Move Those Chains

LenDale White – 18, Matt Leinart – 12, Ryan Killeen – 7, Reggie Bush – 6, Steve Smith – 6, Dwayne Jarrett – 6, Manuel Wright – 6, CSU – 0. There's a reason that this isn't the way Saturday night's game will be represented in the Trojan media guide next year (besides the fact that it wouldn't fit and it's ridiculous). That reason is four letters long and I've been told that it doesn't contain an I: TEAM. The 2004 Trojans are a team in every sense of the word. Superior talent and ability aside, this USC team is a sight to behold. The way these boys support each other and constantly offer a high five, chest bump or just a few words of encouragement gives them that intangible edge over the competition before the game even starts and would make even the 1980 U.S. hockey team jealous.

Occasionally people forget that they truly don't "play the game on paper." This team had so much returning from a national championship team that many wanted to print up Trojan tickets to the Orange Bowl even before seeing if there'd be anything left in Miami after a Shaq housewarming party and a few Ricky Williams late-night grocery store stops. However, any or all of the off-the-field problems that plagued the Trojans this summer could have rocked the team like a blindside hit from Matt Grootegoed. But the Trojans showed amazing resilience in weathering the storm until they finally had their set roster, which they would open the season with. After starting the season 1-0, the Trojans entered the Coliseum on Saturday night and easily dispatched an always dangerous Colorado State squad. This was a game that took the Trojans to 2-0, but in the long run, it might have done something far more important than that.

It was easy to watch that football game and proclaim Trojan domination after a 49-0 Trojan victory, but it got me wondering. Sure, the Trojans could put 49 points up on the scoreboard against Colorado State, but could I put up 49 points about the game?

1 - After the impressive victory, the Trojans no doubt will strengthen their hold on the top spot in both polls.
2 – Touchdowns through the air for Matt Leinart. He now has 5 touchdowns against 0 interceptions on the year, adding to his already gaudy touchdown to interception ratio for his career.
3 – Number of rushing touchdowns for LenDale White, who had an absolutely monster game on the ground, rushing for 123 yards on 14 carries, plus the 3 touchdowns. It makes you wonder if any of those Colorado State upper classmen ever bullied LenDale out of his lunch money in high school. If they did, they received quite the payback on Saturday.
4 – Interceptions by the Trojan defense. After Justin Holland had his way with the Colorado defense the previous week, the USC secondary and linebackers proved a much more daunting challenge. The interceptions came on any type of throw Holland could come up with. It was as if there were 15 guys in cardinal and gold running around the defensive backfield.
5 – What I gave my brother after each Trojan touchdown (up high, of course).
6 – Number worn by Matt Grootegoed, who had 2 picks in the game and reminded Trojan fans of what he is capable of when healthy. It was a beautiful sight to see that number 6 racing down the sideline after his first interception.
7 – Desmond Reed averaged 7.0 yards per carry. He probably surprised a lot of people with the way he could bust through the line or take it outside. The way he gets his momentum going upfield while running those sweeps makes him a tough runner to bring down. Without a doubt, he'd be a starting star for 100 different colleges in America.
8 – Catches for Steve Smith, who stepped up big when he needed to. After taking the play off that resulted in the fumbled reverse, Smith seemed to play with more intensity and really solidified his spot as the number one receiving threat that the Trojans desperately need. But going beyond his receptions, I challenge anyone to find a sophomore receiver who throws a better block than Steve Smith.
9 – Receptions for the Rams leading receiver David Anderson. He totaled 137 yards, but it was all between the 20s.
10 – Ok, I lied. There were two or three touchdowns where I couldn't help but slap my brother all ten.
11 – The win marks the 11th in a row for the Trojans, who remained two behind the current streak of 13 held by Boise State.
12 – Plays it took for USC to cap off its first touchdown drive of the day. It's a stark contrast from the way in which the offense went about its touchdown drives in 2003, where a 12 play drive would have contained close to 150 yards in penalties. We all know the ability to bust the big plays are there, so it's good to see this offense is capable of ball control and clock management.
13 – Like most hotels, I don't do 13.
14 – Straight games in which Matt Leinart has passed for multiple touchdowns. If you're keeping score at home, that's 15 games played, 14 multiple touchdown games.
15 – Times the guy in front of me mentioned he had seen the movie "Fight Club" that day. Each time he mentioned this fact was of course preceded by a challenge directed towards one of his friends to fight him outside the stadium. Don't we have admission standards precisely for this sort of person?
16 - Yards head coach Pete Carroll covered on a dead sprint, topped off with one vicious clipboard throw after a terrible pass interference non-call went against the Trojans.
17 - First downs made by the Trojans by way of running the football. The Trojans absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage against the Rams, rushing for 322 yards and a 7.2 yards per carry average.
18 - Dwayne Jarrett turned 18 on Saturday and apparently Matt Leinart didn't have time to get him a present before the game, so he was determined to find Jarrett in the endzone at some point. Leinart ended up hooking up with Jarrett on a four-yard scoring pass, but it was no gift. Jarrett made an acrobatic catch between multiple defenders to haul in what promises to be the first of many collegiate touchdowns for the blossoming receiver.
19 - Times my brother suggested we go to Chano's after the game.
20 - Yards covered by big Manny Wright on his fumble return for a touchdown, which turned out to be the day's longest scoring play.
21 - Total yards lost on Jeff Schweiger's 2.5 tackles for loss. Included in that is his sack and forced fumble that led to the Trojan touchdown. While it's not fair to Kenichi Udeze to say that Schweiger has come in and replaced him, it wouldn't be fair to Schweiger to say that the blow hasn't been softened by Jeff's never-ending motor and uncanny instinct to get to the ball.
22 - Number worn by super sub Desmond Reed. We'd heard all season about how this guy impressed in the spring game and how he's going to be such a weapon on offense, but boy did he show flashes of brilliance toward the end of the game.
23 - Yards covered on the longest kickoff return by Damon Morton of the Rams. After constantly giving up big plays in the kicking game in previous years, Pete Carroll has himself enough talent to stack the special teams with playmakers, and they're getting the job done.
24 - Each play called in by offensive coordinator Norm Chow is like each new season of "24." You know Matt Leinart will be playing the play's centerpiece, just like Kiefer Sutherland, but it's anyone's guess as to who the other characters will be. Except at a USC game we don't say things like, "Ooh, that's that guy from that AFLAC commercial." We say things like, "Ooh, that's that guy from my history class."
25 - Number worn by reserve cornerback Eric Wright who could have played defense for an entire series by himself in the third quarter. Wright chased down Colorado State receivers who had gotten loose in the backfield on successive plays, and then, on the drive's third play, leaped and stole the ball from the Colorado State wide receiver for an interception at the USC 2 yard line. Get used to hearing this guy's name, he's a player.
26 - Minutes left in the game at which people around me started to leave the stadium, claiming that it wasn't a good game. There were no words to describe my emotions about that statement, so I just put my feet up on their seats.
27 - Amount of points where the Yell Leaders should really think about a different form of celebration, other than push-ups. Guys, we realize that you do a lot of physical activity throughout the game with picking each other up and all that stuff, and we appreciate it, we really do. But we don't need to see you guys struggling to finish your 196th push-up of the game when they've been turned into nothing more than butt-thrusts. After we get to 27, how about changing it up a little bit and transitioning into sit-ups, jumping jacks, or even a rousing chorus of "Down by the Banks…"
28 - Points Notre Dame scored in their upset of Michigan. This of course is the same Notre Dame team that was soundly beaten by BYU the previous week, which makes this week's trip to Provo a little scarier.
29 - Number worn by safety Scott Ware, who got the first start of his Trojan career on Saturday. He's just another example of the kind of depth and talent this USC team has on its roster.
30 - The Trojans are averaging thirty points in their margin of victory during the first two games of the year. Not that it's all that important, it just sounds impressive.
31 - Yards was the farthest passing play for both teams as Justin Holland found Johnny Walker for his 31, and Matt Leinart hooked up with Chris McFoy for his.
32 - Yards covered in 14 seconds for the Trojan's second touchdown of the game. The drive was done in two plays as the Trojan offensive line enabled Matt Leinart to read the Ram defense as well as a good portion of Crime and Punishment before he rolled out to his right and hit Chris McFoy with the aforementioned 31 yard pass play to the Ram one yard line.
33 - Minutes prior to game time I arrived at my seat, giddy at the promise of a military flyover following the national anthem. However, as I type this, I'm still waiting for my flyover. There was nothing. They could have at least tried to fake it and had the PA guy say something like, "Um, if you'll direct your attention out beyond the east endzone, you'll see today's flyover. We'd like to thank Southwest and pilot Joe Williams for their aerial grace in performing this remote flyover." But instead, nothing. No jets, no plane, not even a kite.
34 - Number worn by Hershel Dennis, who, although there is no official word as of yet, could be joining the team sooner rather than later. Adding Dennis to this offense will only make it more potent as Norm Chow will have another athlete who can run, catch and block.
35 - Different players the casual USC fan probably didn't recognize during the game. Carroll did a great job of getting the second and third teams some playing time and those players did an even better job of capitalizing on it. (I put this at thirty-five because I'm trusting those of you hardcore Trojan fans to not spend the time trying to count all of them. Let's just agree that anyone who played, played exceptionally well and the amount of depth we have on this team is absolutely astounding.)
36 - Dollars spent by my brother on food and drinks at the Coliseum, and yet he couldn't shell out $3.00 for a bacon-wrapped hot dog for his generous, ticket buying, older brother.
37 - Is becoming a familiar number out there when the Trojans have the ball. The number belongs to fullback David Kirtman who is doing a brilliant job of filling in for injured fullback Brandon Hancock. Kirtman ran the ball three times for 17 yards and added two catches for 30 yards in Saturday's game.
38 - So I don't have one for 38, but I can give you one for 83, which is the number worn by freshman tight end Fred Davis, who saw action in Saturday's game. While he didn't have any passes thrown his way, he looked good stacked at the end of the offensive line, and when you're blocking for these running backs, a successful day is when you don't hear your number called by the ref. Many people probably didn't even realize Davis was in the game, which means he had a very successful day.
39 - Yards covered by Reggie Bush on his only kickoff return opportunity of the game. It's exciting to have that threat back there, knowing he can pop one at any given time.
40 - The yardage deemed appropriate to label a player's speed. The 40-yard dash time has become increasingly popular among college and football coaches. The reason is that speed wins games, and right now, I'd put my money on the Trojans being the fastest team in college football. If it wasn't true, they wouldn't say it: "Speed kills" "You can't coach speed" "Speed stick" and "speedo."
41 - Points put on the scoreboard by Cal against New Mexico State. Whoever the opponent, Cal has shown it can move the ball on offense and get into the endzone. I realize there will be a lot of emotion for that Cal game, but the Trojans are going to have to play a sound and complete game to beat that Bear offense.
42 - Is the number worn by Dallas Sartz, who made a leaping interception and had a couple of tackles as he continued to make his presence felt all over the field. I think most people thought of Sartz as sort of a stopgap solution to the linebacker situation last year, but his outstanding play is keeping him a regular out there in Pete Carroll's defense.
43 - Points scored by the Auburn Tigers in their tune-up against Mississippi State before hosting the LSU Tigers next week. (And yes, I realize I'm just going around the top 25 scoreboard now, but it's almost the end.)
44 - Number worn by transfer defensive end Rashaad Goodrum who saw action in the second half of the game. As if the Trojans needed any more help on their outstanding defensive line, Goodrum will help provide relentless pressure on the opposing quarterback throughout the game.
45 - Is how many points the Trojans would have had if they had elected to kick a field goal instead of score a touchdown on one of their drives. (Come on, 49 is a lot of points to make)
46 - Only 3 more to go.
47 - Yards traveled by Tom Malone's longest punt of the night. While Trojan fans didn't witness any true Tom Malone bombs on Saturday, he brings a sense of security to the punting game that many college teams are lacking.
48 - Net yards rushing by Colorado State on 27 attempts, leaving them with a 1.8 yards per rush average.
49 – Points racked up by the Trojans.

I believe that if the Trojans finish out this season undefeated, this Colorado State game will be the one they look back on and realize that it was that game where it all came together. Some people will tell you that team chemistry is not important, and that talent alone will still win you games. That may be true, and this Trojan team may be talented enough to win games like the Virginia Tech game based on talent alone. But the way these boys played together Saturday night, there isn't an All-Star team in the world that could have beaten them.

Just some of the many Hallmark moments that occurred during the game: Matt Leinart going to Dwayne Jarrett after each of his drops and escorting him back to the huddle and you knew Leinart was telling him to stay focused, because he was getting another one… The celebration that ensued after Jarrett did make his circus touchdown catch and you saw the stress and frustration of his previous dropped passes laying in the endzone next to those three Ram defenders… Desmond Reed sprinting 20 yards onto the field to chest bump Eric Wright after the latter's interception of a pass inside the Trojan five yard line. This teams wants to play together. Whether it's back-ups pushing starters to be the best they can be, or starters battling with each other to show they deserve the ball, something clicked in that Colorado State game. This is no longer the collection of individuals that had to come back to beat the Hokies in the first week of the season. This is a team of Trojans. So when you get next year's media guide, go ahead and flip back to this game. You'll see it in black and white: Trojans – 49 vs. Colorado State – 0, but you'll know it meant a whole lot more than that.

Erik McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing


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