One Man's Opinion - Washington State review

It was a weird night, that is certain. From the very first play of the game, an onside kick by Washington State that went badly for the Cougars, the route was on. By halftime USC was up 35-0 and for all intents and purposes, the game was over.

It was a weird night, that is certain. From the very first play of the game, an onside kick by Washington State that went badly for the Cougars, the route was on. By halftime USC was up 35-0 and for all intents and purposes, the game was over. To USC's credit, they started off the second half much the way they played for much of the first half. They scored an early touchdown and the only question anyone could really have was how lopsided the final score would be? However, what transpired for USC from the middle of the third quarter to the end of the game was downright ugly. Worse than being ugly, it was somewhat thought provoking with a very negative slant. After watching USC backup quarterback Matt Cassel struggle in a major way, one could only wince when asking the following question. What in the world would happen to this offense if Matt Leinart were to go down with an injury?? I just could not get that question out of my mind as I watched Matt Leinart return to the game in the fourth quarter only to get clobbered on a sack when the tailback whiffed on the block and allowed Matt to take a vicious hit on his blindside. I could not help but wonder just what this staff must think of the third string quarterback to not even allow him to get into a game that was very much a blowout!! Thank goodness, there was a silver lining there. It turns out that Brandon Hance, the number 3 quarterback,(at least going into this game), has a laceration on his forhead that required some 9 stitches yesterday and Pete Carroll did not want to put him into the game.

Obviously, when matching starting unit against starting unit, this was a total mismatch. USC's first string defense was simply awesome and overpowering and they kept Washington State and their redshirt freshman quarterback Brink totally out of synch. The Cougars could not run the ball nor could they mount an effective passing attack against the fast and talented Trojans. Things were so bad at times, I almost felt sorry for the Cougs. The Trojan defense simply manhandled the Cougars. Mike Patterson and Shaun Cody had their way and the linebackers were also playing lightsout football. The various defensive ends were containing well and they were also getting excellent penetration. The defensive backs were also looking quite the part and they were usually all over the receivers or at least they were in position to deliver crushing blows to the Cougars that did manage to catch the ball. Just as Headcoach Carroll has stated on a number of occasions in recent interviews, this defensive unit is playing the very best football of any unit he has had thusfar at USC. And who could really argue with him? Even though Washington State did manage to score 12 points, none were in the fourth quarter and all were scored once the result was no longer in doubt. This SC defensive unit smothers its opponents and it simply continues to improve.

When trying to comment on a game such as this blowout, it is sometimes difficult to know what to say. The score itself tells much of the story. Of course, anyone who watched this demolition knows that SC could have scored more had they been so inclined. It appeared that Pete called off the dogs, so to speak early in the second half and for that , the Washington State Coach was very greatful. However, there are several points that are worth mentioning. The Oline was very interesting to watch for much of the game. Very early on, John Drake went out of the game with what is some sort of ankle problem. Whether or not it is serious enough to make him miss further game time is not yet known. What is known, however, is that Jeff Byers got major prime time minutes and to my eye, he more than held his own. Although he is not massive as is Drake, he is quicker and more active. Although Jeff looks like another year in the weightroom will be beneficial, he already shows enough strength and technique to perform very well. This is also the first time this season that I can recall when one of the starting tackles suffered an injury. Sam Baker hurt his knee and although he came back into the game for a short period of time after the injury, he missed the majority of the game after that injury. As of this time it is not known how serious his injury is, but one never likes to lose the starting left tackle. Kyle Williams replaced Sam and he seemed to hold his own as well It was also nice to see Deuce Latui play more minutes than I can remember seeing him play up to this point. When Latui's normal replacement, Kyle Williams had to move over to the left tackle spot, it was necessary for Deuce to play more and he seemed to be up to the task. Overall, although Matt Leinart was sacked a couple of times and hurried a few others, in general the Oline provided enough time for Matt to hit most of his passes and the runners were also able to gain some 184 yards on the ground. There are breakdowns in that Oline unit, but they are playing well enough to get most of their goals accomplished.

Speaking of the offense, how good was that unit today? I have to say that when the starters were in there, the unit was effective and efficient. Matt Leinart had an awesome game. He hit 23 of 28 passes for 246 yards. Some of his throws were incredible. He lead Jason Mitchell perfectly and his long touchdown pass to that rapidly emerging star Dwayne Jarrett was also a money pass if I have ever seen one. Matt threw no interceptions and he was an exceptional leader out there. If anyone had any doubt just how good a college quarterback Matt Leinart is, one just had to look at what happened when he was out of the game--it was just ugly. This game also demonstrated some very nice running. Both Reggie Bush and LenDale White were effective running from the line of scrimmage and for one of the few times all year, it seemed that SC was able to play some real power football. It was also nice to see how effective a very hungry Hershel Dennis can be when he gets into the game. He still has that great acceleration once he gets his hands on the ball and he is deceptively strong. We also got a real chance to see Desmond Reed. Although he was shut down late in the game, earlier on he was also very effective, especially when he is able to get to the outside. He is very quick and he is another guy with deceptive strength.

Although there is still some concern about the receiving unit, it seems to be making steady and unqustioned progress. Jarrett is better than ever and he is faster and stronger than some might give him credit for being. He does run away from the guy covering him at times, his hands are improving each game and the guy is fast becoming Matt's main guy, so to speak. The return of Dominique Byrd is most welcomed and sooner or later he is going to hurt somebody with one of his now expected forearms. There might be some better tight ends around, but few are more exciting than he. It also helps to have a kid like Reggie Bush who catches the ball, runs with the ball, returns kicks and punts and generally provides huge headaches for the opposition. Even though it sometimes seems like he gets a ton of accolades, he simply deserves them. He is not only a deadly offensive weapon, he also opens the door for other guys because opposing Defenses spend so much time and energy trying to defend him, other guys can slip through the net. To my eye, it seems like Chris McFoy has continued to improve. He gets open, he rarely drops a pass and he is very strong and hard to bring down. Perhaps the most pleasant development with the receivers is the emergence of Jason Mitchell as a legitimate receiving threat. He has better than average speed and he demonstrated some really nice hands with his magnificent catch tonight.

As for the special teams, much of the news was positive, but it is still an adventure watching Killeen kick field goals. He makes more than he misses, but he is more adept at kicking the ball deep into the endzone and preventing returns than he is at making fieldgoals, especially at Pullman Washington. Our punt return team does well and Killeen rarely allows anyone to return a kickoff. Reggie Bush is special when he returns punts, but one kust has to hope that he will hold onto the ball. Anytime a guy has the moves and shifts that Reggie has, it is not uncommon for somebody to try to take a shot at the ball when he is busy juking and shifting the ball around.

What about penalties and turnovers? USC uncharacteristically turned the ball over some three times, twice on fumbles and one on an interception. In some games that would or could spell disaster. In this game, USC still managed to win the turnover battle. Although the Trojans turned it over three times, Washington State lost three fumbles and one interception. On that interception, Terrell Thomas made a very nice play and a highlight film catch. Speaking of defensive backs, I also think Darnell Bing continues to improve. When he arrived at SC, most everyone was waiting to see those bonecrushing hits and to see his great speed. More often than not, Darnell now treats us to a bigtime hit or two in every game and his speed is evident now more than in the past. We are also getting pretty good coverage from the corners. Even when a guy like Wyatt is seemingly beaten, many times he uses his phenomenal closing speed to still manage to knock the ball out of the receivers hands. Overall, the dbs are improving as is the defense as a whole. And as for the penalties, they were not all that bad. USC continues to be a team that is not heavily penalized.

At the end of the night, USC has won yet another football game and the Trojans are headed to Oregon State for another potentially tough road game. After a most disheartening loss as LSU to start their season, the Beavers are now getting things together and under the right set of circumstances, the Beavers are capable of upsetting the Trojans. It will be interesting to see if Coach Carroll and his staff can keep the team focused and ready to travel back up to the Pacific Northwest for next week's game. OSU's quarterback is known to be stiff at times, but if one reviews last year's game again OSU, one will see a qb who was hot at times and threw for many yards agains the Trojans. Coach Mike Riley will have his kids ready to play , so one can only hope that there are no serioius injuries coming out of this game and that the Trojans bring their A game. If USC can take care of business, they will be huge step closer to reaching their goal for this season. My guess is that SC will be ready for the Beavers.


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