As I sit here and write this article from the Embassy Suites in Montgomery Alabama, it is somewhat difficult trying to decide what to include. However, there are so many positives, that I am sure going to give it the old college try. For once, and I can't remember the last time I felt this way, USC's Special were just that--they were in fact special. The kicking game, specically the field goals were perfect. The punting game was adequate and on a few occasions it was terrific. The coverage on kickoffs and punts was up to snuff and special kudos to Will Poole, a guy I had the privilege of speaking with personally this morning at the hotel, for making one of the better open field tackles on special teams that I can recall seeing in quite some time. Our kickoffs were also adequate with Ryan Killeen getting a couple very deep. Overall, what has been an achilles heel for SC over the past several years turned around as much as I could have hoped to see.
The Southern California offense was efficient and relatively mistake free at worst and much better than I had personally hoped to see at best. Matt Leinart did not throw a pick, he was usually on target and he helped the Trojans keep the Tigers completely off balance at crucial times of the game. As my most knowledgeable friend and sidekick Howard Benioff pointed out to me during the game, Chow's call for the misdirection pass to Dominique Byrd to start the second half was a brilliant strategic call. It caught the Defense completely off guard and it set up a crucial score to once again show that SC was about to own the second half, much the same way the Trojans have seemingly owned the second half since early last year. Following the pass to Byrd, SC went long again and then Auburn could no longer figure that we would stay conservative.
When the season was about to start, there was almost trepidation when thinking about the depth on the Oline. And then, Kaboom. Lenny went down and Jacob Rogers needed a spell. So What happened? No huge dropoff at all occurred, that's what. Without any fanfare, Big John Drake filled in admirably at Left Tackle and Travis, "I haven't yet played meaningful minutes", Watkins came in and did a superb job. I might look at this differently than most SC honks, but in my opinion, this is crucial. We now are getting minutes from two guys who were in no way counted on heavily only a short time ago. If the Trojans can continue to get this kind of inspired play from the Oline and if they can count on some quality depth, good things Will Happen!
And what about the entirely new backfield? Well what about it? They were up to the challenge and then some. Hershel Dennis made a statement and it simply is not going to be easy for anyone to displace this guy. He ran fast, hard and in a determined fashion. His spin moves are incredible and this guy is strong. To keep the Auburn D off balance, then Reggie Bush came in and with his speed and juke moves, showed something completely different yet. And the final frosting put on this cake came late in the game, when the other two youngsters, Lendale White and Chauncey Washington simply bulled over the Tigers and ran right through them. From high up in the nosebleed section, we could see the Auburn Tigers D sucking gas and pulling at their pants. Once again, Coach Carlisle's Warriors won the battle and this is just another demonstration of his incredible accomplishments.
I don't think it would be fair not to give special commendation to Matt Leinart. He made few mistakes, took only one sack and was a very respectable 17 for 30 with 192 yards. Just as impressive is the fact that he threw exactly ZERO PICKS. Folks, this kid has all the makings of a gamer. He simply did a better job than I personally had thought he would and it will be interesting to see just how good he becomes as the season progresses. It did not hurt him one bit that Mike BMW Williams showed no signs whatsoever of any old Sophomore Jinx. He picked up where the Iowa Hawkeyes remember him leaving off. In other words, there still "ain't nobody nowhere" who can cover this guy. It was obvious from the stands that the Tigers simply had no clue how to cover all of SC's receivers. They simply could not do it. Sounds conceeded, but it is simply the truth. And folks, please remember this. The Auburn Tigers have a defense that will end their season as fine as any that SC is likely to see this year prior to our bowl game.
Now to get to the fabulous USC Defense. What can anyone say? They are awesome at times. Their speed and determination and depth makes for hard times for the opposition. When BKU went down, Frostee Rucker came in and there was little if any dropoff noted. Then, Lawrence Jackson saw the field and he did well. But my personal attention was focues on the newest budding superstar of this unit. To my eye. LaJuan Ramsey is the man. He has incredible quickness and he is one guy, perhaps the only guy who can consistently play inside and/or outside. I could not believe it, but this guy got it done from the DT position and then fromthe DE position. He was not quite as highly touted prior to this game, but after they watch the films, I bet he gets his due. I have to say that it was great for my heart to see a seemingly healthy Shaun Cody pick up that poor little old Auburn QB and smash him right into the ground like he was a toy. That is the SC (Shaun Cody) that we all remember and anxiously hoped would come back. All told, this unit was ferocious. I was also well pleased and somewhat surprised to see how fine a job Lofa Tatupu did. This is a guy who can bring and really play some football. I am anxiously awaiting the next game to see if this D remains this focused on a permanent basis.
As I sit here and finish this fine article I can't help but personally think of what a wonderful weekend this has been. As we got on the elevator back in the hotel tonight, my buddy and I saw a guy who was literally the largest human being I have seen in sometime. I knew he looked familiar and he should have. It was Tony Boselli and he was all smiles. He told us that it is wonderful to see how strong SC looks again. It was also fun seeing and talking to Al Cowling, a member of the original Wild Bunch who was also here at the hotel tonight. But most of all, it was so much fun taking the ride back from Auburn to Montgomery after having seen a superb all around performace by the University of Southern California Trojan Football Team. At the beginning of the season I asked if SC Football is really back. I know it is early, but when a team comes into Auburn's House and shuts them down and shuts them out, it does not get much more impressive than that. It is still a long season and anythng can and might happen. But for now, I will say. With this D and with a deeper and more talented offensive line, the odds are good that SC is indeed back. And before somebody lambasts me for not mentioning it, I want to congratulate the Coaching Staff for calling as fine a game as I can remember. The Defensive Calls were outstanding and Norm Chow mixed it up enough to leave the Auburn Faithful just praying that we are in fact that good, because they could not believe what they saw.