The victory last week had a bunch of people talking about an array of things that they really had no business talking about. Things like a national championship, things like an undefeated season. Don't get me wrong, it's ok to talk about those things, especially with the dynasty that it looks like Pete Carroll is in the early stages of building. However, it's not ok to curse and boo your teams offense when it shows some weaknesses that were bound to surface sooner or later. Let me qualify this by saying that the USC offense was faced with an angry BYU defense that played as if a great insult had been dealt to them but every team must find its own identity early in the season and it doesn't matter what happened the year before or who is back because it takes a couple games to figure out who you are. If you don't believe me all you have to do is reflect back to last years team and the early season struggles. Hell, I'm 26 years old and I still don't know who I am.
Since this week there are still no grades for this USC team we'll take a look at a few of the problem areas which played out on Saturday and discuss them one by one.
1) Quarterback – Matt Leinart played pretty well (19-34, 235 yards, 3 td's, 3 picks). There were a few things I did not like and a few things I really did like about his game. With his body language, both good and bad, Leinart sometimes reminds me of Mike Van Raaphorst on the field because they are just a little too calm. However, after he threw the game winning touchdown pass to Mike Williams he sprinted down the field and congratulated every one of his teammates. I like seeing a little fire in his belly. He also picked up and dropped Tommy Malone after his miraculous punt and so that was cool to see him show some enthusiasm.
If you remember back to last spring none of these quarterbacks really distinguished themselves in competition and Leinart didn't blow anybody out in fall camp either. USC is trying to get by with a pretty good quarterback until they can get John David Booty ready as the anointed starter. That's just the reality of the situation. Now if Leinart steps up and becomes the guy in the process so be it and congratulations to him. Trojan fans should not expect this guy to come out and be Carson Palmer. There is only one Carson Palmer and now be plays for the Bengals. Instead, you people are going to have to rely on your team to win with defense and sheer athleticism and that's ok so relax and have fun at the game. Don't get too restless if your quarterback can't perform that well in spots, not a big deal.
2) Offensive line – This is the strength of the team, we all know that so take it easy. The guys have been practicing together now, finally healthy, for about a week and a half and it shows. However, some of you, and myself, are concerned about the lack of a running game. Not that it matters but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt in this BYU game. Why? Because that was just a weird scheme to block against. It becomes increasingly difficult to know your assignment and block the right guy when there are five darting, roving, looping and blitzing safeties in the game.
It would be one thing if the Trojans faced that unorthodox 3-3-5 style of defense every week but they don't. They really had only three days to prepare for a team they would only see once this year. Give Jacob Rogers, Lenny Vandermade, Norm Katnik and the rest of the guys a little credit for protecting Leinart fairly well while trying to decipher what was a cruel gimmick defense to throw at a team with a brand new quarterback. If this defense was prevalent there would be 300 yard rushing games all over the place. You just don't prepare for it because nobody runs it. It is a gimmick like Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" album, the moon hoax, the Yeti and perhaps the Loch Ness monster. I'm not sure but the Yeti and the Loch Ness monster might be real. Other gimmicks could include Geraldo Rivera opening up Al Capone's vault, the XFL (except for Tommy Maddox and He Hate Me) and some may disagree but I think former Disney child star Lizzie McGuire, also known as Hillary Duff, she may be a gimmick as well. That is my list of gimmicks and among them, if you remember, was the BYU defense. If we can't run the ball next week then we have some serious problems but let's cross that bridge when we get to it.
3) Missed field goal – I don't care about the missed field goal, I'm not worried about the missed field goal. In my mind, the missed field goal did not happen.
4) The young running backs – Don't worry about the young running backs. They hit the holes hard and ran with aggression. I believe that once again it just goes back to that unorthodox defensive scheme run by Gary Crowton's Cougars. I expect Reggie Bush to start ripping off big gains in the future and for Hershel Dennis to become more of a respected force around the Pac-10 and the West Coast. Also, the return of Brandon Hancock should help considerably.
Some of you may ask why I no longer grade the team. To this I would say the answer could be any one of the following statements. First of all, I never really had the expertise to grade the team in the first place. I just thought it would be a fun idea. I also live in fear of Norm Chow and Pete Carroll and their public ridicule. In the end a team that has won 10 straight ballgames and 6 of the last 7 by over 21 points doesn't deserve to be critiqued by a reclusive degenerate living only blocks from skid row.
Now comes Hawaii, wow, another tough preseason opponent for the Trojans…I guess. Believe me, I don't care who comes in to town, even if his first name is Timmy, which for some reason is generally a pretty winning name for a quarterback, the USC defense is one of the best I've ever seen. It's almost fun to watch them go out and play, which is kind of against the way its supposed to be in football. This is the first defense I've really watched play with pleasure. The way they run to the ball, the way they tackle, they are such sure tacklers. The USC defense will eat Hawaii alive, don't worry about it. Everyone can look forward to my display of Hawaiian music on the radio all week so Fight On Trojan fans and we'll catch you next week.
Petros Papadakis can be heard each morning on KMPC radio (1540am) from 9-10. He is also the sideline radio reporter and pre-game host for Trojan football broadcasts on KMPC. Petros is a football analyst with Fox Sports Net on the Southern California Sports Report and he also serves as a regular contributor for "The Best Damn Sports Show Period". This fall he will begin his 2nd season as the sideline reporter for the High School Game of the Week on Fox Sports Net covering the top HS games in Southern California. He will also be providing this column after each Trojan game and a regular monthly article in the WeAreSC magazine.