Move Those Chains

Being the first week of school and having just moved into a new apartment I found myself without television access for the Trojan's first game in the BCA Classic against what I feel is a vastly underrated Virginia Tech team. So a couple of friends and I trekked down the 110 to my grandma's condo in Redondo Beach to watch the game with my family as well as Trojan family.

Being the first week of school and having just moved into a new apartment I found myself without television access for the Trojan's first game in the BCA Classic against what I feel is a vastly underrated Virginia Tech team. So a couple of friends and I trekked down the 110 to my grandma's condo in Redondo Beach to watch the game with my family as well as Trojan family.

As the self-proclaimed sports enthusiast that I am, I felt comfortable in giving everyone, from my father to the crazy guy downtown, my prediction about this game. I even convinced certain family members that they should watch the game in its entirety instead of constantly flipping the TV on and off. I guess when you live and die with each play the way they do, there's only a certain amount of times you can die in three hours. I also convinced myself to keep something of a journal of thoughts about the game in hopes of celebrating a win more thoroughly and perhaps knowing what it felt like to strangle myself in the event of a loss. So, coming at you live from my Grandma's house, the BCA Classic played out in my head…

Pre-game

Sportscenter is wrapping up…my heart is pounding, just got a glimpse of the cardinal and gold…won't be flipping back and forth to espn2. I have absolutely no desire to watch this "behind the scenes thing." Just give me college football and leave that other stuff alone… why is the Mike Williams thing going to be a problem? He practiced exactly one time during the offseason (p.s. I retain full rights to go back and delete this thought if these wide receivers don't work out)… decided Hokie majority in the stands… Oh good, more about Jason White, how he could be the second two time Heisman winner. If he is, he'll be the second non-deserving two-time Heisman winner… Heisman preview…Timmy Chang is still in college football?... Leinart at #4 on Heisman preview… Brad Smith at #2, that's a joke, right? Anyone? Eric Crouch?…Looks like the Trojans were meant to play at FedEx with the Cardinal and Gold all over the stadium… Trojan marching band… Need, kickoff, now… say what you want about college football, I love Trev Alberts. He's the only guy that can end up picking 6 different ways the game could end and then take credit for all of them… stop talking about Mike Williams, he isn't on the team… Not one word about the actual game… This game brought to you by the letters NCAA and Y… Halftime report should be more audible with half the Hokie fans cleared out… I can't wait to see this defense; I honestly feel there could be a sack, tackle for loss, interception, or fumble recovery on every play. Delusional or optimistic?… Good to know that "government is taking a backseat to football," at least we're not in the middle of a war… this intro to college football season is pretty over the top, but at least it's not a commercial… Ron Franklin, the poor man's Keith Jackson… can never simulate the feeling you get when the Trojans run out onto the field… Nebraska? Mississippi State? How did we get there?... Oh good, more Mike Williams… Captains: Leinart, Cody, Leach, Grootegoed, I'd play those four against VTech's whole team, NFL Street style… man, it's hot down on that field. The defense and the offensive playmakers should capitalize but I'm a little worried about our real big O-linemen…

The other day I tried to describe what it feels like to watch a Trojan football game. Maybe it was because it was so close to football season, but I couldn't do it. I ended up just stuttering and stammering and saying things like, "it's awesome," and "emotionalized." I felt like a ten year old describing a ride at Magic Mountain. It's not that I don't have the mental capacity to describe Trojan football. It's that I don't have the emotional capacity. For eight months now, this feeling, this energy, this rush have been building up. I'm just glad I didn't start screaming at her and plant a victory sign into her forehead. Truly though, I believe the only people who can understand what it's like to love Trojan football, are Trojan fans. It's an unspoken bond we have, an infection caught at some stage in life. The Trojans are about to take the field right now, and you know exactly how I'm feeling.

1st half

We're kicking off. I would like to have seen Reggie start the year with a run-back, but the defense should get us off to a solid start. Plus, I realize I'm not my brother, whose favorite prediction is "touchdown, 100 yards"… Nunn plugs the hole on the kick coverage, kept it to a minimum… they come out in two tight ends, we get pressure, of course, Lofa makes the play, honestly, how good was he last year? He's going to do something big in this game… they can't stop our pressure, impossible… they're in the shotgun already, Randall in the huddle: "save me"… going outside, the only way they're going to move the ball, misdirection… speed against speed… we're going to have to stay home… Rocky Goode is the ref tonight, think that's his stage name?… first commercial break, heart still hasn't slowed down… Oh good, Under Armor has it's own team now, with an actual house to protect… running play stopped in the backfield, if you're going to stutter step against SC's defense, you're asking to be dragged down… Congrats #52, first guy to have his number called… two straight offensive penalties, they're nervous, can't play with sc's speed… quick shot of Norm. He's sleeping, get us on offense… who's back on the punt? Reggie, couldn't really get started… more penalties, ref doesn't have a grasp on his mic yet… Alright offense, deep or on the ground? I think we need to throw the ball deep, V Tech's defense isn't going to respect the deep ball with Williams and Colbert gone... Ooh, there's a break, that would have been horrible, Leinart forced it…McFoy didn't go at it with his hands… butterflies… LenDale powers it… early, but Offensive line passes first test… There it is, all day long, they can't wrap LenDale up, Baker with a huge block… pitch to bush, moving forward on everything, haven't stuck us yet… Bounces going our way, because we have the better athletes… went for the touchdown, McFoy had two steps on the DB, that'll be there all day after the run… Leinart looks a little nervous, hasn't thrown one good pass…We look better than V Tech, but I'd like some points on the board…Patterson blows up the middle… Tight end over the middle, Leach bit. Hopefully V Tech didn't watch any tape of last year. Or hopefully they're going with the ill-advised "no tight ends on the roster" approach… two drops for Clifton, that one saved us… Lofa with a pick, hopefully there's the momentum swing, this one was easy, nobody even kicked it… stop the presses. USC's defense caused a turnover… defensive pressure got it done… Jarrett with his first catch over the middle… Rolling Leinart out, getting him into a rhythm… More about Mike Williams… Chow still looks asleep, how does he do it?... Leinart hung him out to dry, but Jarrett makes a good catch… Nobody catches Reggie Bush, nobody. That play looked like Washington but was more of a screen than a real route…I can't even explain what it feels like to be able to root for a team knowing that Reggie Bush plays for you… Hopefully we're in Randall's head permanently, it is in his head that he doesn't have a lot of time, he's got happy feat. That's what a defensive reputation will do for you… they keep running outside… I'm hoping we're figuring out the option… another third down…he broke containment, no second line to come up, it's like we keep forgetting that they will run it… Apparently V Tech doesn't know the rules, 7 is more than 6… bad roughing call on Patterson, he led with his forearm… Groetegood fills the hole, quick. He's flying around again. Great sign for the Trojans…here comes a field goal, chance for SC to show they can play special teams too… there goes the shut out… Where is the Capitol building located again? Oh, Washington? Really?... O-Line is actually playing pretty admirably. Still early though… Receivers are catching most balls within reason… that sack would have hurt… Virginia Tech is playing Hackett ball, two timeouts in unreasonable situations… why USC is #1, explosive punting, what??... Leinart still doesn't have his rhythm… good feeling watching Bush grab the ball with a full head of steam towards the line of scrimmage… a commercial for The Punisher, I think that's Darnell Bing's life story…there's Holmes over the middle, calming presence for Leinart… Kirtman with an amazing catch, his receiving ability will be huge while filling in for Hancock… two stuffed plays… when are we going to break out the offense?... I don't understand why people say we have such a good placekicker, Killeen has never made a kick that counts… third and two, get the ball back… nobody went with the fullback… espn.com questions with Jim Donnan. I bet nobody asked about Mike Williams… there's their third timeout, thanks Hackett… my dad and aunt just called, they want to know what's going on, I didn't know what to tell them… are expectations too high? we're not playing like we could, should… Bush needs to attack on the kickoff, use their emotion against them… gotta quiet the crowd… it's working on the ground… Carroll looks upset…wide receivers aren't looking to take over the game, commentators finally got something right… they got LenDale upset and they're going to pay… The power game is there, Chow is recognizing it… DJ's first mistake costs a timeout… Here's a huge third down, can't go into halftime down… Smith gets into the action… I need a Mike Williams fix, oh good, they'll cover me at halftime… Fourth down, why would they go to Jarrett in that situation? Don't put him in a position to fail. This is looking like K-State and Mike Williams, we can't afford this…7 points in the first half…

Halftime

I don't want to be in that locker room…it's amazing how much we're missing Mike Williams… the receivers aren't doing things that Williams did and Leinart isn't reacting well…I'm really glad now that Vick isn't on the field for this game… best line of the night goes to my grandma, regarding Matt Leinart and this vision thing espn has been pushing all night: "maybe he should be wearing those glasses now,"… the guys need mics that actually go down to their mouths…I'm glad I'm getting ready for the arena of life (pac-10 commercial)… carroll's ability to adjust at halftime is about the only thing we have going for us right now… 10-7 is actually better than it could be, Randall thinks he's getting pressured and is missing open receivers…Nunn should have tackled that guy on the touchdown, for some reason he stopped and didn't just shove him out of bounds… is it just me, or does Gottfried sound drunk…

Just like Andre the Giant in "The Princess Bride," I don't get paid to think, but I'm going to say it anyway. I really think Chow is missing opportunities by not throwing the ball deep. It looks like Leinart was affected by his early throw that was almost intercepted and he's been really aiming and pushing the ball. Sending someone, anyone deep will let Leinart just drop back and heave it downfield. I guarantee our speed puts us a few steps behind their safeties before they recognize it and Leinart could test the arm and make these throws feel more natural. The only reason I can see opposing this is if Leinart's arm is really hurting him. That could be playing a bigger role than anyone is letting on. The power running game is there for us as well. I love Reggie Bush as much as anyone, but pitching the ball to him in the backfield and letting him try to stutter step isn't working. I'd rather see LenDale with the ball behind the line of scrimmage and Bush with the ball in front of the line of scrimmage. With regards to Jarrett, I'm glad they got him in the game and threw some balls at him early. When it wasn't working, it was a great move to get him out of the game. There's no need to throw him into that defense and have his confidence shaken. He'll get in there eventually and make big plays later in the year. The defense is doing well. I think we've been spoiled by the success they've had recently. Few teams will hold this V Tech team to 10 points in a half. But I have a hunch we'll be a lot better in the second half.

2nd half

Lutui got burned, slow off the line. Maybe the heat is getting to him… Leinart floated the ball and had Smith over the middle. It still looks like he's not throwing the ball the way he did last year… we stopped the first option of the second half… if Leinart is going to get comfortable, this should be the drive. The game is slowed down. If he's really going to be the Heisman winner, he's got to take this game over and show he's the best guy on the field… we can't afford a special teams miscue, no cheap points for VT… Malone gets off a great punt, the defense needs to capitalize… apparently the Capitol building lost its charm and has been replaced by the Lincoln memorial… 6 minutes and counting since a Mike Williams reference… It just seems like the Trojans don't have that intensity. Maybe the preseason hype got to them… of course, first sack of the season goes to Jeff Schweiger, great move… that pass interference was fishy, I'll take it though… Schweiger is turning the momentum, constant pressure. I remember watching him in the Army All-American game. He was the one guy on the field that I wanted to be on this defense… Bush doesn't even look like he's trying and he turns nothing into something…I want a deep ball right now… the fullbacks are making their presence felt and that second layer is open for them…There's the play, and Norm Chow is going wild, was that a high five? Reggie had 3 steps on the D back… hopefully that gets Leinart on track…apparently Jimmy Williams was only ready to cover Mike Williams…the Bush comparison is terrible, (Reggie to G.W.) somebody is smiling right now and they're the only one… LoJack chased him down… speed is showing, the D Line is coming out. They're all making plays now, showing the depth we have… say what you want about V Tech, but they sure don't know how to position themselves on offense according to the rules… good to see Lua in the game making tackles… nice tackle by Wyatt… ok, running the clock is important, let's see LenDale… there's Holmes again, Leinart is calming down…terrible spot, fourth down… I guess it's just getting redundant to say that this is a big defensive series… Bing puts a hit on for the first time… the V Tech O-line is wearing down and the D line is just too fast… why don't we cover the tight end? BYU, Oregon State, now VTech… dumb play by Bing and a personal foul… field goal…Here's the game, a long drive by USC culminating in a touchdown probably puts it out of reach…kick return team thinks that Reggie can just run it back by himself, they send 3 guys unblocked every time down…another long run by LenDale… QB sneak for the first down. Move those chains… Smith behind the defense, another receiver behind the D backs, I've been saying it all day, works every time… there's Bush again, Virginia Tech meet Reggie Bush. That's exactly what had to happen. Even if that linebacker stays on his feet there's no way he runs with Reggie. This man is amazing… first pass the tight end didn't come up with… incomplete pass, punt, "game over"… Steve Smith could have delivered the dagger if he comes up with that catch…Bing with a solid play on punt coverage, false start kills it, do it over… this is terrible, do it again… 33 yard swing after the penalties on the punt… there's the game, Mike Patterson showing that he really will be the best interior lineman in college football this year causes a fumble and it's pounced on by Nunn… Killeen puts a cherry on top with a field goal. Game, set, and match…

Well, a win is a win, and the Trojans are 1-0 at this point in the year, which is the best they could be. How often is an 11 point win over a prominent and quality opponent like Virginia Tech considered something of a sloppy, disappointing game? That's how far along Pete Carroll has brought this program and I'm more than happy to come along for the ride. I think that once the wide receivers (McFoy, Jarrett, Smith) realize that they really have to be the "go to" guys on offense, they'll start stepping up to make plays. The athletic ability is obviously there and more reps and playing time will bring it out. I thought the offense wouldn't miss a beat without Mike Williams and I was completely wrong about that. It's not fair to say the offense doesn't work without him because 24 points will win most games with our defense, but his presence would have helped Matt Leinart immensely in this game. Getting that game out of the way is very important to this team because now they know what it's like to play with that huge bulls-eye on their backs in a hostile environment. There can be no let up from this team and hopefully next time they'll come out a little more relaxed and let their superior natural ability take over the game. Overall, we're off on the right foot in the defense of a National Championship.

Erik McKinney is a senior at USC majoring in creative writing.


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