O/NSO - ASU review

Born out of necessity, coaching chutzpah, and the endorsement of tailback Reggie Bush to a prominent wide receiver role, the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans' unsteady offense morphed itself into the 2003 national champion juggernaut providing Arizona State's worst nightmare as the Trojans (6-0, 3-0) dismantled the No.15 Sun Devils, 45-7, showing 90,211 Coliseum believers and the nation a new offensive dynamic that could be seen all the way to the Miami.

The Obvious – Born out of necessity, coaching chutzpah, and the endorsement of tailback Reggie Bush to a prominent wide receiver role, the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans' unsteady offense morphed itself into the 2003 national champion juggernaut providing Arizona State's worst nightmare as the Trojans (6-0, 3-0) dismantled the No.15 Sun Devils, 45-7, showing 90,211 Coliseum believers and the nation a new offensive dynamic that could be seen all the way to the Miami.

The Not So Obvious – Due to the unfortunate leg injury to sophomore wide receiver Steve Smith, Pete Carroll and Norm Chow had to pull football's version of a baseball double-switch. By formationing Bush to wide receiver and allowing an extended LenDale White presence at tailback, plus the "true" return of athletic junior tight end Dominique Byrd, suddenly the Trojans had all their offensive weapons on the field at the same time and weakness was turned into a frightening strength.

The Obvious – The Trojans remained the No. 1 team in the land on Sunday in both the ESPN/USA Today and AP polls.

The Not So Obvious – Look carefully and you'll see the Trojans' grasp of the top spot strengthened as Troy picked up five more first-place votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll and gained as well in the AP poll. This all coming the day before the first BCS rankings are released.

The Obvious – With another Trojan sellout, it's safe to say this is not your father's or even your grandfather's Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – Visiting teams coming into the Coliseum are obviously effected by the "new" atmosphere and the Trojan fans now know it. ASU linebacker Dale Robinson said, "We had a lot of nerves going in." In their first four plays, the Sun Devils had two false-starts and later had a fumble, their first of the season.

The Obvious – Most observers agree that last year's Trojan 37-17 comeback win at Tempe was the turning point in Troy's 2003 national championship season.

The Not So Obvious – So it appears the same turning point may have taken place Saturday with a somewhat déjà vu experience this year in the Coliseum. Last season saw Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart fight through injury to lead his club to a Sun Devil Stadium victory, while this season, the Steve Smith injury prompted a gut-check challenge that Pete Carroll's boys eerily duplicated in stunning fashion.

The Obvious – The Trojans answered all the critics that not only predicted them to be upset by Arizona State (5-1, 2-1), but also served notice that No. 2 is not in the Trojans' numerical vocabulary.

The Not So Obvious – Coach Kirk Koetter's Arizona State Sun Devils will never be confused with the Cal Bears, but the feeling here is if the Trojans had played coach Jeff Tedford's talented Golden Bears with Saturday's "new" offensive look, Troy would have made the Cal outcome less debatable.

The Obvious – Of the Trojans' ASU bashing, Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley wrote, " ASU hit the big time Saturday. Just the way a bug hits the windshield. SPLAT. Indeed, there may not be a word in the dictionary to describe what happened to ASU in its moment of reckoning against Southern California, although annihilation will do for now."

The Not So Obvious – Fine ASU junior receiver Derek Hagen of Palmdale, who earlier spoke of his dislike of the Trojans, afterwards said, " They just embarrassed us on national television." Hagen, who had five receptions for 52 yards, will find comfort that the game was on ABC regional showing but did appear in selected markets across the country.

The Obvious – The Trojans held ASU to seven points, although the Sun Devils were averaging 34 points per outing.

The Not So Obvious – Perhaps the most telling tale was the ASU defense which gave up 145 yards rushing to the Trojans, 47 yards over their 98-yard average. Combined with the Trojans 301 yards passing compared to the ASU defensive pass average of 205 yards, the Sun Devils problems were as much on defense as on offense.

The Obvious – The incomparable Reggie Bush had two receptions for 45 yards and a 10-yard scoring catch.

The Not So Obvious – You know by now that Reggie lined up at tailback and carried five times for 21 yards, and that his 52- yard reverse pass to Dwayne Jarrett brought a nation to its feet. Lining up No. 5 outside the tackles allows Roadrunner Reggie a place "where the deer and the antelope roam." Knowledgeable Coliseum football fans were left gasping for air when they saw the Sun Devil corners playing bump-and-run with Bush split out. Defending Bush with "press" coverage is about as dumb as a screen door on a submarine.

The Obvious – The Sun Devils came into the Coliseum with a new-look 4-3 defense, which was considered the best in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – Unfortunately for Sun Devil fans, the new alignment yielded 42 first half points compared to just 10 points at the same intermission in Tempe a year ago.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart completed 13 of 24 passes for 224 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Not So Obvious – The formation of Bush to the outside allowed Leinart the type of explosive targets on both sides of the offensive line of scrimmage and a passing topography that brought him to 2003 national attention and energized his 2004 Heisman campaign. There were some in the stands that were concerned about Lefty being used as a ball carrier near the goal line, but his 1-yard plunge was nothing more than a repeat of previously successful efforts this season.

The Obvious – USC freshman prodigy Dwayne Jarrett had three touchdowns and 139 yards in receptions, a career-high for the former prep All-American from New Brunswick, New Jersey.

The Not So Obvious – Much has been made about Jarrett's freshman "homesick" fever, but the kid is not going anywhere, especially when he gets to his "Coliseum house" three times in front of an adoring 90,000 Trojan zealots.

The Obvious – Junior tight end Dominique Byrd had three catches for 49 yards, a nifty 16. 3 per catch average.

The Not So Obvious – Oh, baby, when Byrd is lined tight and Reggie is on the outside, this Trojan offense is about as exciting as it comes. Byrd is the missing piece in Chow's offense and boy does it show. Dom's 19-yard run after receiving a Matt Cassel toss was pure NFL in nature. Trojan fans best get used to this type of dimension the balance of the year because Norm Chow is just beginning to open up the offensive showroom.

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense completely shutdown and intimidated the one-dimensional Sun Devil offense.

The Not So Obvious – With virtually no rushing attack, Pete Carroll's defense was in a Full Monty pass rush. Inspired by the "Gong" of third down noise, the massive Trojan Coliseum fan base almost looks forward to third down situations was they can join the cardinal and gold defense on the field in vocal spirit. Credit junior linebacker Dallas Sartz, who had a fine game leading the Trojans in tackles.

The Obvious – The Trojans recorded eight sacks, six against heralded ASU quarterback Andrew Walter, who had just 181 yards passing and two killer interceptions.

The Not So Obvious – ASU's Walter gave college football fans further evidence that if you're going to beat the Trojans, you'd better have a mobile quarterback like Cal's Aaron Rodgers. If you don't, defensive linemen Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson, and the rest of Coach Ed Orgeron's Monsters of Martin Luther King Blvd. are going to turn your QB into a Cardinal and Gold feeding frenzy.

The Obvious – Trojans' kicker Ryan Killeen, who had a 34-yard field goal in his only attempt on Saturday, has returned to the form that placed him on the ballot for the Lou Groza Award as one of the nation's top kickers.

The Not So Obvious – By hitting on his last four field goal attempts covering two games, Killeen has stepped forward at the right time to put Troy in a position to make a run at all the marbles. Maybe it was the LA Times story during the week or simply the coaching of special teams assistant Dennis Slutak, the kid is back at the right time.

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense look more and more comfortable with Justin Wyatt and Eric Wright manning the corner spots for coach Greg Burns.

The Not So Obvious – Redshirt freshman Wright has been gaining favor by Pete Carroll the past couple of weeks, and the San Francisco native showed his coach his talent with a second quarter, vicious corner blitz of Andrew Walter that made the rounds of the media highlight shows. Wyatt, too, also appears to have found a comfort zone in his performances.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll says he doesn't discuss or worry about their number one ranking.

The Not So Obvious – In a national political year, Carroll is saying the right rhetoric, but in almost every media interview, Trojans players, including quarterback Matt Leinart, make reference to being numero uno. At this point in time, it is probably more therapeutic to talk about it since everybody, including the "old" coach, who talks about "how hard it is to do what we are trying to do." Hey, Pete, just what is it you're trying to do? Yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck.

The Obvious – Another sellout brought unparalleled energy into the Coliseum, and the Trojans players were constantly waving their arms on the field like a concertmaster to raise the volume.

The Not So Obvious – Returning from halftime, captains Shaun Cody, who had his fifth career field goal block, and Matt Leinart walked by the front rows of the closed end of the Coliseum and applauded the crowd for their participation and encouraged them with arm demonstrations to continue backing their heroes. The early effects of the crowd showed when ASU kicker Jesse Ainsworth missed on a 47-yard first quarter try.

The Obvious – The Trojan football spirit is in high form and the marketing department has shown it's going to take advantage of Troy's lofty ranking by creating Trojan Pride, an official spirit organization of USC.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans at the Coliseum have already bought into the third-down "Gong" to ratchet up the noise level. On Saturday, fans in attendance were given a "guide" to Trojan spirit. The pamphlet contained the words to the Trojan alma mater, Fight On, and a brief history of heritage explaining Tommy Trojan, The Spirit of Troy Marching Band, the Victory Sign, Traveler, and the Notre Dame rivalry.

The Obvious – One of the "statement" hits of the game came in the opening kickoff when Trojan walk-on Justin Tolliver (5-9,160) nailed Sun Devil's Rudy Burgess on the return.

The Not So Obvious – Without much fanfare, Tolliver is the son of the late, great Kevin Williams (5-9, 165), the Trojans explosive wide receiver from the late 1970's.

The Obvious – Trojan fans and coaches have been waiting for the return of safety Darnell Bing, who has enough raw talent for three players.

The Not So Obvious – Bing was in on some big hits, but one in particular was of such magnitude that the crowd reacted as though somebody had been eliminated by Tony Soprano. The hit was so inspiring that ESPN showed it over and over again on its highlight packages.

The Obvious – Tight end Alex Holmes continues to play with an injured calf, but he still provides inspiration to his teammates as a living definition of "Fight On."

The Not So Obvious – Holmes had a marvelous one-handed grab of a Leinart pass after Matt recovered his own fumble and scrambled to find an open receiver. Holmes still showed fine athletic prowess rumbling for a 14-yard gain.

The Obvious – Tailback LenDale White scored on a clever 9-yard middle screen call by Norm Chow.

The Not So Obvious – Although White would have scored, offensive tackle Sam Baker (6-5, 290) threw a monster block at the goal line on Sun Devil senior safety Riccardo Stewart (5-10, 215).

The Obvious – One of the new 2004 NCAA rules requires the referee to tell fans in the stadium which player committed a penalty.

The Not So Obvious – Anybody hear referee Larry Farina in the Coliseum? Common Coliseum, fans around the Grand Old Lady have been unable to hear or understand the referee's informational announcements. At $40 a person, it wouldn't be too much to ask to get the system up and running in time for next week's afternoon game against Washington. The No. 1 team should have a No. 1 public address system.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offensive line protected Matt Leinart reasonably well on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – One of the keys was the blocking of the tailbacks, especially LenDale White, who had a great backside block allowing Leinart to fire his 19-yard second quarter scoring toss to Dwayne Jarrett to put the Trojans up 21-0.

The Obvious – The Trojans once again had difficulty covering a tight end, as outstanding ASU freshman Zack Miller had eight receptions for 102 yards.

The Not So Obvious – Well, you can't say the Trojans' secondary isn't getting enough practice in games covering tight ends. Since the beginning of the season against Virginia Tech, Trojan foes have repeatedly pulled the tight end card.

The Obvious – The Trojans' senior wide receiver Jason Mitchell finally got his chance for extended playing time

The Not So Obvious – Although he didn't have a receptions, he did have a fine downfield block after a Dominique Byrd 22-yard reception and run.

The Obvious – Reggie Bush threw a beautiful 52-yard reverse scoring strike to Dwayne Jarrett.

The Not So Obvious – The Bush reverse-pass to Jarrett was made possible when Bush, on a handoff from Leinart, ran deep and parallel behind the line of scrimmage giving him enough space to suck in the ASU secondary. It was, however, (1) those couple of steps running up field behind the LOS and (2) waiting to the last second to release his pass, which got Jarrett so wide open.

The Obvious – Defensive tackle Manuel Wright had another outstanding outing as he put intense pressure on Andrew Walter and was a beast in the pit.

The Not So Obvious – If there is a turning point in a season for a player, Wright, who had three tackles and was playing with a soft wrap on his elbow, may have found his. He has now turned in fine back-to-back games to perhaps rejuvenate the Trojans coaches evaluation of the former LB Poly prodigy.

The Obvious – Down 42-7 at halftime, you know that the ASU locker area must have been in shock and awe and what more could coach Dirk Koetter say?

The Not So Obvious – Perhaps symbolic of their plight, there was still nine minutes remaining during halftime when the Sun Devil special teams returned to the field.

The Obvious – The Trojans honored the 1939 national champions at halftime.

The Not So Obvious – It was quite a touching scene to see these athletic senior citizens and their surviving family members receiving their national championship rings. It was a real feel-good moment.

The Obvious – While the ASU team returned from their halftime therapy looking like a beaten team, the Trojans, naturally, come out with a bounce to their step.

The Not So Obvious - You could tell by the body language of Trojan backup quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Brandon Hance warming up on the field before the second half kickoff that there would be plenty of playing time for most all of the talented USC reserves.

The Obvious – The third quarter game score allowed tailback Hershel Dennis an opportunity to get in some work.

The Not So Obvious – With Bush completely changing the offensive dynamics at wide receiver, Dennis may see increased playing time. Hershel ran hard five times for 19 yards and at times looked very strong, quick, and determined.

The Obvious – There has been much speculation at the future position of offensive lineman Jeff Byers, last year's national player of the year presented by Gatorade.

The Not So Obvious – With the second unit offensive line in with the exception of Ryan Kalil at center, Byers played left guard, a position that may be his future with the Trojans. Byers looked good on one particular play springing Dennis for a nice gain. Drew Radovich got some work at right guard. Now there's two former Parade All-Americans working the guard trenches, the envy of almost any coach in America.

The Obvious – The Trojans' pre-game radio show features 1540's Mark Willard and Harvey Hyde, the former UNLV coach.

The Not So Obvious – The two pontificate with callers, interviews, and updates in front of the peristyle end of the Coliseum with a live audience of fans. The personable Hyde is a natural voice impression of Al Pacino. Both do a fine job with Willard also manning the post-game duties along with John Jackson from a restaurant location after the game.

The Obvious – The Trojans honored the late Pat Tillman, the former ASU and NFL star, who was killed in Afghanistan, before the national anthem and between the first and second quarter.

The Not So Obvious – There were a number of ASU fans walking the Coliseum grounds wearing white No. 40 jerseys in honor of their fallen hero.

The Obvious – Notre Dame was playing Navy at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – With the Irish on the road, former Trojan quarterback great Pat Haden, who does the color on NBC's ND home telecasts, was walking the peristyle end of the Coliseum and eventually make his way to the sidelines during warm-ups.

The Obvious – Bill MacDonald is a perhaps Fox Sports most versatile local sports personality.

The Not So Obvious – With a day away from the cameras, Billy Mac was seen walking in shorts and looking quite like a normal fan with his boys. Mac said he was "here" to enjoy the game like a normal fan.

The Obvious – The Trojans received a commit on Saturday from Nick Howell, the talented offensive lineman from Fresno, whose father is former Trojan All-American guard Pat Howell.

The Not So Obvious – It was an excited Brandon Hancock, the injured redshirt junior Trojan fullback, who appeared very happy to meet and greet the Howells during pre-game warm-ups of USC offensive linemen. Hancock also hails from Fresno.

The Obvious – Prior to kickoff, there was a large group of ASU fans, and one Sun Devil fan in particular, who received a great of satisfaction by going around the outer insides of the Coliseum yelling "O-ver-rated!" at amused Trojan fans.

The Not So Obvious – After the Trojans' drubbing of the Sun Devils, the same ASU group was nowhere to be heard or seen. If there is a lesson to be learned after Saturday's USC's offensive rebirth, future fans of Trojan opponents may be more inclined to scream "Under-rated!"

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