The USC Trojans defeated the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Saturday by a score of 61-32 in front of 73, 654 fans at the Coliseum. It was a dominant win for the Trojans as they exploded in the 2nd and 3rd quarters to build a large lead and cruise to victory while playing many reserves late in the game. Among the Trojan stars on the day were freshmen running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White, who each had two touchdowns, as well as defensive backs Ronald Nunn and Jason Leach who each returned a turnover for a score. USC will have a bye week next Saturday and will return to action in two weeks with a road game against Cal.
Running Over the Rainbows
The Trojans came into the game looking to establish the run as one of their top priorities. There is plenty of young talent in the backfield but thus far in the season the USC running attack had been good only in spurts and had yet to show the flashes of brilliance that we know is there. Against Hawaii, however, we finally saw what all the excitement is about. The old man of the group, sophomore Hershel Dennis, was the first to break a nice run as he ran behind good blocks from Jacob Rogers and Norm Katnik on a 23 yard dash early in the second quarter. Later on that same drive we got the initial glimpse of the explosive ability of Reggie Bush as the true freshman went down the left sideline with a burst of speed and didn't stop until he had reached the end zone 23 yards later. It was the kind of run that brought cheers and a momentary gasp from the Trojan crowd as they watched the speedy Bush cruise down the field. Reggie has an extra gear that most running backs simply don't have and this was the first time we really saw it in a game even though he has been putting those types of runs together on the practice field on a regular basis. This is no fluke, Trojan fans, Reggie Bush is the real deal. He later caught a screen pass and began to reverse his field while looking for an opening and he got it thanks in large part to a crushing block from quarterback Matt Leinart. Bush provided another highlight film run in the 3rd quarter when he took a pitch from Leinart going left but he bobbled the ball before it bounced right back into his arms and he sprinted for 27 yards and a touchdown. To balance out the speed of Bush the Trojans then gave Hawaii a large dose of LenDale White and he responded with some hard running. White had a short touchdown run which came courtesy of a good field position after an interception by Frostee Rucker and then he followed that in the fourth quarter with a powerful 20 yard touchdown that saw him breaking tackles and running with aggression. The third freshman, Chauncey Washington, left the game with a banged up ankle but not before he had a long run called back due to a penalty. It's an incredibly balanced and talented group of runners that "Tailback U" can throw at an opponent these days. Dennis, Bush and White each gained over 50 yards in the game while offering varying styles. There is the crafty running of Dennis, the explosiveness of Bush, the power of White and a little bit of all three in Washington. The best part of it is that three of them are freshmen and one is only a sophomore so there is a long way to go in their development and the amount of thrills they should be providing Trojan fans in the years to come.
Leinart Lays Wood
Matt Leinart had a solid day at quarterback (15-21, 220 yards, 2 TD's) but his most memorable play came when he laid a solid block on a Hawaii defender who was chasing Reggie Bush. The block put the man on his back and the SC sideline went into a frenzy.
Big return for Nunn
Ronald Nunn took advantage of a questionable call by the officials when picked up a fumble and returned it 38 yards for the score. It may or may not have been a catch in the first place but Nunn said the USC players are taught to pick the ball up and run no matter what.
Frostee the Pickman
Frostee Rucker made a spectacular play deep in Hawaii territory when he got his hands up on a pass attempt from Timmy Chang and was able to tip the ball to himself for the interception.
Jason Leach added another big turnover when he read a pass play from Chang and stepped in front for an interception which he returned for a score.
Key to the Game— Too Much Talent
The Hawaii Rainbows were able to stay in the game for a short while but a 2nd quarter explosion by the Trojans showed that USC just had too much talent on this day for their opponents from the islands. At the end of the first quarter the score was 3-3 and USC was having trouble putting pressure on the accurate Timmy Chang. Once the Trojans got untracked, however, it didn't take long to set things right. A key stop for the USC defense came when Hawaii had a first down inside the five yard line early in the 2nd quarter but came away with only a field goal to make it 10-6. The Trojans quickly moved down the field to score on a Reggie Bush touchdown and then on the next drive it was the passing combination of Matt Leinart to Keary Colbert for another score. Before the first half ended the Trojans added another score on a Leinart to Mike Williams touchdown pass and what was once a close game turned into a 31-6 score when the teams went to the locker room. It was a sudden display of the type of firepower that we know this offense is capable of as USC put together six plays of more than 23 yards in the 2nd quarter alone. As usual the Trojans then came out after halftime with a determined style and scored 21-0 unanswered points before calling off the dogs and inserting the reserves into the game.
Notes from the Sidelines
Keary Colbert provided the catch of the year with his acrobatic grab in the 2nd quarter and Matt Leinart rewarded him by coming right back his way with a 32 yard touchdown throw on the next play. Colbert has made a habit of impressive catches which showcase his incredibly strong hands….At the other wideout spot, Mike Williams provided his weekly reminder of why he is such a force on his run after catch on the touchdown pass from Leinart right before halftime. Williams bounced off a tackle attempt from the Hawaii defender and rolled into the end zone….Kenechi Udeze provided the first sack for the Trojans in the 3rd quarter after good pressure from Shaun Cody forced Chang right into the waiting arms of Udeze….The Trojans have had an interception in 13 straight games…..Matt Grootegoed caused an early fumble which was recovered by the Rainbows…..Travis Tofi had a sack when he tackled Chang in the end zone in the 4th quarter. Tofi came to USC last year as a raw prospect from Samoa and has made good progress in large part due to his quickness off the ball…..Will Poole got the start at corner in place of the injured Kevin Arbet and was physical (except when he got a stiff arm from the large Rainbow fullback) and Will also had a good impact on special teams….Tom Malone had another solid day punting (3 punts for a 54 yard average) and Ryan Killeen had a 24 yard field goal to open the scoring…..Dominique Byrd is becoming more of a weapon within the offense and he's hard to bring down these days…..David Kirtman had a key 4th down reception from the fullback spot which led to the first Bush touchdown on the following play.. ..
It was the type of game that brought back memories of Trojan blowouts of the past. There used to be a time when USC could count on one or two of these games per year, a chance to rack up 50 points or so and get an opportunity to watch some of the reserves see the field. It had been a long time since the Trojans put up 61 points, to be exact it was the last time we faced Hawaii in 1999 when USC put up 62 against brand new coach June Jones, but the circumstances are much different now for both teams. The Rainbows have made great strides under Jones and are now considered one of the favorites for the WAC title. They also are claiming a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Timmy Chang but Trojan fans have a very recent memory of what a Heisman quarterback looks like and that wasn't it on Saturday. Part of the reason for the less than stellar performance by Chang was the improved play of the entire Trojan team. The 1999 game saw USC put up a lot of points as they were led by one of the best performances of Carson Palmer's career to that point but even with the big numbers that we put up that day it was still a case of hoping we were that good instead of knowing that we were. With the game we saw yesterday there is no doubt that this USC is every bit as good as the final score indicated and there is no reason to think that we won't see that type of domination again in the future. One of the thrills of watching a Trojan team in the 70's was knowing that not only were the players on the field good but that the players coming up behind them were pretty good as well. In many cases, it was just a matter of the younger player getting a chance to shine. How many schools can say a future Heisman winning tailback had to pay his dues at fullback for two years because the tailback ahead of him was also a Heisman winner? We're getting back to that point at USC with all the talent that has been assembled by Pete Carroll and staff. Consider the current tailback spot. It can be argued that any one of the current tailbacks could eventually become the starter and do a pretty good job in the role. As it is, the biggest challenge for the USC coaches will be to find a way to meld this impressive collection of talent in a way that can best benefit the Trojan offense. Can you imagine being an opposing defensive coordinator trying to plan for the that group while at the same time trying to figure out what to do with Mike Williams and Keary Colbert? The prospects are downright scary. There was some hope for opposing teams while the Trojans tried to replace Carson Palmer at quarterback but Matt Leinart took a major step forward in establishing himself in the eyes of his teammates with his linebacker-type hit on the Rainbow defender. Matt also had a good day throwing the ball and as his confidence continues to improve the results should only improve on the field as well. Yes, these are heady times these days for Trojan football fans because we know that this is real. It has been over 20 years since USC has put together an 11-game win streak and the feeling is starting to become very familiar, much to the delight of anyone wearing Cardinal and Gold.