Trojans win Fog
Pete Carroll has said the Trojans need to be prepared for any number of challenges as his USC team moves forward in their quest for an undefeated season but it's hard for any team to prepare for the playing conditions we saw on Saturday with a thick fog enveloping Reser Stadium for the game against the Oregon State Beavers.
The conditions were certainly a factor early on for the Trojans as we
didn't do much of anything in the first quarter and the Beavers were able to
jump out to a quick 6-0 lead on a pair of field goals. The lead grew to 13-0 following a
fortunate bounce for
It wasn't until the middle of the second quarter that we started to see signs of life from the Trojans and it started with a good stand from the defense, particularly Shaun Cody, and continued with the offense on a long reverse by Reggie Bush which was followed by a beautiful touchdown catch by Dominique Byrd to put USC on the board at 13-7.
USC took the lead early in the second half with another TD pass from Matt Leinart to Byrd and basically put the game away after Bush scored on a superb punt return early in the fourth quarter. Late scores from OSU and the Trojans (on a run by LenDale White) ended the scoring at 28-20 in favor of the Trojans as USC advances to 9-0 on the year and maintains their spot at the top of the national rankings.
One of the beautiful parts of this USC Trojan season has been the fact that different players are stepping up in each game and on Saturday we saw Dominique Byrd provide the big plays needed by the offense to come away with the victory.
There are a variety of reasons for the early game struggles of the offense (depleted receiver corps, absence of John Drake, fog) but I don't think anybody was prepared for the Trojan offense to be scoreless with less than six minutes left to go in the first half. To that point USC was 0-5 on third down conversions and they were facing another long third down situation when Matt Leinart dropped back and threw the ball toward the back of the end zone for Byrd. The Trojan tight end, doing his best Mike Williams impersonation, reached up with his left hand and effortlessly pulled the ball in for the dramatic score. It was the type of play which can kickstart a team and it certainly did in this case.
It was somewhat ironic that Byrd would haul in a one-handed grab in a manner similar to Williams because Dominique has also filled another role left vacant by the departed wide receiver. One of the things Williams brought to the table was a swagger, an undeniable belief in oneself and in the team, and Byrd brings the same type of attitude which was noticeably missing early in the season when he was out. Dominique is an emotional leader of this team and that could be just as important as his skills in stretching the offense down the field.
To see him perform like he has since coming back from injury has been a tremendous bonus and it was evident against the Beavers because that wasn't the only big play he provided.
Byrd also lined up wide on one play and noticed a broken coverage that left no defender across from him as the ball was being snapped, he got the attention of Leinart and Matt calmly threw the ball in his direction for the easy score. Dominique also helped keep a key drive alive at the end of the third quarter with a nice third down catch. He ended the day with seven catches for 85 yards and two scores.
Cody and Groots
They are two of the savviest defenders in the country and in the thick
With the USC offense struggling to get on track we saw OSU break out to an early lead with some confidence in their passing game. It's not like the Beavers had a rookie in that spot, Derek Anderson moved into the top five on the Pac-10 all-time yardage list in this game, but by the time the middle of the second quarter rolled around we saw Shaun Cody and Matt Grootegoed begin to assert themselves in the middle of the Trojan defense.
Cody was simply unreal with his relentless pressure on
One of the primary reasons they weren't able to run was Groots as he had four tackles for loss in this game (nine overall) to go along with a fumble recovery and a sack.
Three who were key
– One of the constants for the USC offense during the game was the hard running
of White as he looked as good as he has in recent weeks since an ankle injury
began to bother him. It was a good
thing LenDale was "on" in this game because we didn't have much else going at
times and it was nice to know that we had big #21 to grind out the tough yardage
when nothing else was working. His
footwork was nimble on the cold turf as the
Reggie Bush – The Beavers tried to keep the ball away from him on special teams, they really did, but eventually the ball came his way and he provided one of the most dazzling punt returns you will see all year. The day started off slow for Reggie with a fumbled punt return which was certainly forgivable considering the ball was coming down through an amazingly thick fog. He didn't get too many more opportunities until the fourth quarter when a Beaver punt headed toward the sideline but not far enough to be out of the reach of Bush. Reggie was able to bring the ball in, elude the first defender and then criss-cross his way to the other side of the field for a long sprint to the end zone and once he gets in the open field there is nobody in college football who will catch him. Reggie also had a good day running the ball (88 yards on 11 carries) including a nice pop on OSU defender Mitch Meeuwsen to help get additional yardage.
Eric Wright – Trojan fans have been waiting for Wright to get more playing time and with Kevin Arbet leaving the game early due to an injury, and with Ronald Nunn sitting at home with an injury of his own, we saw Wright inserted into the fray against the high powered passing attack of the Beavers. As he has shown in the past, Wright was not only up to the task but he also has the ability to make plays as evidenced by his tipped ball near the goal line which was eventually intercepted by Jason Leach. It was a critical play for the Trojans after OSU running back Dwight Wright had broken off a big gain to put the Beavers in scoring position and the game was still very much in doubt.
Byrd wasn't the only Trojan tight end to come up with a big play as Alex Holmes broke loose down the field for a nice 49 yard pass play late in the game. Only a shoestring tackle prevented Alex from sprinting into the end zone…..Desmond Reed provided a spark when he returned a kickoff past midfield in the first quarter but the Trojans were unable to convert on the drive after Ryan Kileen had a field goal blocked…..For a change the Trojans didn't gain an edge in the turnover department, the teams were equal with three apiece, but USC seemed to have the edge in timeliness. The Trojan turnovers didn't seem to hurt us but when the Beavers gave up the ball it seemed to be at moments that helped us…..Mike Patterson had seven total tackles, including three tackles for loss…..Bill Swancutt had a good day on the d-line for OSU. Swancutt caused a lot of havoc in the Trojan backfield and ended the day with 10 tackles and 2 sacks……Matt Leinart got off to a slow start (2 for 8 to open the game, a pick at the end of the first half) but he righted the ship in the second half and did what it took to lead the team to victory in less than ideal conditions……Lofa Tatupu had a pick and it was the 11th interception in the last 11 games for the USC linebackers…..Jason Leach also had a pick after Eric Wright was able to knock away a pass near the goal line…..Jeff Byers got his first start for the Trojans and performed well in the absence of John Drake…..Darnell Bing caused a fumble (his big hits are starting to become routine) but it was picked up by a Beaver player and advanced for a long gain…..The OSU corners (Brandon Browner and Aric Williams) did a terrific job against the USC wide receivers (held to 3 catches for 32 yards as a unit) but Norm Chow and the Trojan coaches did just as good of a job adjusting by utilizing the tight ends (10 catches, 145 yards) and running backs (208 rushing yards) to come away with the win…..Justin Wyatt had eight tackles (six solo) and a key pass break up at the end of the game….Tom Malone put three punts inside the 20 including one of that was downed inside the one yard line….One of the best stats of the day for the USC defense is the fact that the Beavers went 0-13 on third down conversions….
was a battle between two of the top recruits on the USC wish list last Friday as
Desean Jackson and LB Poly defeated
Luthur Brown and