyler Goodson and Tyrone Tracy Jr. receivers and Ihmir Smith-Marsette each ran to score.

USC special teams lost one goal in the game – down 42-24 with 5:12 remaining – and allowed Smith-Marsette to return a 98-yard kickoff for a touchdown in the second quarter, just after the Trojans tied the game at 14 -14. Iowa never led USC by fewer than four points after that.

American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American American AMERICAN But even before being injured, run game was nonexistent (the Trojans finished with 18 carries for 22 meters). At one point, they threw 36 passes while tailbacks ran only times.

MORE: Early signing deadline last loss for Helton

This balanced attack was fine against Arizona, Colorado, Arizona, State, California and UCLA. But Iowa is a good team, dominating the line against the Trojans and consistently highlighting USC’s defense with a more disciplined game: all things that seemed to hurt that team in the last two seasons.

“The bright days are ahead,” said one stranger Helton.

Who else believes it? The loss to Iowa comes on the heels of a devastating early signing period that saw USC’s Pac-12 last place in recruiting and 78th overall. Bohn was on the sidelines Friday night, but did not tweet nearly a month after he was criticized by social media for his controversial decision to retain Helton.

USC has a new team and will return to Slovis in 2020. But that won’t matter if the Trojans’ losses every week in 2019 remain the following season. As long as Helton is in charge, fans will remain skeptical.

And things are unlikely to improve any time soon. USC opens next season against Alabama. Perhaps the “light days” that Helton talked about were for the next season 2, against New Mexico.

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