After the loss there was much talk by some about whether or not Chow was up to the task, if he is too conservative at the end of the game and whether or not Leinart could get the job done. To be fair, I was very concerned about Leinart's accuracy and I was also wondering about conservative tendencies late in a close game. Well, I would be less than honest if I did not credit Coach Chow with calling about as perfect a game as I can remember since he has been at USC. The offense went up over the top with a fine vertical game and the very first touchdown drive was classic, one which will be remembered by yours truly for years to come. And as far as Matt Leinart goes, all I can say is that he proved to be one tough leader today and I can't help but believe that he once again won over his teammates by playing hurt and doing a very credible job at that. He scrambled about as well today while playing hurt as he ususally does when healthy. And as for Chow, he broke tendencies, such as with that great call to Brandon Hancock which went for a touchdown and with the terrific long gainer to the incredible Dominique Byrd. In fact, I can't believe there is any team in the United States with a trio of receivers as potent, talented or dangerous as the big three of Big Mike Williams, Keary Colbert and Byrd. They are a major headache for all comers.
Football is one funny game at times. What would the odds be that USC could go into a hostile stadium, take the game over in the fourth quarter, yet see four plays of the negative variety that we may never see again in one game, at least one which USC wins. Matt Leinart threw a perfect strike for a sure touchdown which Keary Colbert simply could not hold. No sweat , he makes that catch 95 out of 100 or better. But as a fan, I just had to love the call. When is the last time we got to see Mr Steady, Matt Grootegoed miss a sack by grabbing the qb's washcloth? Add to that, when have we last seen Groots miss an interception on a screen play when he was superb to be in position in the first place? And how about Tom Malone? He might be America's premier punter, yet even he had a shank which is something we have not seen in quite some time. So what does this say about the team? It says that they are good enough to win a tough game on the road despite some very atypical mistakes, at least that is what says to me.
So what's up with the SC defense? It does seem strange, at least to me and to the guy who watched the game with me, that it takes them a while to get into a dominating mode. Is the problem that the other teams are so good? Is it a lack of concentration? Or perhaps, is it nothing at all? By that I mean that perhaps we fans have been spoiled by last year's dominance and we forget that other teams also have good coaches and players. I am really not sure, but I do think that some of the teams are preparing for Pete Carroll schemes a little better at the outset and it does take the Trojans a while to reassert their physical dominance and to show that in the end their speed and strength is usually better than the offense they are facing. I also think it should not be forgotten that the Trojans are currently playing with their third string middle linebacker and that is not a trivial point. Similarly, they have lost one of their steadiest dbacks in Kevin Arbet and he was especially effective playing in space which is something that happens alot in the zone schemes that SC brings to the game. And of course, no matter how talented our strong safety is, and no matter what an incredible athlete he is, he is still a freshman and it takes a while to mature and pick up some different aspects of the game.
It seemed evident to me that Koetter spent lots of time watching tapes of last weeks loss to Cal and he tried his best to emulate the Bears' first half scheme. It actually worked fairly well, but the Defense did step up in a big way when it had to. Although ASU had over 200 yards in the first half and considering they started the second half with a back breaking 80 yard drive, they were not productive at all for the rest of the game. The Sun Devils ended up with only 366 yards and the Trojans won the battle from early in the third quarter till the end of the game.
How many times do we look back and see that last year the USC offense did not break out till Justin Fargas came into the lineup and starting running with his typical ferocity? Well once again we were able to see that when a team can run the ball, good things happen. In today's game, SC ran for 205 yards and when is the last time the Trojans lost a game when they ran the ball like that. I guess everyone wants to know if SC has found their new tailback? After all, Lendale White has look awesome just about every time he has been given the chance and he certainly did not disappoint anyone today. He went for well over 100 yards and he looked terrific doing it. He is big, strong and fast and he makes the defenders pay. With him running the ball, SC is able to hold on to the football for much longer periods of time. He also sets up a perfect scenario from which the Trojans can pass the ball and for the Trojans to come in with a change of pass runner like the jet fast Reggie Bush who gets outside faster than anyone else on the team. Today, the trio of Dennis, Bush and White was potent and effective. As an SC fan, ya just gotta love it.
How about the passing game? One should not forget the potent attack that also surfaced. When a team gains 331 yards through the air, they are doing something very right indeed. For the most part the receivers came up very big and ASU simply could not stop our passing game. Matt Leinart threw the ball very well, and who will soon forget the grit and toughness he showed today? He played through obvious pain and got the job done. He was more accurate than he has been and some of his misses were obvious instances when he simply and wisely threw the ball away. He showed savy and smart by doing that. We also finally got to see the backup get some valuable game experience and I have to think that Matt Cassell would have become even more comfortable had he been called to do more. He threw a very nice corner pass to Mike Williams and the ball was very close. It looked to me like BMW was very close to a score on that play.
In the end, this was the first major gut check of the season for the Univeristy of Southern California Football Team. To my way of thinking, the whole team passed with flying colors. The coaches deserve much credit for getting the kids ready to play after their first loss in a year. SC came into the game without their starting right tackle and did not miss a beat. They used their backup middle linebacker and Dallas Sartz also played what looked like some very good football. And once again, special kudos to Coach Chow. I can't recall seeing a better game plan. The calls were sweet and the execution was just as good. Overall, great to be back on the winning track. As I am sure we will all agree, the team must come to play every single week and they have to take it one game at a time. If they do that, something good is bound to happen.