Sparky sets Bush afire

I'm sitting here in the dark – near pitch. The only light, a warm, distant glow from my computer screen, off in the never-ending corner of my room. I'm sitting here trying to conjure up images of Saturday's game against the Arizona State Sun Devils and I'm wondering… "If a man is off alone in a forest and lets out a rally-cry, a warrior's whoop, and there's no one around to hear it…did he make any noise at all?"

I'm sitting here in the dark – near pitch.  The only light, a warm, distant glow from my computer screen, off in the never-ending corner of my room.  I'm sitting here trying to conjure up images of Saturday's game against the Arizona State Sun Devils and I'm wondering… "If a man is off alone in a forest and lets out a rally-cry, a warrior's whoop, and there's no one around to hear it…did he make any noise at all?"

 

            I'll let you all ponder what I mean, while I still sit in my room, in the dark, slowly but surely getting more and more nervous.  I'm getting nervous because, I can't seem to get nervous…about this game.  I just can't get myself to take it seriously and I know that is a very serious mistake and I know that if I am not getting jacked about this coming match up and I look around on the various boards and none of my fellow internet geeks (no offense intended, we are a family after all) aren't screaming and hollering about it – then what the hell is our team's attitude right now?  I've just screamed – my rally cry – and no one heard me.  There's no pounding at my door to see that I am alright – no Florence Nightengale rushing to my side.  So, I guess it's true – if a man is off alone in a forest and lets out a rally-cry, a warrior's whoop, it can go unheard.

 

            Oh man, this is deep, I've finally walked out of the shallow end of the pool.  Now I can close my eyes and conjure up the images I need to get this game into proper perspective… No, no, no!  What is happening?  I've got Warner Bros. Cartoons and theme songs banging of my cerebral walls.  "Reg…gie, the Devil's after you.  Reg…gie, if he catches you, you're through."  Beep, Beep.  I see this stupid-looking Sun Devil animated guy, pitchfork in hand, flames burning behind him with Andrew Walter's face and a really stupid, uber-exaggerated Cheshire grin, prodding Reggie Bush around a football field to, to… ah, there it is…greatness. 

 

I'm okay now, I see it.  I see how the Trojans, coaches, fans and team alike, take this game with more seriousness than a child's cartoon – they don't need to get pumped up for Arizona State.  The Trojans are already pumped up about themselves and what they are doing.  SC isn't playing a different opponent every week – they are going thru a weekly learning curve to improve their own game.  It doesn't matter who we play.  It matters that we stay focused on the end goal – getting better, smarter, stronger, and faster with each opponent being some sort of  Pavlovian test – ring the bell and our dogs find, in this instance; the ball, the endzone, the quarterback, the scoreboard, the victory.  Winning has become innate for the Trojans and that's the way I like it.

 

Now can you hear me YELL?  Now are you getting pumped up – getting your game faces on?  Now are you going to show up as rabid as you were last week, not because the Sun Devils deserve the attention, but because our team has a season long goal to attain and they need your support to get there?  Because for them to pass this test, they need your fire.  They commented on this in the last game.  Warriors like Groots, Cody and Patterson, when their well had gone almost dry, drank thirstily from what the home town crowd provided.  It helped them carry on to the finish – and pass that last test.

 

In all my years as a Trojan I have never heard or seen the Coliseum like that – so loud,so  intense, finally a true home field advantage.  I know it made a difference.  I've heard half-a-dozen fans take credit for Cal's timeouts and I know each of them is deserving. We are all deserving.  A single voice in the woods became ninety-thousand in a downtown jungle and together, we were heard. 

 

I spoke of the importance of this in my last pre-game article.  Wearing the Cardinal colors and bleeding it from kick-off to the fat lady's serenade.  It wasn't I who prompted you to do this – it was an inner-voice.  It called and you heard it.  It's time to listen again.  

 

Arizona State comes into the Coliseum, 5-0.  This is their best team since Jake "The Snake" Plummer was under center in the last century. I mean, they are good.  Of 68 Butkus "Watch List" linebackers, they have three.  They've got a bevy of seniors, like Cal did, who return this year as All Pac Ten first, second and honorable mentions.  And they've got… Andrew Walters.

 

Oh, there's that image again – the Sun Devil with Andrew's face on it chasing Reggie.  Concentrate – no, now I am seeing Andrew as my least favorite ‘80's actor – the sniveling Andrew McCarthy – you know the guy with that constant, "just finished crying" look?  I can't stand him.  I freaking hate him.  Now that I see it more clearly, I must admit, Derek Anderson looks more like McCarthy than does, Walters but you get my point. Anyway, for some reason, I don't like Andrew Walters, either.

 

He's done nothing wrong – at least to me personally.  He's never beat the Trojans.  I don't even think he's come close.  In fact, looking back at his stat laden career, I notice he's the leader of a .500 ball club.  That is until this year, until the 5 and 0 stuff. 

 

I went to a dinner where a former college head coach, who, among other things, now gurus for skill players prepping for the NFL combines, told me that Andrew had the best arm of all the quarterbacks at an off-season camp this last year. Those included the likes of Philip Rivers and some other future first round gunslingers. "Wow," I thought – then later, I thought again, alone in the corner of my dark room..."Oh yeah, that's now…"

 

Another image came into my head – I'm a kid, caddying for Joe Namath, post career.  He can barely walk because he never had the wheels to really get out of the way, but man could he chuck a spear.  Oh, there's another – Dan Marino, greatest passer to ever play the game – never made it to the Superbowl.  I see both their knee braces, those big black bars of iron, molded around spindly legs, watching them walk – man it hurts.  That, to me, is the future of Andrew Walters – no not the big time qb stuff, the legs, the broken legs.

 

There's a lyric from an old Public Enemy song – I think it goes something like "Don't believe the hype…"  Andrew has never learned this.  He pretends to not care about stats, or his NFL (which for him, will stand for Not For Long) stock,  but, try as he might, it comes out in every one of his interviews. Andrew is all about Andrew.  His teammates may not see it, blinded by the Battan-like march their season is about to become, but that's the deal.  "I'm seven touchdowns away from this record, or I considered leaving when told how high I would go in the draft, but decided, and not because of the chance to destroy a bunch of passing records and win the Heisman, that I'd come back… Or, Leinart and Rodgers are getting all the hype while I'm throwing for 400 yards a game. I know I am the best…"  Andrew's the second biggest phoney in Pac Ten football – Derek is number one.  Andrew truly believes he is a star.  By the fourth quarter against the Trojans, he will certainly be seeing them.

 

Go deep young man, go deep.  Andrew's got a beautiful arm.  He can throw the deep stuff with the best of them.  But the deep stuff takes time 2.5 to 3.0 seconds for a wide receiver to get downfield.  1.0 to 1.5 seconds to run a Double Cat or Single Corner blitz or for Cody, Patterson, Rucker, LoJack, Wright, Rivers and Schwieger to put him on his back. 

 

That's the key to this game – putting Walters on his back.  USC is going to do to Andrew, what they did to Trent in the second half of the Stanford game – make him wish he played any sport other than football.   The difference, the Trojans aren't going to wait until the third quarter to put it into fourth gear.  It's full-speed ahead from opening snap.  For Andrew that truly does spell trouble.  He's so slow, his mother recounted stories of his childhood.  As a baby, she and Mr. Walters would set him down in the middle of his blanket (he had just learned to crawl – he was four) anyway, they would then race off, catch a movie, have dinner, maybe grab a drink and go dancing, then race home – he might have moved an inch.  I mean, that's slow.  Like I did with my golf game, changing the name of my first bad swing from Mulligan to MacGillvary, the mafia now calls their famous cement boots, Walters.  Having to use cell-phones to order many of their hits, it puts eavesdropping at high risk.  Calling them Walters keeps the cops out of the loop, while clearly getting the order across.  "Put him in some Walters." Man, that is really slow.

 

Walters is not alone, however.  They've got a one-armed running back (the other, broken and in a cast) named Hakim Hill, who at one point in his career looked to be a rising star.  Then injuries and two better backs pushed him down to third string and that's where he lay, until those two backs disintegrated into nothing.  Now Hakim's got the rock and is proving he's still got game.  The forgotten one ran for 100 plus in their last outing.  He can't catch a pass, due to the cast, but he does have wheels.  The Sun Devils also have talented receivers both at the wideout and tight end positions.  Zach Miller, their starting tight end, is already being compared to Todd Heap – the best tight end to ever play in a Devil uniform.  Todd was special, so that is saying a lot.  Miller could pose serious problems, depending on the defensive schemes head coach Pete Carroll employs, but that problem won't last for long.  Adjustments will be made.

 

There's receiver and Pac Ten Second team in '03 Hagan, those Butkus Watchlist linebackers, a strong offensive line and a really good coach…  A really good coach… Koetter is a former member of a staff that included Tedford.  Dirk is an offensive coach, who worked wonders at Boise State.  He's widely respected as a maker of great quarterbacks.  He's never had one at ASU and still doesn't.  Dirk's also never been given the "genius" moniker.  ASU might get off to a fast start, with some vertical stuff early, but I don't think by the end of the day, Koetter will be on the winning side of the ball.

 

In his 3 plus seasons, Koetter is right around .500.  At the beginning of this season and the end of last's, he was on the proverbial hot seat.  But his 5-0 start, has quelled the mob – we'll see how long that lasts as the Devils head into the heart of their '04 campaign.

 

SC has their own offensive mind – this one is a genius, though fairly said, looked less than that, in last Saturday's game against Cal.  Norm Chow, the best of the best, didn't call his best game.  In his defense, 50 plays for an entire game makes it hard to get your groove on. 

 

Chow all but said, he didn't hold up his end of the deal, but also pointed out the W.  I think this week might be Chow's coming out party for the '04 regular season.  Much like what we saw against Colorado State, we might see against the Devils.  Steve Smith is gone and that is devastating, but the Trojans are deep enough at other positions to pick up the slack. 

 

Fred Davis returns for some receiver play and while I don't expect him to catch much, or light things up, I do expect him to lay some key blocks for Reggie on the Bubble Screen.  Chow also gets Dom Byrd to use a little bit more.  Dom will take some of the receptions that would've gone to Steve, as will Alex Holmes. 

 

Jason Mitchell is a senior who runs smart routes and will get to the right spot on the field, as designed by Norm. And Garrett is already casting images of his own, away from those left behind by greats like Williams and Johnson.

 

Then there is the running game.  SC's backs are dinged – Bush, shoulder, White, ankle and Dennis, Hamstring.  All together they still form the best backfield in college football.  Add a little smoke and mirrors from an emerging Desmond Reed – pound for pound, the toughest Trojan on the team and Chow's got all he needs to whip up a sweet offensive full course meal.

 

Oh no, another cartoon image – this time Walter's is Jack and the Trojans are the sleeping giant.  In this scenario, poor Jack just isn't quick enough to elude the giant's big old shoe.  Game over, end of ree – that's a wrap for poor Andrew and his Sun Devils. I'll turn the lights on – the party's over.  SC's fine.  We could get off to a slow start, unless the fans become as one, again, and lift the team onto their shoulders to support them through this next test, onto victory.  That's my last image, another rocking Coliseum, players waving their arms, wanting more from the crowd and the faithful responding in a fashion never seen by even the Devil, himself – that crazy, pitch-fork carrying lunatic with the Andrew Walter face, chasing Reg-gie around the field until he ignites and the Bush becomes a flame. 

                                                SC 41  ASU 21

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