Offensively, Quarterback Sean Salisbury, who lacks mobility and repeatedly doesn't get his feet set for passing, is reeling. "I'm a very average quarterback right now," he says. "I'd rate myself a C minus." After a struggling first half against Notre Dame, in which he completed five of 10 passes for only 34 yards and threw one interception, Salisbury was benched. His replacement, lefthander Tim Green, a whiz-bang J.C. transfer from El Camino College, looked no better. Green read blitzes poorly or not at all, which caused him to throw two interceptions. Tollner, however, hinted that Green might be his quarterback of the future.
Faust understands Tollner's quarterback dilemma. Following the Miami loss, he replaced the veteran but uptight Blair Kiel with freshman Steve Beuerlein, and Beuerlein has completed 43 of 79 passes for 590 yards and three TDs, with only one interception. He also has a 4-0 record. "Ted's going through the same thing I went through," says Faust.
Tollner, who established himself as an offensive genius while an assistant at San Diego State and BYU, clearly has the credentials to be a winner at a school with a big-time program like USC's. One of his central problems is his staff. Or, more precisely, who isn't on it—notably Defensive Line Coach Marv Goux and Offensive Line Coach Hudson Houck. Former Coach John Robinson took both of them with him when he went to the L.A. Rams in February. Both Houck and Goux would make anybody's Hall of Fame for assistants. Houck talked the language of the big guys, got down in the dirt with them and was a key reason that the Trojans produced 19 All-America offensive linemen in 19 years. Goux, a notable teacher himself, was in charge of intensity, emotion and discipline. Says Tight End Fred Cornwell, "Coach Goux was the man. No one ever questioned him, ever." Adds Guard Mike Lamb, "He made Patton look like a piker. He's the kind of guy who would dive on a hand grenade."
Says Tollner of Goux, "When you start looking for excuses as to why you can't play hard, you're in trouble. But he was a legend. By the other token, he's not here anymore. The world goes on."
Another problem: Robinson didn't leave any Charles Whites or Marcus Aliens for Tollner to build an offense around at old Tailback U. Last season, Southern Cal didn't have a 1,000-yard runner for the first time since 1971. This year, three players—Fred Crutcher, Michael Harper and Todd Spencer—are sharing the position. Crutcher leads USC with 482 yards rushing.
As for the Irish, they should refrain from any temptation to indulge in smugness. Although the Notre Dame defense played well against USC, especially Safety Joe Johnson, who had an interception and was ornery beyond the call, the defense lacks speed. Also, as Miami proved, it's vulnerable to a sharp passing attack. The offense is rudimentary, and if Pinkett is stopped, Irish eyes won't be smiling, because Beuerlein isn't ready to handle complex reads and throwing patterns.
At least one Notre Dame man, sobered by those early-season reversals, has kept these Irish in perfect perspective. "All we want to have," says John Heisler, the school's associate sports information director, "is a team that our press guide can be proud of."
At USC, the goal is not quite that lofty. Not for now, anyway. Says Tollner, "We need to restore our dignity."