We now know Ed Orgeron can take a team coming off a wildly emotional victory and looking ahead to an eagerly-anticipated rivalry game and coax it to maintain its focus in the frozen confines of a hostile environment.
Check off another box on his ever-growing résumé.
It's becoming abundantly clear at this point that Orgeron’s biggest advantage in The Great USC Coaching Search is that he's the one with the least unknowns.
Think about it. He has gone 6-1 featuring the old-fashion, power running style Trojans fans and boosters prefer. He has upgraded and improved an already excellent defense. The special teams have become overpowering and the overall mistakes cut to a minimum. He is widely acknowledged as one of the country’s premier recruiters. And oh yeah, the kids absolutely love playing for him.
Every other candidate out there would arrive with some unknowns packed into his suitcase.
Kevin Sumlin? Have you seen the way his Texas A&M defenses regularly are shredded? And are you really ready to see USC come out in a spread offense?
Jack Del Rio? He never has coached in college, and we know nothing about his ability to recruit.
Lovie Smith? See Del Rio comments above.
This is not to say that any of these gentlemen -- or any other candidates -- couldn’t do the job. It just seems silly to take a chance when the guy currently pulling all the correct cardinal and gold strings is right there, practically panting for the opportunity.
The 47-29 victory in chilly Colorado did nothing to slow down the surging Orgeron momentum. Here are just some of his latest accomplishments to consider:
• He has discovered a potential superstar at tailback in Javorius “Buck” Allen. This kid is looking more and more like a John McKay-John Robinson type tailback. He ran for 145 yards and three TDs against the Buffaloes and had a 66-yarder called back. He now has scored three touchdowns in three of the past four games. This Buck is clearly running amok.
• Quarterback Cody Kessler, who appeared so tentative under former coach Lane Kiffin, is obviously a different player under Orgeron, who has opened the playbook for him and given him a large jolt of confidence. The result is Kessler seems much more under control, making almost all the right decisions. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re not limited to throwing bubble screens.
• Orgeron has shown remarkable patience and restraint. When Allen fumbled, allowing Colorado to score its first touchdown of the game, the coach didn’t banish him to the bench for the rest of the evening. He put him right back in, and “Buck” immediately rewarded him with a couple of big runs.
• He has allowed the backups to actually play, infusing the whole roster with more enthusiasm. Kiffin was always too conservative to flood the field with reserves, but Orgeron does it regularly, even if, for awhile, it seemed he might have tried it too early on Saturday. Max Wittek came in and played all of the fourth quarter at quarterback. Never would have happened under the other guy.
• He has re-introduced the tight ends into the passing game. Seemingly forgotten for so long, Xavier Grimble caught six passes for 46 yards and Randall Telfer grabbed a 10-yard scoring pass against Colorado. Just one more thing UCLA will have to think about this Saturday.
The lingering opinion, especially from so many of those so-called experts from around the country, is that Orgeron’s chances still depend almost entirely on how he does against the crosstown Bruins.
But should that really be the case anymore? After all he has done to resuscitate this team and this program, should this coach’s fate rest entirely on what transpires at the Coliseum on Saturday?
Logically, you wouldn’t think so. But it really doesn’t matter what the rest of us think.
It only matters what Pat Haden thinks.
Here’s hoping that, when all is said and written, the athletic director realizes that the best route for USC to take is the one with the least unknowns.