The Not So Obvious – No disrespect to the inspired Arizona Wildcats (2-8, 1-6), but with the Trojans (10-0, 7-0) and their fans laser-focused on the chase to Miami, the game evolved into more of a lackluster piano recital than critical November Pac-10 affair. Give the Men of Troy some credit. When the second half rolled around, Pete Carroll's boys headed directly to the Express Checkout line.
The Obvious – It is quite apparent that while it makes even the most optimistic of Trojans followers a bit uneasy, the Trojans definitely return from halftime a completely crazed bunch of competitors.
The Not So Obvious – Despite the Trojans winning an astounding 20th straight Coliseum game, what is also becoming quite astounding is some serious issues of Trojan turnovers (four fumbles) and consistent field goal kicking woes, something that could come back to bite the Trojans on the backside in upcoming crunch games against Notre Dame, UCLA, and the BCS equation.
The Obvious – With Auburn and Oklahoma slugging it out for the second spot with the release of Sunday's media polls, the Trojans remained a comfortable first.
The Not So Obvious – Although they gained a first-place vote in this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, they somehow lost a first-place vote in the AP Poll. Obviously the Trojans are on their way to Miami with a sweep of their heated rivals Notre Dame and UCLA, but their opponent remains a true mystery until the BCS final poll, something Trojan fans know all too well from last year's computer snafu.
The Obvious – In a tribute to their stature as the nation's premier college football team, 80,167 showed up at the Coliseum to see the Trojans play an Arizona club that under normal circumstances would have drawn significantly less patrons.
The Not So Obvious – If you need hard evidence that the Trojans are a shinning cardinal and gold jewel in Los Angeles, just know that in eight previous Arizona visits to the Coliseum, the average attendance has been 57,011.
The Obvious – Having played Wisconsin and Utah, the Wildcats said they were convinced they had just played America's finest college football machine.
The Not So Obvious – Redshirt freshman quarterback Richard Kovalcheck, who finished with 165 yards passing, was still able to speak after the relentless punishment he received on the famed Coliseum grass. " They're number one without a doubt," Kovalcheck said.
The Obvious – The Trojans pounded out 216 yards rushing against the Cats.
The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday night, the Wildcats defense was only allowing 117.4 yards rushing per game.
The Obvious – Tailback LenDale White had an inspired evening with 118 yards rushing on 15 carries and three critical red zone touchdowns.
The Not So Obvious – With Arizona coach Mike Stoops commenting afterwards that he thought that White was the main cog in the Trojans' rushing attack, Saturday night's running highlight for the former Colorado schoolboy All-American was his 54-yard romp into the Wildcats' secondary. There may be some comparisons to former Trojan tailback greats, but White looks very much like a Cardinal and Gold version of a young Jerome Bettis, the former Irish star that the Trojans remember all too well. That late spinning move near the end of the 54-yard dash, for a man his size, still has Trojan followers in shock and awe.
The Obvious – While creating obvious problems early for the Trojans' offense, Arizona coach Mike Stoops was very complimentary after the game saying the Trojans were "the best ever I've coached against. They made it look easy."
The Not So Obvious – Of course what he tells his brother Bob of Oklahoma may be another evaluation in private. However, the feeling here is that Arizona Mike, being a defensive coach who understands the Trojans defense and how to attack it, will probably tell Oklahoma Bob that if you're going to stay with Pete Carroll's club, you'd better make your Sooner statement early and often in the first half.
The Obvious – The Trojans passed for 369 yards against the Wildcats.
The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday's game, the Arizona defense had allowed 225.2 yards per game through the air.
The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart was impressive with three touchdowns and 280 yards through the air.
The Not So Obvious – Just as impressive is Leinart's courage under a determined rush. Once again Matt took a blindsided sack and this time it was from Wildcat junior corner Lamon Means (6-3, 200), who stuck Leinart with everything but the Arizona world-famous saguaro cacti. For all his outstanding traits as an All-America quarterback, put courage right up there too.
The Obvious – The Trojans' Mr. Electricity, Reggie Bush, had a fairly quiet evening with 45 yards rushing, 19 yards receiving, and one lost fumble.
The Not So Obvious – Although Bush did have an exciting 38-yard kickoff return, the expectations for a touchdown are so great in the minds of fans in the Coliseum that whenever Bush goes deep in return formation, the crowd begins chanting "Reggie, Reggie, Reggie!"
The Obvious – Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow is leaving no secret that tight end Dominique Byrd, who had eight grabs for 72 yards, is now a major player in the Trojans' offense.
The Not So Obvious – Repeatedly throwing early to Byrd and allowing Dom to operate against linebackers, Chow burned the Wildcats with tight end screens. The Wildcats had all sort of problems trying to figure out if Byrd was blocking or delaying off the line of scrimmage. If there is a difference maker in the next three games, this kid may be "The Truth."
The Obvious – The Trojans had 585 yards in total offense.
The Not So Obvious – The Arizona defense was allowing 280.6 yards in total offense prior to Saturday night.
The Obvious – Early in the game, the Wildcat offense seemed to find holes in the Trojans' secondary and even made some small dents rushing.
The Not So Obvious – Most of the multiple formations and Arizona offensive strategy came from coordinator Mike Canales, who studied under the Trojans' Norm Chow in the 1980s. The Trojans' defense was attacked by Canales, who has run the Chow offense the past 15 years.
The Obvious – While the Trojans' offense struggled early in the game, the defense, especially the usual suspects of Grootegoed, Tatupu, Cody, and Patterson were exceptionally quick off the snap.
The Not So Obvious – Grootegoed was his usual jarring self in smelling out Wildcat screens and shooting through on blitzes, and it also appeared that Matt was even more active to prove his appreciation of being named a finalist for the Butkus Award for the nation's best linebacker. The former Mater Dei legend finished with six tackles, five less than junior linebacker Lofa Tatupu (11 tackles), who also appears headed for some future All-America recognition.
The Obvious – The Trojans' defense coming into Saturday' game was allowing 267.7 yards and just 11.9 points per game.
The Not So Obvious – The Arizona offense had 255 yards in total offense and scored nine points on Saturday.
The Obvious – Field goal kicker Ryan Killeen missed a 27-yard gimmie, which gave the Wildcats' some added momentum and had the locals grumbling.
The Not So Obvious – Killeen's missed attempt was the first time an Arizona opponent had not scored in a first-and-goal situation.
The Obvious – Trojans' coach Pete Carroll and Arizona coach Mike Stoops were both very complimentary of the other during the week's buildup.
The Not So Obvious – During pre-game warm-ups, Carroll and Stoops were seen playing a game of catch with the old pigskin as Carroll's son Brennan, the Trojans tight end coach, made it a threesome.
The Obvious – The Trojans' multi-talented Desmond Reed, who threw a near reverse-pass touchdown to Dwayne Jarrett, is fast becoming a Coliseum crowd favorite.
The Not So Obvious – It is not surprising that the toughest thing for Pete Carroll and his staff was to find the best position for this former Temple City star. Reed, who carried for 37 yards in just two carries, has exhibited Reggie Bush flash and is tough as nails. Reed's crushing punt return tackle on Arizona's Ryan Eidson, whose father is a coach at fabled Concord De La Salle, wasn't the first time we have seen a Trojan opponent gasping for air.
The Obvious – The Trojans offensive line seemed to put added heat on the Wildcats in the second half, especially when the rushing game became a priority.
The Not So Obvious – Though uncontrolled rage, at times, can be a liability for an offensive lineman, offensive guard Fred Matua was very animated in the second half and waved his arms to get the Coliseum throng into it as the Trojans were nearing the Wildcat end zone. With the ball at the Arizona 14-yard line, Matua laid a huge block springing LenDale White down to the Cats' four-yard line.
The Obvious – Temperature at kickoff was listed at 61 degrees and fairly comfortable.
Not So Obvious – Being a night kickoff, the weather was of no concern for the tailgaters, many of whom enjoyed playing silhouette football in the dark. The Coliseum folks did a commendable job of keeping the area lit, which made for a nice evening experience for the most part.
The Obvious – While the Wildcats' offense was being tossed around like a rag doll most of the evening, Arizona tailback Mike Bell showed that he is a excellent runner by picking up 74 yards on 15 carries, a nifty 4.9 average against the nation's finest defense.
The Not So Obvious – Bell had a wonderful 22-yard run that gave you the impression that rushing behind the Trojans' line, the kid could really be something special.
The Obvious – As much concern as there is about the Trojans recent rash of turnovers, they also accumulated six flags for 46 yards in penalties.
The Not So Obvious – Despite being second to last in the Pac-10 standings, Arizona had only three flags for 20 yards.
The Obvious – It is not unusual for Pete Carroll to have a Trojan legend like a Ronnie Lott speak to his team before a big ballgame.
The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats' Mike Stoops brought out the celebrity card before the game as former boxing icon Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini delivered the pre-game pep talk. Oh, and yes, that was David "Deacon" Jones, the Hall of Fame Rams' defensive end, hanging on the Wildcat sidelines during the warm-up session.
The Obvious – The Trojans' Coliseum following was as quiet as a mute when the Trojans left the field at halftime with an unimpressive 14-3 lead.
The Not So Obvious – Usually given applause or a standing ovation, there was some real anger by the fans the way the Trojans performed in the first two quarters. Maybe it was the deflating fumble by Matt Leinart near the end of the first half when the Trojans were driving, but the throng gave something more powerful than booing – stone silence.
The Obvious – There was also stoned Coliseum silence when defensive tackle Manuel Wright went down after a Wildcat rolled up his ankle.
The Not So Obvious – It was the silence of concern not boredom as most Trojan fans know the importance of the talented, but sometimes inconsistent Wright. With the crunch of the season coming down to the final big three, the Trojans can ill-afford to lose Big Manny. When the kid is on, he's a bitch to block.
The Obvious – Freshman receiver Dwayne Jarrett had a big game with 144 yards in on just six receptions.
The Not So Obvious – Just when you think that Jarrett has disappeared, boom, the kid runs a corner pattern or a deep post and you're on you feet. With the homesick business a thing of the past, Trojans fans are thrilled to see the kid do some elevated chest-bumping with his teammates after a successful play.
The Obvious – Reserve Trojan senior quarterback Matt Cassel guided the Trojans to their final drive of the evening, marching 65 yards, spearheaded by a 20-yard pass to Jason Mitchell.
The Not So Obvious – Moments after tailback Hershel Dennis made a 1-yard touchdown plunge, Matt Leinart came dashing off the Trojans' sideline right into the fray to greet Cassel. It was a shock that no flags were tossed, but it was a unique moment for two friends.
The Obvious – For the most part, the Trojans are continuing to get fine corner play from youngsters Justin Wyatt and Eric Wright.
The Not So Obvious – In attendance Saturday evening was former Trojan corner from last year's national champs Marcell Allmond, who was wearing a black SC letterman's jacket with the No. 8 and DB on the sleeves. Prior to the game, Allmond was doing a little shadow boxing with punter Tom Malone as the Trojans began with special teams exercises.
The Obvious – Due to the injury to wide receiver Chris McFoy, senior Jason Mitchell got the start.
The Not So Obvious – During the pre-game announcements by public address announcer Dennis Packer, the Trojans' announce the starting offensive and defensive lineups with the picture of the player on the scoreboard. When it came time for Mitchell to be announced, the scoreboard flashed only a SC logo, an indication that there was no picture for Jason. The O/NSO, however, salutes the senior from North Torrance High, who had five receptions for 74 yards.
The Obvious – By clinching the Rose Bowl berth, there was the traditional roses presentation to Pete Carroll by Tournament of Roses president Dave Davis.
The Not So Obvious – Meanwhile, the boys in the press box and fans outside a Coliseum tunnel were treated to two representative from the Orange Bowl, who were passing out BCS Orange Bowl championship stickers.
The Obvious – Although the game started slowly for the Trojans, many of the SC students were seated before the combatants came out to stretch.
The Not So Obvious – You know the students are ready to go when Trojan special teams members Tom Malone, Ryan Killeen, Mario Danelo, and Will Collins get a standing ovation upon their appearance out of the famed Coliseum tunnel.
The Obvious – With kickoff time set for 7:15 p.m., many of the non-tailgating fans pumped some "funds" into some of the local establishments.
The Not So Obvious – A big winner for the night game was the KFC on "Fig" and Coliseum. The lines were so long that you'd have thought they were giving away the colonel's chicken.
The Obvious – Many of the parking areas were full due to the early arrival for Homecoming, which was another huge campus success.
The Not So Obvious – The usual sharks of the parking world continued to take advantage of the Trojans' number one status by charging $60, even for Arizona.
The Obvious – If ever there was a schedule designed for another Trojan national championship, this week's bye is the perfect calm before the rivalry wars with the Fighting Irish and those upstart Bruins.
The Not So Obvious – There is really nothing more a Trojan fan could ask for at this time of the season but for the next two weeks to race by faster than a Reggie Bush punt return. Of course Trojan fans, remember the old saying of be careful what you wish for, it might come true. This is one time, however, Cardinal and Gold fans hope that wish comes true.