LOS ANGELES – When Arkansas agreed to visit Southern Cal, it wasn't supposed to be like this. The Trojans were hanging out in the middle of the standings in the Pacific-10 Conference and the Los Angeles Coliseum was way too big. If the visiting team didn't fill it, then the Trojans played before less than 40,000.
My how things have changed. If you were Arkansas, 70-17 losers to SC on Saturday night, you saw it up close and personal starting with Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Dwayne Jarrett. That doesn't even get to the scorpions SC trots out on defense.
The Trojans are so good – NFL-like good -- that they treat the guests great. I saw it. As a member of the visiting press, often the home support personnel act like you don't exist, not like they did outside and inside the LA Coliseum. They were all so nice it was creepy.
It was kinda like they knew you were the victim and knew you knew it. I wonder if the Christians felt the same way as they were led into THE Coliseum centuries ago in Rome to face the lions. You knew the outcome in that battle, too.
I was in the wrong lane coming into the fairgrounds that surround the Coliseum. Who knew I'd need to turn right and not left. When it hit me that we needed to turn across five lanes of traffic, I thought, "Oh, crap. This is LA and I'll never make it." The policeman didn't hear me, but he noticed my parking pass. He stopped the other five lanes and let me turn across all of that traffic, smiling all the time.
Then, inside the fairgrounds, I had no idea where a "V1" parking pass put me. Several more officers kept waving me on. "Anywhere is fine," they'd say. Finally, we just parked anywhere, which was right in front of the press elevator. The lady police officer there said, "Yeah, that'll be fine. That's a pretty good pass."
Sporting my Hawgs Illustrated pull over, I slung my laptop bag over my shoulder and began to wade through the throng of SC fans tailgating outside the stadium. This is the point that the taunting usually begins in Southeastern Conference stadiums. "Tiger bait, Tiger Bait!" they yell at LSU. At Florida, it's "Gator Bait, Gator Bait." This week at Alabama, they'll just scream "Roll Tide" and shake rolls of toilet paper and Tide boxes.
The SC fans don't taunt anyone. And, they sure didn't taunt a team coming off a loss to Vanderbilt. Why would they? They know they've been No. 1 for 23 straight weeks and know you know it, too. They did boo when the Hogs came onto the field just before the kickoff, but they didn't sound like they meant it.
The lions … I mean the Trojans … gobbled up the Hogs in quick fashion. By the 9:06 mark of the second quarter Matt Leinart had already cut up the Arkansas defense for TD drives (if that's what you want to call them) of three plays, one play, two plays and two plays for a 28-7 lead.
You've heard of asking your defense to get you a few three and outs. It would have been nice if the Hogs could have pushed SC into more three-and-out TD drives. As it was, SC had it just 1:32 in the first quarter.
There were 10 points for the 6,000 or so Arkansas faithful to cheer in the first half. But the loudest noise made by the visiting fans came when the defense held tailback Reggie Bush to back-to-back gains of just 3 yards at the 12-minute mark of the second quarter. Perhaps they were cheering the SC coach Pete Carroll's charity for calling off-tackle runs in the first place.
The UA defense did finally rise up on that SC possession. The Hogs slowed the onslaught. Well, not the scoring, just the time it took. The Trojans needed 16 plays and over seven minutes to go 85 yards for a TD. And, even the TD was questioned by the replay official, twice. The first was called an incomplete pass, the second a TD.
By the time Leinart moved the Trojans 80 yards in five plays to make it 42-10 with 2:21 left in the half, it was time to hunt for a positive somewhere on the day.
Best I could do was Vanderbilt's victory over Ole Miss. Vandy might turn out to be decent. I'll leave you with that and a promise that Alabama won't be as good as Southern Cal.
There's one more promise. If Matt Leinart isn't atop my Heisman Trophy ballot, it will be Reggie Bush.
Commentary: SC is NFL-like
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