O/NSO - Oregon State review

On the wings of a Byrd and the mercurial feet of a Bush, the top-ranked USC Trojans (9-0, 6-0) elevated above a near lethal conglomeration of fog and cold to survive a bitter 28-20 struggle with the Oregon State Beavers (4-5, 3-3) before 36, 412 human popsicles in the frozen tundra of Reser Stadium.

The Obvious – On the wings of a Byrd and the mercurial feet of a Bush, the top-ranked USC Trojans (9-0, 6-0) elevated above a near lethal conglomeration of fog and cold to survive a bitter 28-20 struggle with the Oregon State Beavers (4-5, 3-3) before 36, 412 human popsicles in the frozen tundra of Reser Stadium.

The Not So Obvious – With tight end Dominique Byrd's one-handed touchdown grab and Heisman candidate Reggie Bush's stirring 65-yard punt return, the Trojans proved you can play with Pete Carroll's No. 1 team but defeating them is like trying to eat Jello with chop sticks.

The Obvious – The Trojans remained No. 1 in both major polls on Sunday after Saturday night's chilling victory in Corvallis.

The Not So Obvious – With the 42-35 squeaker by Oklahoma over Texas A&M, it was a bit of an eyebrow raiser when the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls came out on Sunday. The Trojans lost two first-place votes in the USA/Today poll and four in the latest AP poll. However, should the Trojans win out, it's all a moot point, my friends.

The Obvious – The Trojans easily survived the sleet, rain, and hail of Pullman last week, but who could have ever predicted that that fog could have turned their BCS dreams invisible?

The Not So Obvious – Oregon State played one helleva game, and Beavers' coach Mike Riley was quick to point out that his game plan almost worked to perfection. Whatever the former Trojan head coaching candidate concocted, like shutting down the Trojan wide receivers with a near flawless performance by corners Brandon Browner and Aric Williams, the Trojans will learn from it and be a better team for it in their final four remaining games.

The Obvious – After trailing early 13-0, the Trojans went on a 28-0 scoring spree against the Beavers.

The Not So Obvious – By finishing with 28 points, it was the third time this season that Norm Chow's offense has been held under the 30 Club. Last year's national championship team was held under 30 points just once, a 28-point offensive output against Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

The Obvious – The Trojans' robotic defense, which sacked Oregon State quarterback Derek Anderson four brutal times Saturday night, allowed 20 points to Mike Riley's offense.

The Not So Obvious – This was the second time this season that a Trojan opponent broke into the "exclusive" 20 Opposition Club, Stanford being the other. Last year, four Trojan opponents cracked the 20 Club.

The Obvious – You can talk about all the game planning you want, but when you kick directly to the ball to Reggie Bush, you're asking to be the lead highlight on ESPN's College GameDay Final.

The Not So Obvious – Stellar Oregon State receiver Mike Hass said, " It's tough when you have a back like Bush who can take the ball to the house like that. It seemed like LSU all over again. We felt like we had the game." So did so many others, Mike, until Mr. Bush goes into that proverbial phone booth and comes out wearing the cape.

The Obvious – If you are an offensive player, there is nothing like gaining the respect of the offensive players from the other team.

The Not So Obvious – Even Beavers' quarterback Derek Anderson was in awe of Reggie Bush's ability, especially the devastating 65-yard punt return. Anderson said, " I've never seen anything quite like it – NFL or whatever." Lost in the glitter and gold is the fact that Bush has fumbled his last four games, but who's to argue with the results?

The Obvious – In this fourth season as Trojans' head coach, Pete Carroll is now 11-0 in the month of November.

The Not So Obvious – In a bit of irony, the toughest first-week November game in the streak was also against Oregon State in 2001, Carroll's first season, when Troy edged Oregon State, 16-13, at the Coliseum.

The Obvious – The weather was listed as 37 degrees, but you could tell it felt much colder with windchill just watching the breath of the players on the field.

The Not So Obvious – After the game, Trojans' tailback LenDale White, who hails from Colorado, said, " I can't wait to get back to LA. Even at 2 in the morning it's warmer than this."

The Obvious – Prior to Saturday's game, Pete Carroll had complained that his Trojans were not getting enough turnovers, despite the fact the Trojans were No.1 nationally in turnover margin.

The Not So Obvious – With one fumble recovery and two interceptions at critical moments in the game, Carroll may start to believe it's not how many turnovers but when you get them. There is little denying that Oregon State self-destructed thanks to alert Trojan defensive play, for OSU could have really made it tighter had they held on to the ball. The Trojans, however, also had three turnovers, not what Carroll and staff had in mind.

The Obvious – There is no bigger challenge for a top-ranked team when the opponent knows they have you in trouble.

The Not So Obvious – OSU coach Mike Riley and his players knew they had something going early against the Trojans. Riley said, " We had a good game plan. We had them rattled for sure for a while." Yep, Mike, a very long while.

The Obvious – So were the Trojans overconfident coming into Corvallis?

The Not So Obvious – Not according to improving defensive end Frostee Rucker. Rucker informed, " We knew going in we were in for a dog fight." Rucker played a very physical game but was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty, which may have indicated the Trojans were playing perhaps too hard.

The Obvious – The Trojans' legendary offensive coordinator Norm Chow puts extreme pressure on an opponent with his many formations that can catch the opposition off-guard at the worst possible moment.

The Not So Obvious – Despite having a visual problem of seeing the field from the press box, Chow left Oregon State completely naked when tight end Dominique Bryd lined up split-right and Beavers' safety Mitch Meeuwsen was caught defending on the other side of the field. A quick arm raise for Leinart's attention by Byrd and "boom", a quick release from Leinart before the Beavers' safety could race to the other side of the field in time and Byrd was in the end zone. Blown coverage or Chow genius? Take your pick or a combination of both.

The Obvious – In the opening of the Fox telecast, analyst Petros Papdakis repeated his earlier in the week prediction that this was " a real loseable game" for the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Much to his credit during the telecast, Papadakis' partner Barry Tompkins admitted he could hardly see who was carrying the ball and making the tackles. In looking at his own monitor, Tompkins called his screen " a complete whiteout."

The Obvious – The Beavers' blown coverage on Byrd's Trojan touchdown in the third quarter pumped new life into the Trojans' defense.

The Not So Obvious – The tone for the second half was re-established when following Byrd's score, the nation's premier tackle tandem of Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson made a brutal hit on Beavers' quarterback Derek Anderson on the first play of the next OSU series.

The Obvious – So intense was the action on the field in the second half, normally disciplined defensive tackle Shaun Cody make a rare third down offside's penalty.

The Not So Obvious – Nobody was more annoyed than Cody. On the repeat of the down, Cody blasted quarterback Derek Anderson after defensive end Frostee Rucker had batted down Anderson's pass. After the game, Cody was quite complimentary of the Beavers and their efforts.

The Obvious – The Trojans' song girls are usually seen wearing their white sweaters and flashy smiles.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' song girls wore plain white coats and the cold made their smiles look Botox injected. The male cheerleaders wore beanies, a rare sight in for SC spirit attire.

The Obvious – The Trojans' safety Jason Leach seems as though he has been in the SC secondary forever.

The Not So Obvious – And thank goodness for Trojan fans that it seems that way as the former Bishop Amat star came up with a huge interception at the goal line in the second half to blunt a Beaver scoring bid. Give credit, as well, to Trojan youngster Eric Wright, who made contact with brilliant Beaver receiver Mike Hass to jar the ball from him.

The Obvious – The Beavers' Mike Hass is a strong candidate for All-Pac-10 receiver honors.

The Not So Obvious – Junior Hass, who had a wonderful night catching eight passes for 119 yards, proves you don't have to be the fastest guy out there. If you have good strength for separation, you can still get the job done.

The Obvious – Trojan kicker Ryan Killeen missed on two field goal attempts.

The Not So Obvious – On Killen's first effort, the kick was blocked. However, the stress of the game and perhaps the year showed after Ryan missed a critical second attempt in the second half when he threw his head back, mumbled some words, and his legs wavered in disappointment.

The Obvious – Those fans that have clamored for a larger running role for tailback LenDale White had to be pleased with his 116 yards rushing on 25 carries.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans had little choice but to give it LenDale, considering the Trojan wide receivers were basically shut down by the OSU secondary. White was appropriately, in the O/NSO point of view, the correct number of carries since the Trojans' right side of the offensive line was repeatedly opening up huge holes against the OSU left defensive side.

The Obvious – Tailback LenDale White salted the game away in the fourth quarter with a five-yard scoring smash up Main Street.

The Not So Obvious – On White's clinching score, LenDale did it mostly on sheer determination. Stopped at the three-yard line, the Colorado clubber, willed his way into the Beavers' end zone dragging Oregon State's Mitch Meeuwsen with him.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart, considering the environment, had a productive day (17-31-1 for 205 yds.).

The Not So Obvious – Given the tremendous pressure from Beaver defensive lineman Bill Swancutt, fog problems, and the wide receivers issue, Lefty showed poise under pressure. Perhaps one of the biggest plays of the game was Leinart's dash out of the pocket in which he lost his shoe but continued running down field for important yardage.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offensive line seemed to pick up steam in the second half and was successful going off the right side with guard Fred Matua and tackle Taitusi Lutui leading the way with an assist from blocking fullback Lee Webb at the point of attack.

The Not So Obvious – One reason the Trojans went right was that the Beavers' outstanding defense lineman Bill Swancutt, who had two sacks, was on the other side. It was a tough loss for the Beavers' defensive leader. " It's too bad they made a couple more plays than we did down the stretch," Swancutt commented. Bill, repeat after me, " I will not kick to Reggie Bush, I will not kick to Reggie Bush, I will not kick to Reggie Bush."

The Obvious – Oregon State punctured the Trojans' seasonal fourth quarter touchdown shutout when redshirt junior Josh Hawkins, a Long Beach Poly product, scored late in the game on a 36-yard pass from Anderson.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Hawkins' scoring grab, the Trojans had outscored their opponents 55-3 in the final stanza. After the game, Trojans' coach Pete Carroll was none too pleased that the Beavers had broken the Trojans' fourth quarter defensive streak.

The Obvious – Trojan tailback Hershel Dennis had no carries in Saturday night's game.

The Not So Obvious – However, Dennis was in there on the Beavers' last-gasp onside kick attempt and recovered the ball for the Trojans. Even though the kick was illegally short, the Trojan coaching staff was taking no chances and showed confidence in Hershel being in there.

The Obvious – While a number of Trojan defenders could have been called the "best on the field" on Saturday, linebacker Matt Grootegoed had a critical fumble recovery in the third quarter and made a number of "typical" hits, especially in the first series when he got to quarterback Anderson early to set the tone and followed it with a big hit on an attempted screen pass.

The Not So Obvious – Grootegoed, one of the greatest prep players in Southland prep history, is finally playing a season without critical injury or illness, and America is finding out just what a stud this kid is. When there is talk about leaving early and the "me" generation of players, "Groots" is a throwback to a time when national championships are won by "team" players and not players whose dream is three-and-out to the NFL. This kid will find a spot on Sunday to play, and his style is one that will be remembered by all Trojans for a very long time.

The Obvious – Lost in the tense game was the fact that the Trojans scored 28 consecutive points after being down 13-0.

The Not So Obvious – With so much at stake, it still is remarkable that this Trojan team, despite the experience of doing so, is still able to keep getting off the mat and achieving victory. From the Virginia Tech game way back in August to the first week in November, the Trojans march on. After the game, Carroll again said," What we are trying to do is hard!" Carroll's remarks an obvious reference to beginning No.1, staying No.1, and finishing No.1.

The Obvious – The Trojans' redshirt freshman DB Terrell Thomas is starting to make an impact on defense.

The Not So Obvious – Boy, could this kid be good. He had a big play late in the game on fourth down when a jarred the ball loose from Beavers' receiver Marcel Love. With Eric Wright now a factor on defense, the edition of Thomas bodes well for the Trojans' secondary future.

The Obvious – The Trojans offensive left tackle Sam Baker is going to be a very good player down the line for Pete Carroll.

The Not So Obvious – It was a good but tough learning experience going against the likes of OSU DL Bill Swancutt, who schooled Baker of number of times. However, Big Sam still showed his stuff by helping move the pile on LenDale White's five-yard winning touchdown.

The Obvious – The Trojans fumbled four times but recovered their own twice.

The Not So Obvious – So when was the last time a Trojan team fumbled four times? Although they recovered twice, it kept the Beavers inspired. After LenDale White's fumble, Norm Chow made a point of repeatedly calling on White to show confidence in big No. 21.

The Obvious – So, the Trojans have passed their Northwest environmental tests and return home for their final three games before perhaps heading out to the great BCS unknown.

The Not So Obvious – There may be a tendency by some to overlook the Arizona Wildcats for next Saturday evening's Homecoming Game. However, with so much at stake and the magical BCS number down to three, one thing is for sure, you can bet the Trojans won't come charging out of the Coliseum tunnel in a fog.

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