Trojans overwhelm Sun Devils in big win

The Sun Devils came into the Coliseum with an undefeated record and legitimate thoughts of an upset but they quickly learned what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a butt whipping courtesy of a Trojan team clicking on all cylinders. It was the most complete performance yet for Pete Carroll and his team this season and it sent a message to the remaining opponents on the schedule, as well as the many media members who had picked against us, that the Trojans are hitting their stride.

Where do you even start when trying to describe this game?  There were so many dominating performances in the USC victory over Arizona State that it's hard to focus on any individual players because it was such a solid effort from the entire team.  The Sun Devils came into the Coliseum with an undefeated record and legitimate thoughts of an upset but they quickly learned what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a butt whipping courtesy of a Trojan team that was clicking on all cylinders.  It was the most complete performance yet for Pete Carroll and his team this season and it sent a message to the remaining opponents on the schedule, as well as the many media members who had picked against us, that the Trojans are hitting their stride. 

 

Offense

 

Matt Leinart took a big step in re-establishing himself as a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.  He was accurate and productive in this game, especially showing touch on the deep touchdown pass to Jarrett.  Matt also added a rushing touchdown of his own on a sneak play.

 

Reggie Bush also cast himself as a credible Heisman candidate by doing it all for the Trojans.  He caught a touchdown pass, he threw a touchdown pass and he came oh so close to scoring a touchdown on a dazzling punt return.  Reggie noted after the game that his passing rating is higher than Leinart's following his touchdown pass to Jarrett on a reverse.  Bush is just so exciting with the ball in his hands, what a great weapon for the Trojans.  LenDale White ran hard in this game, a key to softening up the defense for the passing game, and he also caught a touchdown pass as well.  LenDale was getting treatment on his ankle during the game, it will be nice to see how well he runs when completely healthy.  Hershel Dennis got some late carries and a nice round of applause from the crowd.  The first play of the game for USC was a pass to David Kirtman, it's good to see the fullback as part of the offense, and both David and Lee Webb alternated carries on the final Trojan drive of the day. 

 

Well, we needed some to step up in the absence of Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett did a pretty fine job of settling into that big play role.  What an incredible game he had.  You could see the difference in his play on Saturday as Dwayne looked more comfortable on the field and it was noticeable that he was catching the ball naturally with his hands, that's a good sign for us.  It's hard to imagine how difficult it has been to come in as a 17 year old freshman (he didn't turn 18 until mid-September) and be asked to adjust to the college game in front of crowds in excess of 90,000 people each week but Jarrett has done just that and improved each week to the point that he seems to have turned a corner in his development.  We didn't see much in terms of production from the other receivers but we didn't need it.  Chris McFoy had a terrific block on a catch by Dominique Byrd.  Fred Davis caught a pair of passes but he needs to be more aggressive with the ball in his hands, one of his strengths in high school was his ability to gain yardage after the catch. 

 

We knew it was a loss with Dominique Byrd out at the start of the year and he reminded us on Saturday just how good he can be.  Byrd was breaking tackles in vintage Alex Holmes-style and he was also moving well and attacking the defense after making the catch.  Alex provided a highlight of his own with a one-handed grab of a high thrown pass.  The thought of these two guys in action at tight end for the rest of the season is pretty exciting. 

 

After a few high profile mistakes against Cal the offensive line came out and played outstanding against a Sun Devil defense that had been doing well coming into the game.  Once the game was in hand the USC coaches did a good job of mixing in the younger linemen with the starters to get some valuable experience.  It was also good to see Kyle Williams out there so much after missing some practice time earlier in the week with concussion symptoms. 

 

Defense

 

It was another dominating performance from the d-line and it all started with the senior duo of Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson.  One of the keys to this game was the relentless pressure we were able to get on Andrew Walter and that began with the push Cody and Patterson got up the middle.  These two have been playing together at such a high level for such a long time that it's easy to take for granted how good they are.  Manuel Wright played as if showing no ill effects from the elbow injury he suffered this week in practice, when he's on Manuel is sure tough to stop.  Lawrence Jackson had four solo tackles. 

 

Matt Grootegoed did it again with another interception and long return.  Groots showed good hands when nabbing the pick, although it's hard to understand why Walter threw the ball with several Trojan defenders in position to make the play, and once Matt had the ball he instantly turned into a running back and scampered down the SC sideline for 31 yards.  A visibly winded Groots could be seen giving a big smile of relief while catching a breather on the bench after the play.  Dallas Sartz led the Trojans in tackles as he was all over the field.  Lofa Tatupu had a key sack prior to the Grootegoed pick. 

 

With Ronnie Lott watching from the sidelines Darnell Bing put a big hit on a Sun Devil ballcarrier and it was the kind of hit that would've made Lott proud.  Darnell came up with a good head of steam and simply dropped the man in his tracks.  That wasn't his only strong contact of the day as Darnell was flying through the air and making plays, including an interception where he read the play well.  Prior to the game his uncle predicted that Darnell was ready to have a "breakout game with a couple big hits and one or two picks" and it turned out he was right.  It was great to see Darnell playing at that level and when he does it's easy to understand why they broke #20 out of the closet.  Eric Wright continued to show that he has the ability to be a regular part of the rotation and he also had a sack on a corner blitz (as did Ronald Nunn).

 

Special teams

 

It was the second straight week where the Trojan special teams played a major role in the win.  The punt return by Bush was as exciting as any play you will see and it gave a reminder of why Carroll uses him in that spot.  The booming punt by Tom Malone in the first quarter was a thing of beauty.  The fact that Ryan Killeen continues to put kickoffs into or out of the end zone is a tremendous boost for the defense, you're just not going to make a living going 80 yards against our defense all night long.  The tone of the game was set on the opening kickoff with a huge hit from walk-on corner Justin Tolliver.  Shaun Cody broke through and blocked a kick, just like he did last January in the Rose Bowl.  It says something about this team that two of the impact special teams plays were made by a walk-on and a senior All-American. 

 

Coaching

 

It wasn't a good omen for the Sun Devils to come into the game without the threat of a running game because one-dimensional teams are never going to thrive against Pete Carroll and his defense.  It didn't help ASU that their quarterback isn't the most mobile of players and Carroll responded by coming after him from all directions.  By the time the game was over Walter had been sacked eight times by eight different Trojans, a truly impressive stat.  On offense Norm Chow did an outstanding job of reacting to the loss of Steve Smith by simply adjusting some of his chess pieces (utilizing Bush as a receiver) and attacking the shorter ASU corners with the taller Jarrett (a mismatch Leinart called "taking candy from a baby").  Credit also has to be given to Dennis Slutak and the entire staff for their work on special teams because that area has really done well in recent weeks.

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