As of Friday, October 8, the last Trojan football game
that I hadn't watched in person or on TV was a little over a year before. On that day, the
I missed it.
Now, three important things happened this weekend. USC moved to 5-0 on the year and got some revenge for last year's only loss. I realized that I could actually miss watching a Trojan game and the world wouldn't implode, although I don't want to test that theory again for a long time. And I went an Aaron Rodgers-like five for five in good birthday presents given. For the purposes of my life, events two and three may ultimately prove to be more important. But for the purposes of this column, I'll stick to the first one.
With the win against
Well guess what. In the game
of college football, you get to play each team on your schedule one time. The Trojans have played five games now,
and in each game, they've come in as the number one team in the nation. Every opposing team, including
Honestly, this game could have been a more lopsided Trojan victory. The officiating, while not
game-changing, was shaky throughout parts of the game. Three pass interference calls, one that
didn't end up hurting the Trojans and two that did, all went the way of the
Golden Bears. On the Trojans' first
drive of the game, on a third and ten, a defensive back was all over the back,
arm, shoulder and helmet of Chris McFoy as he went across the middle for a
ball. Luckily, the Trojans were
saved on that drive by a catch turned in by Dwayne Jarrett that can only be
described as "wow." Matt Grootegoed
drew a questionable flag for pass interference on one of the Bears' scoring
drives when it appeared he hit the
While 5-0 is the best this Trojan team could be at this point in the season, there are a few things that I'd like to see improve over the coming weeks.
Matt Leinart – Matt Leinart has been a good quarterback through the season's first five games. However, he's been far from great. The underlying thought here is that Leinart could and should be one of the top three quarterbacks in the nation, but so far he hasn't played up to expectations after an amazing season in 2003. It's easy enough to say that he's been hindered by the lack of the explosive receivers he had at his disposal a year ago. However, and if you can follow this, it's not the fact that Keary Colbert and Mike Williams are no longer there, it's that Matt Leinart is playing like they're no longer there. He has yet to try and thread the ball into tight situations or throw the ball deep downfield against any sort of coverage. It's as if the drops by the receivers at the beginning of the year prompted Leinart to believe that every one of his throws must be absolutely perfect. This has led to numerous second guesses and pump fakes resulting in sacks. In 2003, Leinart had no problem listening to his instincts to trust his receivers to make plays for him, but so far this year, he doesn't have the same trust. During the past few games, the receivers have proven that they're ready to step up and catch the passes that Leinart is used to completing to big time receivers. Hopefully Leinart begins to see this and stops checking off a partially covered Chris McFoy because he isn't wearing number one. There is a reason these wide receivers call the Coliseum their home. They are some of the best in the country and are looking to prove it. Leinart needs to put the ball into the air and let them help him out.
Norm Chow – Norm Chow has been an offensive
coordinator for a long time; longer than I've been alive. Telling Norm how to direct an offense
would be like telling the Queen how to grip her teacup. However, just because I've never worn a
headset sponsored by Motorola doesn't mean I can't make observations. In 2003, Norm Chow taunted
opponents. He kept the Trojan
offense five steps and twenty points ahead of the opposing defense. In 2004, it's almost as if he knows what
will work, so he puts it away until we really need it. I can't be the only one that sees
LenDale White going off tackle for seven yards on every try. With these running backs, I don't care
if the offensive line is made up of a collection of Sorority presidents, we
should never be faced with a three and out situation. David Kirtman and Lee Webb out of the
backfield had been useful weapons in moving the ball downfield and Kirtman saw
only one pass in the game against
Pete Carroll – Like I've said before, I've coached exactly zero downs of division I college football, and in just over three years, Pete Carroll has taken these Trojans from Las Vegas Bowl losers to Orange Bowl optimists. I'm not going to say what he's doing isn't working when it obviously is working to perfection so far this season. However, Pete, I'm asking you, for my sake, for my aunt's lungs' sake, for my grandma's heart's sake, please stop letting games come down to last minute defensive stands. I realize that's what you live for and it gets you fired up, but it makes us crazy. You've been here for four years. You don't know the pain of the Trojans constantly finding ways to lose games throughout a decade of futility. I understand that these close games are exciting, and a late game defensive stand is a defensive coordinator's high; but let us get used to believing that the Trojans will constantly come out with a win before you put us through two in a row like that.
Linebackers – It seems that the linebackers have
been playing a different game over the past few weeks than they were during the
first three games of the season.
During games against Virginia Tech and
Pressure on the Quarterback – The defensive front,
with a healthy Jeff Schweiger, can be the most dominating force in college
football. It can better than
Purdue's passing attack, have more impact than
At this point in the season, I don't know if there's been a 5-0, number one ranked team that has been so frustrating for its fans to watch. It's almost comical to talk to people after the game as they treat these wins like blowout losses. We must remember that the bulls-eye these Trojan players are wearing is getting bigger by the week.
Also, apologies to Ryan Killeen can be sent to Heritage Hall or posted directly on the practice field doors. And don't say things like, "Oh, that's just one game." This was "the game." It was the one game all year where it was important from the very beginning that he was perfect and not only did he nail all of his field goals and extra points, his shortest kickoff landed some five yards deep in the end zone.
The Trojans now await a visit from the Sun Devils
of Arizona State, and this has all the makings of a classic letdown game. I actually wouldn't be surprised to see
some experts start a trend of picking Arizona State to win the game, or at least
keep it real close. Some people
will equate USC to the
Erik McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org