Well, the first question was answered to most everyone's satisfaction. USC dismantled a disheveled University of Arizona Football Team and dominated them to the tune of 45 to Zero. USC shut them out. To my eye, the Defense did not miss a single beat while playing without Grootegoed, Simmons and Nazel. Unfortunately, the answer to question number three might not have such a pleasant answer. At this time, the final diagnosis is not in, but according to the TBS announcers, Brandon Hancock was lost for the second half with a sprained knee and Reggie Bush looked to have sustained either an ankle or knee injury on his last carry of the ballgame. He was able to limp off the field, but it can take a while for the full extent of such an injury to surface. One can only hope that he is not badly hurt.
It is sometimes difficult to get overly emotional about a game when it is such a mismatch, unless of course the opponent is UCLA or perhaps Notre Dame. When it comes to those two teams, if we beat them by 100 points every year I suspect most SC diehards would be all that much happier. On the other hand, while it was lots of fun watching a breather, the game was over so early that it was not the usual nail biting event that so many games have been until SC demolishes the opponent late in the third quarter and throughout the final quarter. Any time USC shuts down the oppositions leading runner and snuffs out their passing game, while amassing 586yards itself, 368 passing and 218 rushing, there can't be too much to say or analyze. For the entire first half, the SC offense was unstoppable and the UofA offense could not score, even with repeated chances late in the first half.
The defense seemed to take this game personally and they pitched a shutout. Collin Ashton, the first SC defensive walk on to start a game in some long period of time, looked like a veteran out there. He was in on many tackles and he did not appear to be a weak link. The rotation on the Dline was one of the best and most interesting to watch that I have seen in some time under Coach Orgeron. He seemed to alternate Manuel Wright and Shaun Cody on almost every other possession and we got our first really extensive look at Van Brown. I thought both Wright and Brown held their own. Of course, Frostee Rucker has been playing extensive minutes for much of the season already so it did not seem unusual to see him out there on so many plays. He is very fast and strong and his presence is a constant menace for the offense. We got to see another stellar performance from the trio of Cody, Patterson and of Big Kenechi Udeze. Udeze, in particular, seems to have taken up residence in the opposition's backfield and he is simply a dominant player. There may be a better DE in America, but I haven't seen him. BKU is playing as well as any Trojan Defensive End that I can recall over the years.
I realize that Arizona does not possess a potent offense, but it seemed to me that the SC cornerbacks were particularly effective tonight and they were in position to make several big plays. I thought they positioned themselves well and the two picks speak for themselves. The only negative that came to my mind about Will Poole had nothing to do with pass coverage at all. I could not figure out why SC would risk injury to this most valuable cornerback by suddenly having him return punts. He was so close to getting his ankle rolled on two returns that it just mystified my. I am aware that a team has to always look to improve itself, but if there is anything close to a criticism that might need to be mentioned about this game, that is it. It is so strange posting that I was actually relieved to see Carlson return punts again, later in the game. Playing scared is not something I favor, but it just seemed like getting Poole out of there and putting Carlson back at his "home position" was the most prudent thing that the coaches could have done.
What can anyone really say about this USC offense? I have seen Ohio State and Oklahoma play on a few occasions and I still don't believe there is any team in America that can shut down this unit so long as the offensive line stays healthy. There have been comments all season long about Matt Leinart and the young John David Booty. Whatever any fan might have thought, or might still think, there is no arguing that at this moment, Matt Leinart plays with great confidence and he is in as much of a "ZONE" as any quarterback I can ever recall. He is right on the money more often than not and he has not thrown an interception in forever. He has broken the all time USC record for consecutive throws without a pick and that is something that might not be broken any time soon. There is some kind of Karma between Mike Williams and Matt Leinart and that spells trouble for USC's opponents. Even when BMW admits that he ran the wrong route as he did on his last touchdown, those two still connect and it is fun to watch. As for JD Booty, it was great to see him finally get some real minutes and the chance to throw the ball. It is obvious that his ball has a different feel to it than Matt's and I guess Steve Smith would be able to attest to that better than anyone else after this game. Much might be made out of the fact that Booty looked a little miffed when he first came in, but I really liked how he handled himself as the game progressed and if he ever gets major minutes, I suspect he will live up to his billing.
The SC receivers are a special group. Colbert did not have an unbelievable game, but even on an "average night" for him, he was effective. I would be surprised if most SC fans were not thrilled to see Whitney Lewis make a couple of very nice grabs and he looked very comfortable in the process. Steve Smith is showing that he will be special and how about that highlight film catch by Gregg Guenther. Not to be outdone by the receivers, the running backs shined once again. All three of the tailbacks did very well and LenDale White made his now almost obligatory long touchdown run. It was a very pleasant surprise to see what a tough runner Kirtman is. Even with the second string line, he showed some real toughness and power and with the injury to Hancock, we might just need him and Lee Webb more than ever. One can only hope that neither Reggie Bush nor Brandon Hancock is seriously hurt but if either is, then as always, somebody else will have to step it up.
Major kudos to the coaching staff for having the kids ready to play. They came out of the gate focused and determined. They scored 35 points in the first half and the game was essentially over. There was no need to wait for the second half. This SC team showed up from the getgo and took care of business immediately. As for the future, well, who really knows? The way I look at it, so long as SC wins out, nothing bad can happen. The worst case scenario is a trip to the Rose Bowl and to an old time SC Honk such as yours truly, that is just fine. A trip to the Sugar Bowl is possible, but it may be out of SC's hands. For the life of me, I can't see how anyone could think Ohio State is better than USC. They have a good, not great defense as witnessed by the way Purdue moved the ball up and down the field on them on several occasions. However, they do win and that is something SC can't help. I will be surprised if the Buckeyes beat Michigan but anything is possible. One might also argue that LSU is another deserving team. Hard to argue that one either. They do have a fine defense and offense and if they should win out, well, who knows? First things, first!! SC needs to show up and win the remaining two games. First comes UCLA. Need anyone say more. A long time ago, they hung 8 losses in succession against SC. It's payback time and I think the players will be ready. If the coaches have anything to say about it, they will be VERY READY INDEED.