Aloha in Hawaiian means hello and goodbye, at least that's what some cheesy tour guide told me and my family when we were in Hawaii many years ago. It appears that USC said hello very briefly to Hawaii and then gave a very long Aloooooooha goodbye to the Rainbows on Saturday. If Pete Carroll had an ego he would've scored 100 points not only against the beleagured Hawaii Warriors but also the UCLA Bruins last year, the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Orange Bowl and lest we forget the Oregon game last year. That's not what Pete Carroll is about, however, because he's not a guy with a huge ego. He's a guy that promotes great competition in practice and demands that attitude from his entire football team. He'd be sick about missing an opportunity to get his reserves and subs in the game. We're used to emptying out stadiums in Alabama, Miami and the great Northwest but that was the first time I've ever seen the Coliseum empty at the end of a game. I've seen it empty at the beginning of the game when I was playing but not at the end. It was a lot of fun Saturday, even if it got a little old.
Let me run some interesting stats by you:
* 11 straight victories
* 8 straight victories by 17 points or more
* 13 straight games with at least one interception by the defense
* 16 straight games without an opposing 100 yard rusher
These are dynasty-type statistics and even though I'm not a stat guy these numbers speak for themselves. My last math class was Algebra 2 MCR my senior year in high school and I received a D grade from Mr. Furuya, my very frustrated teacher. For those of you who don't remember, MCR stands for minimum college requirement. I'm only recalling this because my mother framed my diploma this morning. When I see 2003 listed as my year of graduation, I think back and remember what it was like to enter college in 1995. (I waited two years for the diploma to arrive when I finally realized I was .6 units short from graduating, thank God for the Jazz Appreciation class at Harbor Community College....Fight On).
The USC Trojans came into the pre-season with excitement and a subdued hesitance in asking questions about an inexperienced backfield and a banged up offensive line. These questions had yet to be answered as we headed into the Hawaii game and though the Warriors were not at the physical level of a Pac-10 school it was encouraging to see those areas improving for the Trojans.
#1 was the run game. USC identified a run game on Saturday. Facing a very basic 4-3 overstacked defense, the Trojans had no problem finding the right guys to block, blocking them and opening up run lanes for the young, inexperienced tailbacks. Even though the young guys are fun to watch, don't be talking about the impeachment of Hershel Dennis as your starter. He's by far the best back and most experienced and we will see him carry the team more and more as the weeks pass. He had over 50 yards and picked the right holes. Hershel needs a couple long runs for confidence, after that look out.
LenDale White is my favorite back. I like the way he looks when he turns upfield. He runs with a purpose, he has a nice round head and he's a good kid to be around. Two touchdowns for LenDale only makes things sweeter for the SC offense. This brings me to Reggie Bush, the man who has more cuts than Edward Scissorhands (almost as great of a film as Point Break). He sometimes has too many cuts but there is no denying his electrifying ability to run the football. I predicted he would have a breakout performance in one of these non-conference games and he did. With his ability to accelerate and run gracefully, Bush is a perfect young change-up back for a ball control offense. Chauncey Washington is a nice mix between the other two youngsters. It will be necessary for all three of these running backs to be running well behind Hershel and into the future at USC. This is an exciting group and as they go on their names will become reconizable throughout the City of Los Angeles and beyond.
As the offensive line gains health things will be more and more OK. Also, Matt Leinart seems to be becoming more and more of a vocal and active teammate and leader on the sideline. He misses throws from time to time but, hey, who doesn't? I would be remiss to not mention his block on the Hawaii defender. It's one thing to have a block like that against an unsuspecting defender but with the type of hit Matt put on him that guy is going to hear it from his teammates whenever they watch the film.
In regards to the defense, I was only 8 years old in 1985 but I remember the Chicago Bears defense of that year. Now, I'm not drawing any comparison other than the fact that their crowd used to get more excited when their defense was on the field. This is not usually the way it is when watching a football game but it's sort of the way people are starting to feel about this USC defense. With emerging playmakers like Jason Leach, Marcell Allmond, Ronald Nunn and Will Poole to go along with bonafide physical forces like Omar Nazel, Lofa Tatupu and Matt Grootegoed, the Trojan defense is the best show in town. Shaun Cody also seems to be getting his legs back under him which is just another good sign for the Trojans. The bench also looked strong as Frostee Rucker, Mike Ross and stork-like Dallas Sartz make an imposing future for Trojan opponents. I hate to kiss ass more than I already do, which is a lot (I break records with Chapstick purchases), but this year I have to say this defense seems faster than ever, more well coached than ever and more exciting than ever, even more so than last year.
The bye week is now upon the Trojans. Time for some young guys to get some work and some seemingly old bodies to get some rest. Pete Carroll's squad is exactly where they want to be heading into the Pac-10 season. They are pretty healthy, very confident, undefeated, they've got a starting quarterback in place, more confidence at running back and a defense that has the whole country tripping. So far, so good.
Now some of you may be wondering what I will be doing for the bye week. The answer to that question is simple, sitting in my studio apartment waiting for Keanu Reeves to inspire me and wondering what the Pac-10 season has in store. Some of you may remember that my report after last year's weekender greatly offended, disgusted and perhaps even entertained many of the readers of this column. This year I'm happy to report that I'll be spending my time on the weekender on the East side of the Bay. The college scene (i.e. the bars of the Triangle) has sailed by me and now I can be found at the bar of the Durant Hotel or at Top Dog, the communist hot dog stand. If you can't find me there head a few skips up Telegraph and you'll find me at Fat Slice pizza enjoying a slice. Trojans fans are welcome to join me and I promise it will be much less controversial...besides, anyhow, the more the merrier.
Sometimes people ask me if I miss California-Berkeley, it being the place I signed with coming out of high school. Before answering that difficult question I often think of Rasputin's Records and I abruptly answer yes. There should be no question about where my loyalties in the Pac-10 are, however, and I don't think USC will have trouble with Cal or with any other Pac-10 opponents. I know it's too early for talk of national championships or Rose Bowl berths but Pete Carroll, Norm Chow and the rest of the coaches have these Trojans on the right track. Mahalo...catch you on the rebound.
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 the host of the "USC Sports Magazine" show. 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.