Another win

Coaches love talking about how close games will be decided by the play of the special teams and in the game on Saturday it was clear that the inspired performance from the Trojan special teams played a large role in the victory.

The USC Trojans made it two wins in a row on Saturday as they defeated the Oregon State Beavers by a score of 16-13 in overtime in front of 44,880 homecoming fans at the Coliseum. It was a game that was saved by the special teams and defense but in the end it was Carson Palmer who ran in a bootleg in OT to provide the game winning play. On a day when the Trojans had trouble running the ball Carson passed for 171 yards but was also sacked six times.

Notes from the Sidelines

Alex Holmes made the key 3rd down catch inside the five yard line in overtime to set up the Carson bootleg. Holmes also had a 1st down catch when he fought hard for the extra yardage and he is becoming a very valuable weapon at the TE spot…..Antuan Simmons forced an incomplete pass inside the USC 10 yard line with a nice hit on the Beaver receiver and on the next play Chris Cash intercepted a pass in an important turn of events….OSU outgained USC 384 to 204, with 11 first downs and 33 rushing yards for the Trojans

Special special teams play

Coaches love talking about how close games will be decided by the play of the special teams and in the game on Saturday it was clear that the inspired performance from the Trojan special teams played a large role in the victory. It started on the first Beaver possession when they lined up to punt deep in their end and Kennedy Pola called for an overloaded line in an effort to free up Troy Polamalu and the strategy worked as Troy burst through and blocked the kick which bounced into the arms of Steve Stevenson for a Trojan touchdown. Pola also used some strategy by calling for a line drive kickoff while hoping for a bounce off one of the up defenders. USC has been using the pooch kickoffs with pretty decent success but David Newbury executed this trick play to perfection and the Trojans recovered. Kareem Kelly even added a nice punt return from deep in Trojan territory as everything was working on special teams for USC. Mike MacGillivray has seen his share of disappointment this season but he played an important role in this game with field position as he hit 10 punts for an average of over 41 yards in a solid effort. Of course, the Trojans also got a field goal from Mr. Dependable David Davis who hit his 8th field goal in a row and he has also made 11 of his last 12. It was noticeable in this game how the Trojans were able to escape with the victory in large part because of two blown yet very makeable kicks by the Beaver kicker in the 4th quarter. It's nice to be on the other side for a change.

Line Delivers Again

The Trojan defensive line continues to come up with big plays from various different guys. BKU had a sack early in the game and also did a good job against Simonton on the sweep, Mike Patterson recovered a fumble, Lonnie Ford had a sack on the final play of the 1st half (although he later left with a shoulder stinger) and Ryan Nielsen had a key sack in OT.

Calm Carson

Carson Palmer hit his 1st 7 passes of the game but the Trojans punted on their 1st five possessions. He was slowed by an ailing knee which effected his normal running ability but made the play when it counted and got the win for his team.

Ouch

The USC Trojans had zero rushing yards in the 2nd half

Key to Game: Execution in OT

Even though the running game had achieved little success in regulation the Trojans had no problems riding Sunny Byrd to start the overtime period and the best USC drive of the day. Oregon State had kicked a field goal to open OT and it was nice for the Trojans to then run on the field with the knowledge that David Davis was on the sidelines and that meant a field goal to tie was a certainty. So instead of playing to tie the offense handed the ball to Byrd and he pounded away for 3 yards, then 8 yards and a first down. The 2nd half saw the Trojans put up a goose egg in the rushing department yet Norm Chow maintained the faith and called for Byrd two more times with only a minimal gain on each play. Carroll and Chow had determined going into the season that they would rely on the run game in overtime situations only now they were faced with a key 3rd and long situation which called for a big play to help put the game away. If there has been a criticism of the USC team this season it has been the inability to come up with that play but Carson Palmer held in and threw a strike to the well covered Alex Holmes for a 9 yard gain and a 1st down inside the five yard line. Chow went back to Byrd and the result was a one yard loss. On 2nd down Carson rolled left with the option of throwing to the tight end or keeping it himself and he showed no hesitation in heading toward the pylon at the corner of the end zone. His leaping effort provided the margin for victory and the dogpile in the end zone showed how happy his teammates were for the quarterback who did what he had to do and made the play when it counted.

Quote of the Day

"It was the hardest hit I've taken all season" Carson Palmer, on the dogpile in the end zone

EXTRA POINTS

The Trojans completed more passes to the RB's and TE's than to the WR's. For this offense to succeed we will need to see this trend continue and we have seen players like Alex Holmes and Sunny Byrd really step up as receiving options in recent weeks…..Troy Polamalu contrnues to solidify his claim to team MVP honors with a team high 11 tackles, the blocked punt which led to a touchdown and some terrific open field tackling on punt coverage…...A personal foul penalty led to the immediate removal of Zach Wilson from the game and the Trojans used Nate Steinbacher in his first extended appearance as Jacob Rogers was being treated for a hyperextended elbow. The flexibility along the line of Norm Katnik and even Lenny Vandermade to play multiple positions gives the coaches some much needed options with their limited depth…..It was the 2nd lowest Homecoming crowd in 40 years at USC (lowest was also Oregon State with 44,363 in 1993)…..It was the first time this season that the Trojans scored first to open the game…..How is it that other receivers are so wide open on 3rd down plays while our receivers rarely get any separation?

Final Thoughts

The Trojans are winners of two in a row and, while we all know that close victories over fellow conference cellar dwellars Arizona and Oregon State are not going to inspire goose bumps, the fact is this team has won those two games in similar fashion to the games that they were losing early in the season. If nothing else it is progress and at this point in the season we are happy to see progress and victories come together in any form. A closer look, however, would reveal the reality that this was a not so terribly exciting game played by two teams who seemed determined to hand each other the win. The injuries suffered by the Trojans this season have been well documented and they have certainly had a staggering effect on the overall results but injuries alone do not explain the problems we see on a consistent basis. The Beaver offense couldn't get anything going early in the game and was only able to rush the ball for 9 yards in the opening quarter yet the Trojans were unable to take advantage and the only points put on the board came courtesy of special teams. The Trojan passing game was efficient but not effective while the lack of rhythm in the running game stalled any chance of success. Our offensive line lacks depth and, some would say, talent but they are still offensive linemen at the University of Southern California and should be capable of performing at a level that would allow their quarterback some decent time in the pocket while also providing solid holes for the running game. USC did a nice job of stopping quick Beaver backs Ken Simonton and Patrick McCall but when OSU turned to bigger power back Steven Jackson, a freshman runner who provided the spark that USC rarely sees from a player coming off the bench, he accounted for 71 of the 96 yards on an impressive touchdown drive that was reminiscent of the momentum changing drives that USC used to run down the throat of an opponent on the way to stealing a game. Fortunately in this game that drive was a mirage as the Trojan defense held them in check for the remainder of the game. The inability of USC to rely on the ground game when necessary has become a serious concern that will not go away anytime soon and the sight of the Beaver back running wild brought back images of Ricky Bell running through the Coliseum. The fact that we have no Bell, no White, no Allen has taken some getting used to and what we have now is the necessary satisfaction that one must take in winning no matter how it happens. We are further along than we were four weeks ago and the opportunity is there for a nice finish to the season as a win over Cal would set up the grudge match with ucla and how sweet would that be to combine a victory over the lowly bruins with the result being a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. Would Trojan fans be content with a trip to the Vegas Bowl? Hell yeah we would. It doesn't take much to make us happy these days.

WeAreSC Dinner

Join us Wednesday, November 14th (the week of the UCLA game) at the Blue Moon Saloon in Redondo Beach for our monthly WeAreSC dinner featuring speakers on the state of Trojan football and USC recruiting. Special guest speaker this month is former Trojan OL Mike Lamb. For information, please call 310/543-5557


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