In one of the most lopsided performances ever in the storied USC vs UCLA series the Trojans put a licking on the Bruins and notched an impressive 27-0 shutout over their crosstown rivals in front of 88,588 screaming fans at the Coliseum. The list of Trojan heroes on the day is a long one that includes Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Antuan Simmons and others but to highlight any individual would not do justice to the complete team effort which led to the dominating victory and trip to the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Day.
Simmons Steps Up
For the players on the team this game was an opportunity to win one for the seniors and give them the chance to finish their Trojan careers on a high note with a win over UCLA and a trip to a bowl game. No senior represents the spirit of the team more than Antuan Simmons and his well documented story of fighting back from his deathbed to regain a spot in the USC secondary was given a storybook ending when he pulled a highlight reel play at the end of the 1st quarter. The Trojans were up by a touchdown at that point and the game was still very much in doubt when Cory Paus threw a solid pass to Brian Poli Dixon for what should have been a Bruin reception and first down but the ball went through Poli Dixons hands and headed straight for the legs of Simmons. Somehow Antuan was able to trap the ball and control it before taking off toward the goal line while the UCLA players stood around wondering what was going on. It was a play that will be seen on highlight reels for years and without a doubt it took the wind out of the Bruin sails and they were never the same team after that. Antuan has made a seamless transition back to corner after playing at free safety for much of the year and that pick was the 9th of his Trojan career and the 3rd he returned for a score. He was the last player to speak to the team at a Friday night pre game meeting and he shared his frustration over never being on the field for a Trojan victory over the Bruins but thanks to his play he knows what it feels like now.
Notes from the Sidelines
Shaun Cody led the Trojans in tackles, added a few sacks and also recovered a fumble. Is there any wonder why he was the national defensive player of the year coming out of high school?….. Carson Palmer showed mobility, looked off receivers, threw the ball well and did all the things which warrant a QB being mentioned among the best in the country. It was a terrific performance from a player who has received his share of criticism this season.
Terrific Tight Ends
The Trojan tight ends had a superb day as Kori Dickerson set the tone when he took a short pass on the 1st possession and broke two tackles before racing yards down the sidelines. The speed he showed on that play combined with the hands he demonstrated on a pass at his shoestrings is an indication of why Kori has a future in the NFL. Alex Holmes, on the other hand, will be around for two more years to the delight of Trojan fans. Alex is just a devastating blocker and bowls people over when he has the ball in his hands.
Chris Howard watched patiently as Sunny Byrd pounded the Bruins and when his opportunity came he delivered a nifty touchdown run by waiting for the right time to make a key cut and then following a downfield block by Kareem Kelly for the TD.Key to Game: Coaching
The players are the ones who make the plays and in this game we certainly had plenty of them but this victory is one that can be traced directly to the coaches. What was apparent from the start is that the Trojans came out ready to play in a game of this magnitude while the Bruins seemed to sleep walk through the experience. Pete Carroll is known for being an inspirational coach and his players are a reflection of him right now with a spirit and energy that has been missing for a long time within the Trojan football program and we saw a reminder of how much fun it came be when a USC team plays with passion and puts a licking on their opponent. The fact that it came against the Bruins only makes it a hundred times sweeter but this game represented the fruits of the labor that Carroll and staff have put in since arriving last winter and discovering the mess left behind by Paul Hackett. It has been a shaky process to get to this point but the joy experienced by all Trojans from this game makes any pain from the past seem so long ago while the future couldn't look much brighter. Carroll seems to have found a niche at the college level with an atmosphere that suits him better than the confined elements of the NFL and he has put together a staff that knows what it wants and is willing to work to make it happen. Norm Chow showed why he is the real offensive guru with a dazzling offensive plan that left the Bruins scrambling while the two holdovers from Hackett, Kennedy Pola and Ed Orgeron, respectively have turned the special teams and defensive line into units that should be feared by opponents. The same leadership that righted our ship when all seemed to be spinning out of control is a sharp contrast to what is going on across town as Bob Toledo is a man without a clue these days and his decision to play Cory Paus is an indefensible one that will come back to haunt him. Thankfully, we have none of those concerns right now because all is right in Trojan land and today is a happy, happy day.
Keary Colbert didn't practice during the week to rest his two sore ankles but he was vital to the quick start by the Trojans with a touchdown catch and key grab on a slant over the middle…..The USC defense has scored five touchdowns in the past four games…..Kevin Arbet added yet another pick as he has shown a knack for making plays…..Sunny Byrd may average only two yards per carry but his hard running style has given the offense a tougher identity and he knocked Bruin DB Matt Ware out with a separated shoulder after violent collision…..David Davis has made 12 field goals in a row…..Lonnie Ford contributed a lot of big plays and Ryan Nielsen is a veteran leader but the potential of the defensive line next year is staggering. The play of Shaun Cody is enough to make any Trojan smile and we also saw Kenechi Udeze and Mike Patterson with aggressive play against the Bruins. With Omar Nazel, Bernard Riley returning from injury and Jason Wardlow chomping at the bit to get on the field it should be fun to see
It was an incredible day for the Trojans to host a sideline full of top recruits and there was a banner group in attendance….Among the players spotted were: RB Lorenzo Booker (St Bonaventure HS), OL Winston Justice (LB Poly HS), DL Manuel Wright (LB Poly), DB Darnell Bing (LB Poly HS), DB Justin Wyatt (Dominguez HS), LB Oscar Lua (Indio HS), P Tom Malone (Temescal Canyon HS), OL Chris Doyle (Mater Dei HS), WR Mike Williams (Plant HS), DL Paul Phillip (San Bernardino HS).
Quote of the Day
"We were inept out there" Bob Toledo
We can change the facemasks, we can alter the uniforms and we can even break out some catchy marketing slogans but for USC fans looking for a return to the college football mountaintop there can be no substitute for the kind of overwhelming defensive performance we saw displayed on Saturday. It has been a long time since we were treated to such a one sided effort in a game that meant so much as it's one thing to beat up on a Cal or San Diego State but to come out against UCLA with a bowl game on the line and put together a performance like that is something that we should truly savor. It goes back to 1947 since the Trojans shut out the Bruins and this wasn't just a shut out, it was a dominating effort which was highlighted by the fact that UCLA didn't even come close to scoring. Bob Toledo was so desperate at the end of the game that he was calling timeouts and spiking balls, doing whatever he thought he could do to get at least one score on the board but it wasn't going to happen on this day. Not against a USC defense that is arguably the best in the conference right now and has come together using a mix of rookies and players at new positions and created a system that allows their one great veteran player to be in position to make a lot of plays. It helps for the Trojans that Troy Polamalu is destined to go down as one of the best defensive backs in USC history and that is tall company when you are mentioned in a group with Lott, Smith and Carrier but at this point Polamalu deserves every honor coming his way. A brief look at his performance shows an interception and a blocked punt (his 3rd of the year) as well as the usual assortment of big hits and active plays but what has really allowed the defense to make this kind of impact has been the fact that other players have joined Polamalu in raising their game. Lonnie Ford has been consistent all year, Shaun Cody is simply the best defensive lineman we have seen in a long, long, time while Mike Pollard has progressed to the point where he is a solid USC middle linebacker. After losing so many veterans off the defense from last season it was assumed that this year would be a transitional period for the defensive minded Pete Carroll to implement his plan with results coming at some point down the road but that road has officially been crossed and the Trojans are ready to run over any opponent waiting in their path. If you don't believe that, just ask Bob Toledo what he thinks right now.
WeAreSC DinnerThe 4th annual WeAreSC "Football Recruiting" dinner will be held Saturday, January 12th at JT Schmidts in Anaheim. For reservations and information please call 949/222-1048.