O/NSO - Cal review

The Obvious – With the constant Big Ben gong of a new Coliseum videoboard crowd-o-meter encouraging maximum cardinal and gold audio chaos, the top-ranked USC Trojans (5-0, 2-0) brought forth new meaning to Hemingway's For Whom the Bells Tolls by deafening the No. 7 California Golden Bears (3-1, 1-1), 23-17, along with an historic goal line stand.

The Not So Obvious – Forget about all the Trojans' secretive practice sessions during the bye week and the Cal scouting reports. The biggest surprise on Saturday was the unveiling of London midnight chimes by the USC athletic department that brought the fan noise level to indescribable decibels, resulting in the Cal Bears inability to literally function on their final four plays. This all coming after the Bears' offense had mopped the Trojan defense up and down the Coliseum floor for 58 minutes of play.

The Obvious – In the end, the margin of victory came down to Trojan defensive guts, fortitude, and the unexpected paralysis of Cal coach Ted Tedford's vaunted offense.

The Not So Obvious – In a nutshell, the game came down to Trojan special teams dominance, the creative mind of a member(s) of the Trojan athletic department, an all-time Trojan defensive stand, and the inexperience of Cal to execute in a hostile, last-stand FedEx Field-Virginia Tech environment.

The Obvious – No Trojan player has been under more analysis and psychoanalysis than senior kicker Ryan Killeen.

The Not So Obvious – What a tremendous gift the senior from Norco provided his team, coaches, and fans. His two field goals and six kickoff touchbacks were instrumental to the Trojans' narrow victory. After the Trojans had concluded team warm-ups and headed up the Coliseum tunnel back to their lockers, Killeen remained on the field and practiced kicking field goals in the face of the taunting Cal students and fans. The kid was ready and showed it early.

The Obvious – There is a respected coaching rivalry between USC's Pete Carroll and Cal's Jeff Tedford and it only increased after Saturday's burner.

The Not So Obvious – The two incomparable coaches now have faced each other three times and Carroll now leads the series 2-1. However, Tedford again showed he's the irresistible force in moving the ball and Carroll's scoring defense, the immovable object. The bottom line is the final score, and again, it's points not yardage that determines victory.

The Obvious – Cal had first and goal at the Trojans' nine-yard line with 1 minute 47 seconds left in regulation.

The Not So Obvious – The defensive play of the fateful four downs was the second down sack by sophomore defensive tackle Manuel Wright, which not only moved the Golden Bears five yards back to the 14, but put incredible pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers' mental accountability. "Superman" was reduced to two plays to achieve the upset. The second down play, the best Jeff Tedford play-call in the series, was a designed shovel pass, which in this part of the field is either feast or famine. The pressure by the Trojans' defensive front disrupted the timing of the play and truly changed the comfort zone of the Bears' offense and the game.

The Obvious –The game-winning defensive series may have saved a season of dreams, and the Trojans still have not allowed a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a game this season.

The Not So Obvious – In a great sense of irony, Cal came into the big game leading the Pac-10 in red zone conversions with 12-for-12, but Tedford's unit couldn't get it done in the crunch of crunch time. In another great sense of irony, the Trojans scored on four of its five trips in the Promised Land. So when the game came down to its very essence, the Trojans fourth quarter streak overcame Cal's red zone streak, despite the total domination of the Bears in total yardage (424-205).

The Obvious – The player of the game for the Trojans was unquestionably kicker Ryan Killeen with two critical field goals in the first half and six kickoffs for touchbacks, which did not allow Cal frosh phenom Marshawn Lynch from doing a Reggie Bush impression.

The Not So Obvious – In contrast, Cal kicker Tom Schneider, who had not attempted a field goal until Saturday, without question felt the wrath of 92,000 in the fourth quarter when he shanked a 36-yard attempt in the nerve-bending final quarter. Had Schneider hit his opportunity, the final Cal drive may have resulted in a field goal and overtime.

The Obvious – The final two plays of Cal's final series were incomplete pass plays in the Trojan end zone.

The Not So Obvious – On third down, the Bears tested Trojan redshirt freshman Eric Wright, who appears on the verge of cracking the starting secondary unit. The fact that Wright was in there in the most crucial of situations tells you Pete Carroll is nearing a switch in personnel. On the final Cal gasp, QB Rodgers tried a corner-post against Kevin Arbet, an apparent favorite target of opposing offensive coordinators.

The Obvious – There was some controversy on the last Cal pass in the end zone, which was intended for Johnathan Makonnen, the senior from Menlo Park.

The Not So Obvious - Those on the field say that it was too close to call whether Arbert collided with senior Cal receiver Jonathan Makonnen or Makonnen slipped on his cut to the post. It appeared that Rodgers pass was not, despite some reports, on the money. In baseball talk, it was "low and in the dirt."

The Obvious – After the game, Trojan coach Pete Carroll said the game was a "blast," USC defensive tackle called it "Coliseum magic," and linebacker Lofa Tatupu said, " Let him (Cal QB Aaron Rodgers) have all the completions and records. We got the win and that's all that matters. Give him the Heisman."

The Not So Obvious – For Matt Leinart, who said he was nervous near the very end and was already thinking about a comeback being down by one point, there may have been a sense of relief both in the score and the Heisman pressure. Lefty has been under the scope each week and in an unusual way. Aaron Rodgers stupendous effort may have actually relieved some of Leinart's personal pressure and allow him to totally stay focused on team goals. It would be unreasonable to assume that the Heisman stuff doesn't become more burden than original euphoria.

The Obvious – The Trojans defensive front led by tackles Mike Patterson, who had a whale of a game over Cal's heralded center Marvin Philips, and Shaun Cody, was especially impressive late in the game.

The Not So Obvious – As well as Patterson and Cody played on defense, the Trojans' offensive line really struggled at times in protecting Matt Leinart, who was in some serious hurt on one particular sack. You might NOT want to be a fly on the wall when Coach Tim Davis gets hold of his crew for film sessions. There was some real breakdowns on the edges.

The Obvious – Trojan coach Pete Carroll tried to put a positive spin on Cal's offensive dominance calling his defense "bend but don't break" and that the Trojans "rope-a-doped Cal."

The Not So Obvious – With Cal coach Jeff Tedford's outstanding game plan to move the chains and not go deep and Pete Carroll's design to keep everything in front and don't get beat deep, Cal succeeded in piling on the yardage only due to Rodgers historic en fuego performance. However, Carroll, no doubt, was disappointed by Cal's rushing attack that carved up the Trojans for 157 yards and nearly doubled the Trojans' rushing attempts (44-25). There will also be some serious defensive film sessions early this week in Heritage Hall.

The Obvious – Cal tailback J.J. Arrington had 122 yards rushing but no touchdowns.

The Not So Obvious – Arrington became only the second running back to gain over 100 yards against the Trojans since last year's Cal game with Adimchinobe Echemando (147 yds). Surprisingly, Pete Carroll's defense still held the Golden Bears rushing average of 278 per game to 157 yards and 48.7 points per game to 17. Not bad, my friend.

The Obvious – One of the big plays that could have blown the game open was a muffed Cal punt return after another great Tom Malone punt.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan redshirt freshman Eric Wright picked it up and ran it into the Cal end zone and the Coliseum went bonkers. Unfortunately for the Trojans, they couldn't advance a muff and ended up with a 33-yard field goal by Killeen. There were a number of missed opportunities such as this that could have, as Matt Leinart pointed out afterwards, put the Trojans near their 36.5 points per game average and broken the game open.

The Obvious – The Trojans' explosive Reggie Bush almost returned a Cal kickoff the distance.

The Not So Obvious – Cal kept attempting to kick away from Roadrunner Reggie. However, the Trojans countered by switching the positions of Desmond Reed and Reggie Bush at the last second, and later having the two line up in an "I" formation and then splitting at the goal line at the last possible moment.

The Obvious – The Trojans sacked Aaron Rodgers five crucial times in the contest.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans should have easily tacked on others. A number of times the Trojans' ends were caught inside of their contain, and Rodgers, reminding the O/NSO of former ASU star Jake Plummer, simply rolled outside, a dangerous area for any defense this side of the Baltimore Ravens.

The Obvious – Improving super sophomore receiver Steve Smith broke his left fibula in the third quarter and is lost indefinitely.

The Not So Obvious – It was a critical blow to the Trojans offense in the second half, especially when Troy was in the Cal red zone. In the 42 years of following Trojans football, the O/NSO cannot remember a more disseminated receiving unit when you combine ineligibility and injury.

The Obvious – The Cal players are in shock with their loss to the Trojans and stellar defensive back Ryan Gutierrez, who was beaten by Dwayne Jarrett for a third quarter 16-yard score, said that the Bears would beat the Trojans nine out of 10 times.

The Not So Obvious – Cal was in a position at the end of the game to win, but the Bears will look back on three lost fumbles, a critical missed field goal, and a blown punt snap by L.P Ladouceur. Troy lost no fumbles, hit on both its field goals, and had less penalty yardage (36-46). Pete Carroll runs an extremely tight ship when it comes to discipline and that's why the Trojans remain No. 1 in the country today. It's about turnovers and the Trojans had less than the Golden Bears on Saturday.

The Obvious – There is no question that crowd noise played a major factor in the game, a fact that many stunned Bears' players said afterwards.

The Not So Obvious – Even before the game, Cal coach Jeff Tedford said he had never been before a sellout of this size and that you couldn't prepare for it. It certainly showed the advantage the Trojans had in experience having played before over 90,000 this season. The Coliseum crowd was roaring during warmups and well into the first quarter. However, the fans seemed worn out except for selected moments in the second and third quarters, but came back with vengeance in the fateful final two minutes. Media on the field said the noise level on Cal's final four plays was beyond description and almost unplayable.

The Obvious – Considering the "zone" that Cal quarterback Rodgers was in for most of the game, the Trojans did almost all they could trying to defend the Bears' outstanding receivers.

The Not So Obvious – Not all of Rodgers' throws were simple tosses. Some were downright uncanny. However, a major factor late in the third quarter that may have contributed to the Trojans' heroic goal line stand was the fact that Chase Lyman, Cal's outstanding 6-4 receiver who had two catches for 28 yards, suffered an hyper-extended knee in the third quarter and never returned to the game.

The Obvious – The Trojans did a good job of opening up a ten-point lead in the first quarter.

The Not So Obvious – Great call by Norm Chow on the Trojans' first score when LenDale White circled out of backfield and beat linebacker Francis Blay-Miezah over the middle. The old Oakland Raiders of John Madden used to love that play near the goal line. Chow used to call the same play for Malaefou MacKenzie, the former Trojan running back.

The Obvious – As has been the pattern, the Trojans had problems covering the tight end position as Cal's TE Garrett Cross, the senior from Chico, had five catches for 40 yards.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' tight end Alex Holmes had two receptions for four yards and surprisingly Dominique Bryd had no receptions. However, on first-and-goal at the Cal ten early in the first quarter, Matt Leinart apparently didn't see Byrd wide open in the back of the end zone and threw underneath to Holmes who made four yards.

The Obvious – The Trojans once recruited Cal senior defensive lineman Ray Tago, who is a Long Beach Poly grad and transfer from Long Beach CC.

The Not So Obvious – When Cal starting defensive end Steve Kelly was injured during practice this week and was unable to play, Tago came in on Saturday in the rotation of Cal defensive linemen.

The Obvious – Even Trojan coach Ed Orgeron watched TV with amazement at the Trojan crowd in the background for ESPN' s GameDay telecast in front of peristyle end of the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – Loveable ESPN GameDay analyst Lee Corso said that for all the years he has been part of GameDay, this was the best atmosphere he had been around. Now that is saying something when you consider places like Tennessee, Michigan, and Notre Dame.

The Obvious – No matter how you feel about the hosts or the hyberbole, the GameDay experience definitely brings a sense of national importance.

The Not So Obvious – After the morning telecast, GameDay host Chris Fowler was outside the colorful production bus signing autographs. There was also a digital GameDay camera so fans could see themselves on Sunday on the GameDay web address.

The Obvious – The Trojans Walk, the wonderful tradition where the USC players walk from their team bus through Trojan support groups and fans, was exceptionally intense at 10:32. a.m.

The Not So Obvious – As Knight High from Palmdale played Fight On, the Trojan players filed through the three-deep crowd causing two giddy blondes with cameras to say, "This is sooo cool, so cool!!!"

The Obvious – The Trojans treated a large turnout of recruits to a lunch of grilled chicken and the traditional hot dogs.

The Not So Obvious – Trojans' recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, receivers coach Lane Kiffin, and secondary coach Greg Burns were working the recruiting floor. Orgeron was especially pleased to interact with Arizona super defensive tackle Ekom Udofia (6-1, 290) from Scottsdale Chaparral High

The Obvious – Even Pete Carroll had a nervous smile as he lead his team through the Trojan Walk.

The Not So Obvious – In pre-game drills, Carroll looked like he wanted to don a Trojan jersey as he struck up a game of catch with his son and assistant coach Brennan at mid-field.

The Obvious – A massive number of students showed up early Saturday for their ESPN exposure with painted faces and signs.

The Not So Obvious – Somewhat surprising was that the throng stayed at the peristyle end and formed a huge line waiting to get inside the Coliseum. Once they were allowed in to the legendary stadium, they were literally running to their seats causing USC officials to scream to "slow down, don't run!"

The Obvious – A large number of fans were seen walking down Figueroa Blvd. at 9:00a.m., including former Trojan offensive guard Zack Wilson, who was accompanied by friends and wearing a nervous big-game smile.

The Not So Obvious – Saturday morning's early arrivals were a boon for local business, as even Captain Burger on "Fig" was feeding Coliseum event staff hamburgers inside at 9:30 a.m.

The Obvious – There was some early discussion about how the Bear and Trojan fans would interact during the tailgating.

The Not So Obvious – At least from the pre-game festivities, fans of both sides were side-by-side in spirit attire exchanging food and greetings.

The Obvious – Thirty minutes before kickoff, the Cal fans seated in the closed end zone of the Coliseum taunted the Trojan team with chants of "overrated."

The Not So Obvious – The pre-game noise and excitement was as good as the O/NSO has seen in the Coliseum and even the temperature gauge was so uptight that it was swinging back and forth like a windshield wiper.

The Obvious – The Cal band came down south for their annual Los Angeles trip and performed halftime music by the Counting Crows.

The Not So Obvious – In attendance was Cal alum and Counting Crows' lead singer Adam Duritz.

The Obvious – Even though No. 2 Oklahoma gained first place votes in both major polls and trimmed some of the Trojans top-ranked lead, Troy and their relieved fans can take a short breather until next Saturday afternoon. Same time, same place, same channel, different undefeated team.

The Not So Obvious – Unlike Cinderella, the Trojans and their fans have learned to love the sound of the Coliseum Big Ben midnight gong, but they are also respectful that Arizona State will be more than happy to turn the Trojans' national championship coach into a pumpkin.

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