Do we need any more proof that God is a Trojan? After a brief rainfall and slow start by USC it was clear the Irish faithful actually thought some of their old magic might re-appear and allow them to steal a victory from the top ranked Trojans. Wrong. Instead, the Trojans let them get their hopes up and then slowly went about dismantling them in dramatic and steady fashion, as has been their trademark all year. What has widely been claimed as the best intersectional rivalry in college football has been reduced, at least in recent years, to a one-sided affair where the Trojans have won the last three meetings by 31 points apiece. Early in this game Notre Dame was able to take advantage of our pursuit and blitzes but a couple quick adjustments by our coaches put a stop to that. The Irish defense actually did a solid job slowing the Trojan run game but all that did was open up more opportunity for Matt Leinart to finalize an invitation to New York in two weeks for the Heisman ceremony. Anything the Irish tried, USC had an answer for. There have been similar times for both sides in a rivalry like this, many Trojan fans reading this will recall the horror of 13 years in a row, and the fact that the shoe is on the other foot right now is something that will be celebrated in Trojan land. It's always great to beat the Irish but to beat them in such convincing fashion is something else entirely.
Wasn't it only two years ago that we saw a record breaking performance by a Trojan quarterback against the Irish which propelled him to the Heisman Trophy? Surely, we all thought at the time, the 425 yard showing by Carson Palmer was one for the ages but it turned out history can indeed repeat itself as Matt Leinart came out on Saturday with a pretty impressive showing of his own against ND which might just claim Matt a Heisman of his own. We won't know for another two weeks if he will win the coveted award but at the very least he put up the type of dominant numbers which are reflective of the best player in the country. While Palmer would seemingly overpower opponents with his magnificent arm we see Leinart carve up defenses with his precision passing and this game was no different as Matt was patient enough to get through an early game lull before the whole team caught fire in the second quarter. After that point it was basically target practice as Matt spread the ball around with a pair of touchdowns to Dwayne Jarrett and one each to Reggie Bush, Steve Smith and Jason Mitchell. When all was said and done Leinart had reached the 400 yard mark to go along with his five touchdowns and no interceptions. It was a vintage Leinart performance and in many ways the calm and easy going signal caller is a symbolic measure of his team. Many media members have looked for reasons as to why the Trojans should not be ranked #1 even though they have answered every challenge placed in front of them this year, Leinart also just goes about his business of winning football games in a fashion that won't always wow the voters yet when you look at the scoreboard the Trojans are 23-1 under his guidance. It's a testament to his teammates and the entire program when you see a record like that but at some point you need to look at the hand Leinart was dealt this year with a depleted wide receiver corps and a young offensive line to understand how valuable he has been.
The sight of Reggie Bush breaking free for a long touchdown has to be infuriating for the Irish. He was oh so close to committing to them during the recruiting process until a visit to the 2002 USC vs ND game showed him the light. Now, instead of scoring long touchdowns for Notre Dame he spends his time putting the finishing touches on USC victories against them.
After missing more than a month with a leg injury it didn't take Steve long to make an impact upon his return. He put on a cut move which spun around the Irish defender on his long touchdown catch and he also provided a key block to help spring Jarrett on one of his touchdowns. Welcome back Steve.
Lo-Jack is starting to really shine. He read a play well when Carlyle Holiday took a snap from center and he also showed tremendous pursuit speed when chasing down Brady Quinn. Lawrence also had a key sack in the 2nd quarter right before the Trojan offense exploded. As a redshirt freshman he's just another of the young stars ready to breakout for the Trojans.
It was great to see Dwayne get a couple touchdowns but what was equally impressive to see was his ability to run after the catch to pick up big yardage on his way to the end zone. The YAC stat was always an area where Mike Williams shined and it looks like Jarrett is beginning to add that element to his game as well.
Jason Mitchell caught the final TD pass of the game when he fought off the Irish defender to make the play. When Mitchell sat out fall camp there wasn't too much concern among Trojan fans about his absence because he had yet to be a factor for the offense but with injuries to other players Mitchell got his chance late in the season and he was able to make an impact…..Hershel Dennis hustled down on kickoff coverage to make a nice tackle early in the game….Thomas Williams is a headhunter and it's only a matter of time before he becomes a major force on the defense. He absolutely lit up the ballcarrier on a couple different plays…..Speaking of headhunters, Matt Grootegoed had a big hit on the Irish tight end to help stop their early momentum…..Groots was one of three captains named at the beginning of the season along with Leinart and Cody. Those three captains are now finalists for the Butkus, Lombardi and Heisman awards. Apparently they were pretty good choices to make as captains…..The Trojans called a fake punt near the end of the game which caused some speculation about why the play was called. The reason doesn't matter but as far as this writer is concerned it was great to see Tom Malone get the opportunity to throw the ball. In a recent interview in WeAreSC magazine Malone talked about the subject and said "I'd love to have the opportunity to throw it or run it. We always work on it but it never happens in a game. It doesn't matter if I run it or throw it, either one would make me happy". There has been speculation that Tom may leave after this year and, if that is the case, it was nice to see him get the opportunity in his final game at the Coliseum …..Another kicker, Ryan Killeen, came through with a huge early kick and gave an emotional thanks in the locker room after the game to his teammates for sticking with him throughout the year….At one point in the game our offensive line was two freshmen and three sophomores….Drew Radovich left the game with a sore hip but said afterwards that he should be fine….The Trojan tight ends, Alex Holmes and Dominique Byrd, each caught four balls and were a major factor to help with the passing game while the run game struggled….
It was a great group of former Trojan players on the sidelines to lead the seniors onto the field during introductions. Among those spotted included: Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen, Anthony Davis (it was AD Day at the Coliseum), Craig Fertig, Ron Yary, Sam Cunningham, John Jackson, Petros Papadakis, Jeremy Hogue, Chris Hale, Marlin McKeever, Paul McDonald, John Papadakis and Pat Harlow.