The Not So Obvious – If there was a message sent to Westwood and throughout America after Saturday night, the University of Southern California is on a mission and it will take more than just tradition, braggadocio, and physical play to knock the nation's number one team from its Trojan horse.
The Obvious – The national polls are out and after Saturday night's "annual" Trojan scoring hurricane, the Men of Troy picked up four additional first-place votes (52) in the Associated Press and stayed status quo in the ESPN-USA Today Coaches Poll (48).
The Not So Obvious – The Trojans big win over Notre Dame made a few converts with the nation's media watching on television while the coaches, those rascals who do not and will not reveal their votes, remained steady on the course. The bigger question is what effect did Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart's performance have on those four voters, assuming they vote for the Heisman trophy?
The Obvious – In a masterstroke of football genius, Coach Pete Carroll told his team after Saturday's game that their goal next week was to win at the Rose Bowl and go on to the Orange Bowl for the BCS championship.
The Not So Obvious –Carroll now effectively takes away the focus of the rivalry of UCLA next weekend and puts the Bruins in the uncomfortable role of being an obstacle to the greater glory – a place in the January 4th national championship game. UCLA becomes an roadblock and not a rival.
The Obvious – The Trojans registered their third-straight 31-point victory over The Irish.
The Not So Obvious – Nobody will be rooting harder for Trojans' offensive coordinator Norm Chow to get a head coaching position than Notre Dame fans, not mention coach Ty Willingham and his staff.
The Obvious – The Trojans have now won 21 straight home games in the Coliseum.
The Not So Obvious – The next Trojan home challenger to the continuing record will be the Arkansas Razorbacks next Sept. 17th, unless an open date is filled on Sept. 10th.
The Obvious – With 92,611 fans on hand for the Trojans' victory parade, Troy established a new home attendance record of 85,228 for six home games.
The Not So Obvious – Considering the weather and nature of southern California fans, you know the Trojans are The Truth when the Grand Old Lady is still filled to capacity. After the game Pete Carroll said, " The Coliseum was great tonight and it's been that way the whole year. The fans have been great. We've always wanted to build a home-field advantage and the fans have really stepped up."
The Obvious – For most of the afternoon and during the game, rain was the object of attention as the Coliseum went from cardinal and gold to banana yellow with all the ponchos being worn by fans.
The Not So Obvious – Referee Steve Pamon and his crew showed no wilt to the weather as they officiated the game in sleeveless attire as though it was a sunny Los Angeles day. Of course, that is the attitude one would expect from the Big 10 crew. When you work games in Madison and Ann Arbor, what's 85% humidity?
The Obvious – Trojans' quarterback Matt Leinart caught fire in the second quarter and went on to a five touchdown performance and 400 yards in the air.
The Not So Obvious – It wasn't like Lefty was pristine at the final gun. With five stitches sewed into his chin at halftime, Leinart not only proved to his teammates once again he is a warrior, but that scar will always be a reminder of his battles with The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. As ABC's Dan Fouts remarked, " That's why quarterbacks grow beards."
The Obvious – Before the game, no Irish player showed more confidence and determination to beat the Trojans than middle linebacker Mike Goolsby, who played a fine game.
The Not So Obvious – After the contest, Goolsby was a Trojan believer. The senior said, " All I can say is, there's a reason the guy's (Leinart) a Heisman candidate, and there's a reason they're No. 1."
The Obvious – There was some controversy in the fourth quarter when Trojan coach Pete Carroll ordered up a fourth down fake punt that directly led to Matt Leinart's fifth touchdown pass of the evening to make it 41-10.
The Not So Obvious – While Pete Carroll defended his decision, Irish coaches were none too pleased by the call. However, Irish coaches must have forgot they did the same thing at Stanford last year in a similar situation during a 57-7 rout of the Cardinal. It should be noted that ND coach Ty Willingham showed no displeasure after Saturday's game against the Trojans, at least publicly. You don't think Ty will bring this up to his team next year in South Bend?
The Obvious – The Trojans once had recruiting interest in Notre Dame corner Freddie Parish, another Long Beach Poly product.
The Not So Obvious – If there wasn't enough insult to Parish after being constantly picked on and burned during the game by the Trojans, poor Freddie's picture wasn't even listed in the game program nor was he listed as a starter, which was actually a surprise move by coach Ty Willingham. With the Trojans running their first six plays on their first possession at Parish, Norm Chow, Trojans' legendary offensive coordinator, adjusted to Willingham's surprise faster than a shark smells blood in the water.
The Obvious – The Irish tried to pick on the Trojans' redshirt freshman corner Eric Wright, who was matched with Irish junior receiver Maurice Stovall from Philadelphia, Pa.
The Not So Obvious – Much like the Trojans' strategy of matching Dwayne Jarrett (6-5) against Freddie Parish (6-0), ND tried the same tactic with Stovall (6-5) against Wright (5-11). Wright was helped at times by the Stovall's case of the drops.
The Obvious – The rivalry with the Irish is so intense that each player on both teams has to find ways to calm down before the action begins.
The Not So Obvious – For Trojans' offensive guard John Drake, he let out his nervous energy by constantly yawning in pre-game stretching. For those that have played in big games, yawning is really not an unusual release of nervousness.
The Obvious – While Matt Leinart was doing a successful audition for this year's Heisman award, senior linebacker Matt Grootegoed was making believers that he may be, indeed, the best in the country.
The Not So Obvious – Groots, who is a finalist for the prestigious Butkus Award for linebackers, made a believer out of Irish senior tailback Ryan Grant, who was given a "vintage" Grootegoed "shot" along the Irish sideline in the third quarter. The hit was nothing out of the ordinary for Trojan fans, but the nation certainly felt Grant's pain.
The Obvious – Trojan tailback Reggie Bush exploded on a wheel route against Irish senior linebacker Brandon Hoyle for a ho-hum 69-yards Bush touchdown.
The Not So Obvious – Perhaps the most depressed player on the field after Roadrunner Reggie's calling card was Irish nose guard Derek Landri, the former Concord De La Salle All-American, who was offside on the previous play allowing the Trojans an extra third down attempt.
The Obvious – Just moments before Bush's 69-yard Heisman television commercial, ABC's Dan Fouts remarked that Reggie had not caught a pass all evening, to which Keith Jackson remarked, "He will."
The Not So Obvious – Boom. There goes Bush like getting a director's cue. While the press box camera caught the drama of the touchdown, a ground level shot really showcased the quickness of No. 5 as Reggie made a lightening juke on the sideline and slipped through the tackle of safety Quentin Burrell to make it 27-10.
The Obvious – Prior to the game, the weather made you wonder if you were in Indiana instead of California.
The Not So Obvious – However, once you caught the drift of the cost for parking, you knew it was Los Angeles. The lot at 39th and Figueroa was charging $70 per car. You can park almost four cars for the same price next to Notre Dame Stadium.
The Obvious – Trojan sophomore receiver Steve Smith, playing for the first time since his Cal injury, caught four passes for 96 yards, including a wide-open 35-yard touchdown reception.
The Not So Obvious – Nobody was happier than Trojan freshman receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who darn glad to see less double-coverage with Smith in the game. Of course, Smith's key block on Jarrett's 57-yard score down the Trojans' sideline was a thing of beauty.
The Obvious – The Trojans and the Coliseum celebrated the 1974 "Comeback" against Notre Dame, a game which Troy unleashed a 35-point third quarter to win a historical 55-24 shocker.
The Not So Obvious – Well, it might not have the same value and timing, but the 2004 Trojans 38 consecutive scoring extravaganza, commencing after being down 10-3 in the second quarter, warrants some props.
The Obvious – Saturday night's game brought out a parade of Trojan immortals like Marcus Allen, Junior Seau, Tony Boselli, and, of course, Anthony Davis, who was honored at halftime.
The Not So Obvious – It was a moment in time as Davis sprinted from the Coliseum tunnel at halftime to athletic director Mike Garrett for the ceremony. The only thing missing was the touchdown knee-dance, a Davis trademark after each score. Showing some sign of weight gain at age 52, Davis was interviewed by ABC's Todd Harris and immediately afterwards Keith Jackson remarked, " You got a treadmill?" An obvious reference to Anthony's added girth.
The Obvious – For many Trojan fans, it was a day and evening to see many of their heroes from past Trojan football teams, who were on hand to form the Heritage Tunnel for the departing seniors.
The Not So Obvious – While it seems that the Trojan history springs name of all-time greats like a conveyor belt, many of the stars of Trojan powerhouses of the past never went on to NFL glory. One "unknown" Trojan great from the past on the field before warm-ups was former "Rover" Gerry Shaw, who was so instrumental during Coach John McKay's reign on defense. Shaw, the former Claremont HS star, who played on the1967 national champs, was one of many Trojans who had "just" outstanding college careers that led the Cardinal and Gold to glory.
The Obvious – The Trojans had little success running the ball against the Fighting Irish, but Notre Dame really took the Trojans to task physically on the ground with 195 yards rushing.
The Not So Obvious – With three Parade All-Americans on the ND offensive line, the Trojans front seven had their hands full controlling the Irish rushing attack. The Irish had success with direct attacks on the Trojans front four, especially the right side. The Irish also loved to burn the Trojan fast pursuit by running some plays that ran counter to the flow of the Trojan linemen.
The Obvious – The Trojans and The Irish always seem to bring out some unexpected celebs to the game.
The Not So Obvious – Drawing attention leaving the game was former Rams' quarterback Jim Everett, who gave Trojan fans the "a smile" when asked about the SC performance.
The Obvious – Irish coach Ty Willingham deserves some credit for reaching into his bag of tricks by ordering up successive trick plays in the third quarter.
The Not So Obvious – On the first "trick", Willingham called for a double-reverse pass back to quarterback Brady Quinn, but Trojans' defensive end Frostee Rucker broke up the timing of the play. The second "trick" was a clever formation change that placed former Irish quarterback-turned-receiver Carlyle Holiday back at quarterback, moving quarterback Brady Quinn to wide receiver. Hoping to use a quarterback draw, Trojans' defensive end Lawrence Jackson made a brilliant adjustment, knifing through down the line to stop the athletic Holiday for no gain.
The Obvious – The rain had little effect on the tailgate parties before the game.
The Not So Obvious – With a security rule of no umbrellas allowed inside the Coliseum, there was quite a collection of umbrellas piling up at various entrances into the legendary facility.
The Obvious – Stopping the Trojans' offense completely is next to impossible.
The Not So Obvious – Irish offensive coordinator Ken Baer after the game said, " They couldn't run on us, but they've got so many weapon."
The Obvious – The Trojans did a fine job on a goal line stand in Notre Dame's first scoring drive that covered 92 yards.
The Not So Obvious – The scoring drive was the longest of the season for Notre Dame, and Ty Willingham made a great call on fourth down at the Trojans' 1-yard line by crossing tight end Billy Palmer, a non-threat most of the season, in the end zone. It caught the Trojans and free safety Jason Leach off guard as quarterback Brady Quinn rolled right and threw back to his left.
The Obvious – Trojan kicker Ryan Killeen hit on two important field goals, the first a 39-yard shot that gave USC life in the opening stanza.
The Not So Obvious – After the game, senior Killeen said he addressed the team and thanked them for the confidence they showed him during his difficult season. One will never know what might have happened if Killeen had missed his first field goal. It might have meant his job and an ensuing appearance by redshirt freshman kicker Mario Danelo, son of former NFL kicker Joe Danelo.
The Obvious – Before the game, the Trojans honored their seniors with a spirit tunnel and each senior ran out after their name was announced.
The Not So Obvious – After the game, Pete Carroll was asked about changing the routine to after the game, a tradition that was stopped years ago when the Trojan fans protested with boos to show their disdain of the Ted Tollner era. Carroll said he had no plans to return to the old tradition and said he will continue to have a very private and emotional senior ceremony after the last home game in the locker room in which each senior talks to the team with highly personal statements.
The Obvious – Sunday's headline in The Times read " Building a Trophy Case" and a sub-head that read " Trojans moving closer to playing for the BCS crystal ball and Leinart boosts Heisman bid."
The Not So Obvious – Sunday's headline in the South Bend Tribune read " Rivalry Now Mismatch" and the sub-head read " USC crushes ND again."
The Obvious – It was a typical physical game between these two storied programs.
The Not So Obvious – Besides Leinart's stitches, Trojan freshman guard came up off the ground after one play like an elephant had sat on shoulder, and later outstanding Notre Dame defensive end Justin Tuck was knocked into Neverland and had to leave the game as his legs turned to spaghetti. Early in the game, promising Trojan offensive lineman Drew Radovich actually left the game early and headed up the Coliseum tunnel with a hip strain.
The Obvious – Although the game still had a quarter to go, ABC's Keith Jackson could feel that Notre Dame was in a bad position that could only get worse down 27-7.
The Not So Obvious – Jackson said, " Travelers getting a workout tonight. Ara, you can turn your head and get a drink of water and he'll go away." A reference to the former Irish coach, who suffered some painful losses to the Trojans in the Coliseum, including "The Comeback" in 1974.
The Obvious – Carroll concludes his November career with the Trojans at 13-0, but he has an 0-1 December record, thanks to a first-year, 10-6, Christmas Day loss to Utah in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl.
The Not So Obvious –With the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl standing in the way next Saturday for the Trojans and Pete Carroll's pot of gold to Miami, it is one more challenge for the Trojans. For Pete Carroll, December is a chance to even his Holiday month at 1-1. For the UCLA Bruins, it is a painful reminder to know the Trojans' head coach loves challenges, and he doesn't often take a powder twice in a row.