Trojans win Fog Bowl against Oregon State

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.

Trojans win Fog Bowl against Oregon State


            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 Oregon State after Darnell Bing had caused a fumble that was advanced by receiver Mike Hass. 

            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. 


Big Byrd


            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 fog of Corvallis on Saturday the Trojans needed every bit of their experience to help put away a pesky Oregon State team. 

            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 Anderson and by combining with Mike Patterson to form a wall in the center of the defensive line.  Oregon State was never able to get much of a rushing attack going and when you're forced to throw it allows Cody and his group to pin their ears back on the pass rush. 

            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


LenDale White – 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 Colorado native must have felt at home in the chilly conditions with numerous runs where he just broke tackles or dragged defenders for extra yards.  White led the Trojans with 116 yards on 25 carries. 


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. 


Trojan Notes


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….


Recruiting Corner


It 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 Lakewood by a score of 22-9.  Jackson wasn't much of a factor in the game as he had three catches for 38 yards and no scores but it's obvious the kind of impact he can have during a game.  He's so smooth with good routes and nice hands.  Brown had some big hits including a punishing block on a 290 pound Poly lineman during an interception return by a Lakewood defender but he also overran several plays.  There's no doubt Brown will be a terrific player at the college level and the speculation around Lakewood is that USC will be the team to beat for his services.  Jackson faces family pressures to look at Cal or possibly sign a baseball contract but Desean favors SC at this point.  There were also plenty of underclassmen on display for Poly in the game including a pair of fantastic corners in junior Vincent Joseph and sophomore Donovan Warren….Trojan verbal commit kicker Troy Van Blarcom and his Orange Lutheran teammates will face undefeated Valencia (Placentia) on Friday night at 7:00pm on the Fox Sports Net 2 high school game of the week….. Top Stories