BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY
Long associated with the movie business, with its top film school and star layden alumni, the University of Southern California is imitating a major motion picture studio this fall, releasing a series of blockbuster hits from one of its divisions with a studio deal – the Trojan Football Team. And Pete Carroll, working as that division's top man, has produced blockbuster after blockbuster…
Co-starring the Stanford Cardinal he released "Bye, Bye Birdie" to sold out crowds. "Kill Bill…Doba, Volume 2," an action packed thriller with the Washington State Cougars was nearly rated R for graphic violence. Notre Dame played a minor role in "One More for the Giper". A personal favorite that broke box office records with its Kapra-esque happy ending is "Eat my Dust," co-starring the California Bears.
The original Vegas to Miami roadtrip movie originally released as "Carroll's Cannonball Run," is now being lensed as a sequel, entitled "Too Fast, Too Furious" that has a chase sequence back to Miami from Los Angeles that is so French Connection-fast it made the nation's head explode – at least the boys in the SEC.
Not a penny is spared in the special effects that goes into all the Trojan's feature productions. And because every bit of the Trojans' efforts is focused on this January's, sure-to-garner Academy consideration project, with either Auburn or Oklahoma, the studio, er, university, wanted to give all their fans a little something for the month of December.
That's right, just in time for the Holidays, Carroll & Company dusts off an old classic featuring the Ucla Bruins playing the guy who always seem to get it in the end; originally known as "The Curse of Cade McNown" but later re-titled "Gone in Sixty Seconds," loaded with never before seen scenes, will run on a continuous loop in houses around the country until the University can launch its biggest picture since the ‘70's, tentatively titled "This Ain't No Musical – Oklahoma" in January.
With the entire month of December off, it gives us all time to reflect and see that it's been nothing but caviar dreams for Tinsel Town's favorite team, the USC Trojans. But it's never easy putting these projects together. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to produce these mega-blockbuster, super-smash, box-office crushers. Even this weekend's ultra-low-budget, Bruin holiday filler, repeat gets a full wax. Let's take a look.
The gutty little Bruins are back, lead by third year senior quarterback Drew Olsen, has the nations 18th ranked offense. Their strength, however, is not through the air but more on the legs of three impressive horses in Maurice Drew, Chris Markey and senior big man, Manuel White. With those three carrying the rock, Ucla has averaged over two-hundred yards per game on the ground. It is through these men that any hope of baby-blue survival rests.
As good as the Bruins' receivers should be with Tab "Who's gonna dance with me on the Fitty" Perry, Craig "Do I remind you of Bobby Brown" Bragg, Junior "Who you callin' Junior" Taylor and Tight End, Marcedes "Dontchu ask me to block" Lewis, one would expect Ucla to have an excellent air-attack. But no, a mere 223 ypg is all the Bruins can muster. As a comparison, Notre Dame, whose coach just got axed thank to another Trojan pounding, puts up 220 ypg with half the talent, so it's definitely a weak link in the ability to get the ball downfield.
That said, the Bruin offense has drastically improved their ability to score, putting up an average of 31 points per game. The problem is their defense has also improved their ability to be…scored upon, and this is the dark side of our tale.
The Bruin defense must have watched the incredible fold job their predecessors pulled in Miami a few years back and decided that was how they wanted to play the game.
Nicknamed the Matadors, Ucla's defense is ranked last in the Pac Ten and 109th out of 117 Division 1 programs. For every yard their offensive counterparts chalk up, the defense gives away one and a half. This one step forward, two steps back, has kept the Bruins from ever gaining any real momentum this season and what little was gained, after a solid victory against the Oregon, once-upon-a-time well coached, Ducks, was lost with a three week hiatus from playing any form of real football.
Three weeks off and you might as well be the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. The rust is so set in it'll be near impossible to get up to game speed for the Bruins. By the time they do, the Trojans will have already sent this latest film to the lab for color correction. The End.
The mass exodous of fans from the Rose Bowl will conjur up images of Charleton Heston in "The Ten Commandments," leading the Jews out of Egypt. The difference is there will be no movie-magic miracles to help part the Cardinal Red sea of celebrators before them. This is not a movie that needs to be remade or seen anytime soon again, but like a traffic accident, you can't help but look.
In stak contrast, like a brilliant black and white movie, is the Trojans' own version of what a defense looks like. Ranked fourth in the nation and tops in the Pac Ten, this team is stacked with leading men. Patterson, Groots, Cody, Leach…newcomers Wright, Rivers and Schwieger, to name a few are what might be called "A Magnificent Seven," but they only begin to tell the story and describe the depth of this Trojan squad.
Can you say "Double Cat," I knew you could. SC's secondary is outstanding, their linebackers brilliant and their defensive line…invincible. And as good as the Trojans are on defense, their offense is every bit their equal.
Led by Heisman frontrunner, Matt Leinart, USC pulls out all the stops to create a story so high in action and thick with brilliant plot work, that one can never guess what's next. More high-speed thrills than a Matrix sequel, Norm Chow's offense never disappoints.
As former Notre Dame coach Ty Willingham acknowleged, "You spend so much effort in taking away one part of their offense, they simply score on you with the other." The Trojans are that balanced and that Quentin Tarantino cool.
Special Teams: this is when the Trojans start dropping bombs, like in "Ten Minutes to Tokyo". Kileen, Malone, Bush, Reed, Williams, Lua and so on – the Dirty Dozen, or in this case eleven, because twelve is a penalty and SC's eleven is unfair enough. By far the blood and guts of Trojan football success comes from these daredevils. In the Trojans toughest battle of the year, yes you remember "Eat My Dust" and go back to your own neighborhood, Mr. Rodgers, SC's special teams won the day. They made the difference and it is a testament to the level of coaching Carroll & Company bring to this program. Like an IMAX movie, SC is three dimensional…
It is the Trojans offensive, defensive and special teams strength vs the Bruin, oh, I forget, that makes this project a crowd pleaser year in and year out. But unlike earlier versions of this Fall Classic where it felt like a fight to the finish, having a director with the talent of Pete Carroll and a production crew with men like Chow and Orgeron, makes this one of those films where you guess the ending even before the lights go down.
Still, it should be fun for the viewer, if you're into torture flicks and if not, I suppose there's always the local video store.
It's tough these days to find good, clean entertainment the whole family can enjoy. The USC Trojans are as good as it gets to an old fashioned John Wayne western, where the guy on the white horse always gets the girl. Wayne was a Trojan, too. It must be so hard for Bruins these days; to see dreams made and stars born on one side of town while your own are turned into nothing more than bit-extras parts and lumps of coal in the stocking of the oldest Scrooge film one can find.
It's a tough business and not everyone gets to be the leading man. In Los Angeles the spotlight's on Pete Carroll, while Dorrell is still simply trying to find his "mark" on the Bruin sideline. If Bruin fans hold true to form, just by the time Karl does find his mark, he'll be Gone with the Wind.
Grab some popcorn, lace a Dr. Pepper with a little Crown Royale, get your seat in the front row and tell the projectionist to turn up the volume – it's showtime and the last day of pure entertainment until January when a rose smells just as sweet, even when it's an orange is about to begin.
USC 55 Ucla 24