Pattern of Behavior
We've seen this happen so many times with the Trojans that it has become a predictable pattern. The Trojans got off to a sluggish start in this game while the Wildcats seemingly came out ready to play and Arizona got on the board first with an early field goal. The Trojans punted on their first possession and then struggled to get much of an offense going while Matt Leinart focused his early passes on the tight ends. Arizona had five first downs before USC notched their first but once the Trojan offense hit a groove the game was over from there. Leinart connected with David Kirtman for a short touchdown on the first play of the second quarter, a field goal miss by Ryan Killeen put a minor crimp in the scoring plans but a trick play from Desmond Reed got us right back on track when he completed a halfback pass to Dwayne Jarrett deep downfield to set up a quick LenDale White rushing touchdown. Reed is showing that he's a versatile performer who clearly needs to be on the field in some fashion, it's hard to get him carries right now with White and Bush carrying the load at running back but you can be sure Norm Chow will look to utilize this multi-talented player in the future. Desmond threw the ball on a rope to Jarrett and it was the kind of pass that would make any Trojan quarterback proud. Leinart himself found a rhythm by completing 11 passes in a row at one point although it didn't translate into much downfield yardage, that would be saved for the second half when he really began airing it out. The Trojan defense also did their part by slowly choking the life out of the Wildcat offense with their usual smothering and attacking style. Grootegoed and Darnell Bing combined for a sack on Arizona quarterback Richard Kovalcheck, Mike Patterson and Dallas Sartz stopped running back Mike Bell for a loss. Everywhere the Wildcats turned there seemed to be multiple Trojan defenders ready to make a play and that is no accident. It's been that way all year and it was only going to get worse for Arizona in the second half.
As usual, the Trojans came out fired up after halftime and put together an impressive 12 play drive that resulted with another LenDale touchdown run. Jason Mitchell had a nice completion to get the ball inside the five yard line prior to the score and it was good to see the USC wide receivers step up as this group has been decimated by injuries. Thankfully, it wasn't the last we would see on this night from the receivers as Jarrett showed some playmaking ability of his own with a pair of touchdown receptions. With starting receivers Steve Smith and Chris McFoy watching from the sidelines with injuries it was important for someone to rise up and Jarrett did that with his acrobatic grabs. He's really developing into a dynamic player. Of course, if things get too thin at receiver we can always look to the defensive line as Lawrence Jackson showed some nice hands while dropping back into zone coverage and picking off a pass before turning upfield for positive yardage. Lawrence wasn't the only Trojan to get a pick, Justin Wyatt also had one, as the defense continues to come up with big plays. If there was a negative to come from the game it was the continued turnover problems on offense for the Trojans, we lost three fumbles, and for a team that prides itself on ball control that is not a good stat. Everything else went according to the Trojan master plan, after punting on the first possession we didn't punt again until the final possession, and the night even featured a nice moment for Hershel Dennis who received a good ovation from the crowd upon scoring a short touchdown late in the game. It wasn't expected to be much of a contest and it wasn't so now the Trojans get to turn their attention to getting healthy next week and preparing for the match-ups against the Irish and the Bruins.
Leinart continued his push for Heisman consideration with solid numbers (27-35, 280 yards, 3 TD's) and a second half performance that shows just how effective he can be when things are clicking. It's scary to think of how good he will be in the coming weeks with a full complement of healthy receivers available to him. LenDale White also put together another nice effort running the football and it was good to see Dennis and Reed get some carries as well. Desmond broke another long run with the ball in his hands. We saw Mike Williams and Steve Smith have success as freshmen over the past two seasons while they were sitting in the #3 receiver spot behind two experienced players, Jarrett has not had that luxury lately as he's been forced into the #1 option role and the fact that he was able to catch six balls for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns is nothing short of outstanding. Dom Byrd led the team in receptions for the second week in a row and Alex Holmes had three catches as well in this game as Leinart looked to the tight end a lot. The offensive line performed solidly against an improving Wildcat defense and all indications are that John Drake should be back for Notre Dame, it's been nice to get a glimpse of the future as well with Jeff Byers in the line-up the past two weeks.
What more can be said about this dominating unit? The success this week comes on the heels of the news that two members of the defense, Shaun Cody and Matt Grootegoed, were named finalists for two of the top awards in college football (Lombardi for Cody, Butkus for Groots). The Wildcats came into the game thinking they might be able to run the ball a little with a talented back in Mike Bell but that thought quickly got pushed aside when going against the Trojan defense. The line saw some shifting as Manuel Wright got hit with a questionable cut block which forced Frostee Rucker into the game as the coaches had been hoping to limit Frostee's action as he battle injuries. We now will be without Manuel for several weeks as well. One of the more impressive stats on the day, as it usually is, was the fact that Arizona only made 2 of 12 third down conversions.
Special teams overview
Reggie Bush didn't have much of an impact running the ball in this game but he did put on a dazzling return to excite the crowd. One of the biggest hits of the night came late in the game when Desmond Reed hustled down to make a perfect form tackle on punt coverage. The situation with Ryan Killeen will be addressed this week in practice as Pete Carroll will once again put Mario Danelo in competition with Killeen. We all know Ryan has a strong enough leg to do the job but he missed another 27 yard kick, he's made less than half his field goal attempts this season, and it's to the point where the other options will be considered.
It almost seems as if one part of the season is over and another part is about to begin. For Trojan fans, it doesn't get any better than sitting here at 10-0 with a bye week upcoming and then our traditional match-ups against Notre Dame and UCLA waiting in the wings. Of course, we all know what is out there if we get past those two schools but for now it's honestly enough to focus on whipping the Irish and then pounding the Bruins. At this point the Trojans have secured a Rose Bowl bid by virtue of wrapping up the conference title and the fact that victories over the next two opponents will send us to the national title game is simply a cherry on top of the sundae because Trojans don't need any extra incentive to get up for these schools.