So what really happened in this game and what were some of the signficant occurrences? In my opinion, perhaps the most significant accomplishment, other than the victory itself, was the emergence of the SC offense. They put on a magnificent display of offensive football in the second quarter and there was no way Hawaii could stop them or recover from the onslaught. Through the air and on the ground, SC flexed its muscles and just clobbered the outmanned Hawaii football team. Finally, we were able to see what this potentially dominating USC Offense can look like when Big Mike Williams is not the only show in town. Today, Keary Colbert was one of 9 receivers to catch a pass and he lead all receivers with 5 receptions for 86 yards, including a beautiful 34 yard grab right over a defender. It brought a huge sigh of relief to me (and probably to many other viewers) to see that Matt Leinart can find other receivers besides BMW. The Trojans also made good use of their talented Tight End Dominique Byrd and of course they also included the phenomenal Mike Williams in their gameplan. The result of opening things up was a 28 point outburst in the second quarter, one which Hawaii could never counter.
The running game also surfaced in this game in a most impressive fashion. They gained 164 yards on 33 carries which averaged out to almost 5 yards per carry. There was the steady and often shifty running of Hershel Dennis. We also got to see Reggie Bush show off his moves and incredible football speed, scoring his first rushing touchdown of his young USC career. To make matters even more pleasant for the Trojan Faithful, both of the Bruise Brothers, Chauncy Washington and Lendale White got to show some stuff and both showed why they were both such highly recruited high school running backs. I can't remember ever seeing such a diverse group of young, talented running backs for USC all get a chance to contribute in one game. Now don't get me wrong! I am in no way annointing any of these youngsters as THE NEXT GREAT SC TAILBACK. No, I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is that no sooner does SC take one tailback out then they bring in another, seemingly equally talented kid who can do something very different yet also significant on the field. Whew, is it going to be interesting to watch these kids develop and it will be quite a battle in house to see if any of this group can ever make a real claim to the number one spot. The way each of them played today, I would not want to have to make any such bet. They are simply all very very good with worlds of potential.
Prior to this game, there was much rumbling among many folks about the Trojan Offensive line. There was some talk amongst those who frequent the various internet boards that the line was not living up to its preseason hype. Whereas the coaches would never address internet banter, they did publicly admit that it was time to get the running game going. To my way of thinking, the mission was accomplished. The oline which finally seems to be healthy and playing together as a unit, was doing a good job blocking and opening some holes. They also protected their young quarterback fairly well. I think the play of the Oline also shows that no matter how experienced a line is, that line must be healthy and practice together as a unit in order to be effective. For the first time all season, the unit has been healthy enough to work together for sustained periods and they also got a chance to face a more "normal" defense than they had seen in the first two games. Although it is obvious that the Auburn victory has lost some of its luster, one should never underestimate the strength of that Auburn defense, especially their front seven. I feel confident that as the season progresses, it will also become more and more obvious that the Auburn D is very much for real. Then we must also remember that the unit started to gel late in the game against the unorthodox BYU defense. Now, after watching them agains the Warriors, I honestly feel that the first string Oline is getting to the point we had all hoped they reached at the start of the season.
How about that quarterback, Matt Leinart? I am not sure what each person expected from him, but to my way of thinking it is pretty hard to criticize anything about a 15 for 21 performance for 220 yards with no interceptions. That is not just efficient, that is just plain GOOD. He may not have the quickest feet I have ever seen, but he continues to show some real fire in his eyes. In all my years of watching USC Football, I can't remember ever seeing an SC quarterback throw a better block than Matt Leinart threw to help spring Reggie Bush on a long cutback run. He simply brought it to the defender and took him on and put him down. I have to believe that will pay dividends as the season progresses. I don't think the other guys on the team will forget that he went to bat for one of them. It also has to be mentioned that he really picked up the zip on many of his passes. He was on the money most of the night and the only negative that comes to my mind is the one fumble that was caused on a sack. It was also nice to finally see Matt Cassell and Brandon Hance in a real game. Both got to throw some passes and I have to believe that if either is needed, this bit of playing time might help pay dividends down the road. Of course, I can't help but wonder if many fans were looking for John David Booty to make an enterance, but with the way Pete Carroll has repeatedly said that he won't be ready till after the bye week, I would have been more surprised, had Booty actually gotten the call. Having said that, it will not surprise me one iota if all the SC fans do get a look at John David during a series in the not too distant future. As the saying goes, only time will tell.
And how about the Defense? Well, when somebody looks at the final stats, one might easily get the wrong idea. After all, Hawaii gained a total of 462 yards, with 399 through the air. How can SC's Defense be any good at all if they give up all those yards and all that time of possession--namely almost 33 minutes!! I'll tell you how. Sometimes statistics don't mean squat and this is one of those examples. I admit that early on, I wondered if we could stop those guys. After all, they marched up and down the field, and held the ball. We weren't blitzing much and could not get the ball away from them. I think the biggest clue was that Hawaii could not punch the ball in when they had to do that to gain control. When the SC D had to step it up, they did just that. And from early in the second quarter, till midway through the fourth quarter, Hawaii was simply controlled. The down four stepped it up, they got pressure on Chang and the dbacks kept things in front of them. Whereas the Wild Bunch did not sack Chang that often, they began to wear down the Oline as the game progressed and they caused Chang to miss and throw some pics as the game progressed. The main subs, LaJuan Ramsey and Frostee Rucker once again made their presence known and Hawaii had no answers for them. As it turned out, many of Hawaii's yards and scores came against USC's second and third string defense when the outcome was no longer in doubt. About the time the score was 52-6, USC began to substitute even more liberally than usual and it was just a matter of what the final score would be.
Once agains the special teams did the job. The kick coverage was excellent, Kileen kicked the ball well and Tom Malone showed why it is not unreasonable to now consider him to be one of the nation's elite punters. The addition of the special teams coach has seemingly made a huge impact and having even more talent on special teams is paying huge dividends. For the first time in many years, fans don't have to hold their breath on every kickoff. The coverage is tight and although one can never assume anything, the likelihood of huge returns against USC is not as great as it seemed to be last year.
And how about the coaching? I wasn't sure what to think for the early part of the game. It seemed like Pete Carroll was letting the D play too softly, but that's why he is the coach and the rest of us are fans. He obviously had a plan and it worked like a charm. Sooner than later, SC was able to pressure Chang rushing only four and that let SC take control. The Trojans were also able to get very valuable minutes from true freshman Chris Barrett and he looks like he is just another Trojan Defender who can bring it. And any guesses how many fans were wondering what in the world Chow was doing by alternating those tailbacks on seemingly every other play? How could any of them get into a rhythm? Well, once again he was right. Whatever his thinking was, it worked. Each and every tailback made nice runs and plays and boy is that foursome potent. Actually the whole team looked pretty darned tough tonight. One can't help but wonder if this is the breakout game for USC this season. If it is, and if the Offense is here to stay, then there is not one team on the schedule that cannot be beaten. Of course, they can also beat SC, so I have no doubt the Pete and his staff will keep the players focuses.
What a great way to go into the very timely off week bye. There are several players that can use the break to get healthy and perhaps the depth chart will be clarified a bit more. The game was lots of fun to watch, but those of us who could not see it in person were subjected to some "interesting events" on television. First , we lost the video for about 6 minutes or so and we had the privilege of listening to that "great SC fan, also known as Kellen Winslow" on Fox Central. And then for the game itself, we were treated to the expertise of the ex-Bruin Homer, Tom Ramsey. Well, it beats not seeing the game at all, but can any fan really say that he would mind it if a Bruin never ever did another SC game? Fortunately, the thorough win by the Trojans made all ok in the end!!