O/NSO - Orange Bowl aftermath

Fait accompli. Mission accomplished. All questions answered. The home of college football's royal dynasty no longer resides in townships called Columbus, Miami, Norman, and Tallahassee. Los Angeles and its vast array of superstars is now the reigning college football capital of the country thanks to the top-ranked University of Southern California Trojans' (13-0) obliteration of the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-1) 55-19 for the national championship in the 71st Orange Bowl.

The Obvious – Fait accompli. Mission accomplished. All questions answered. The home of college football's royal dynasty no longer resides in townships called Columbus, Miami, Norman, and Tallahassee. Los Angeles and its vast array of superstars is now the reigning college football capital of the country thanks to the top-ranked University of Southern California Trojans' (13-0) obliteration of the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-1) 55-19 for the national championship in the 71st Orange Bowl.

The Not So Obvious – Although the Trojans have now accomplished back-to-back national championships, there is little question that this year's championship was Coach Pete Carroll and staff's most masterful coaching job. Perhaps not as strong as last year's national champions, but good Lord, given the off-the-field roadblocks and unexpected reshuffling of personnel, this is one of the great Trojan coaching job in USC football history. Just ask the 77,912 fans at Pro Player Stadium if they doubt the power of this year's national champions.

The Obvious – There were many questions leading into the Orange Bowl BCS championship game, and none was bigger than that of the Trojans' offensive line.

The Not So Obvious – What a performance by a group that has been under the microscope from the very beginning of the season. The almost total domination by Coach Tim Davis' Trojan offensive line was awe-inspiring and stunning, especially for Sooner fans. When the Trojans returned to the swank Westin Diplomat after the game, Dave Baker, Arena Football League commissioner and father of starting offensive tackle Sam, threw his arms around junior offensive tackle Taitusi Lutui and said, "You guys did a great job. We are really proud of you!" Ditto, ditto.

The Obvious – This week's Sports Illustrated cover is the a picture of Trojan quarterback Matt Lenart setting to throw with a big, white 55-19 imprint and the words "USC Hammers Oklahoma to Win The National Championship."

The Not So Obvious – If you want a real treat, turn to the game story by Austin Murphy and the double-page photo of Trojan tailback LenDale White scoring his first-quarter touchdown. What makes the photo a classic is the picture of massive Trojan offensive tackle Taitusi Lutui in his No. 71 home uniform. For pure size and intimidation, Trojan fans that have never seen "Deuce" in person will be in awe of Lutui's physical presence.

The Obvious – There was no more important member of the offensive line than big John Drake, the senior from Long Beach, who made the Sooner defensive line his own personal Boomer Schooner as the Trojans rushed for 193 yards compared to Oklahoma's 128 yards.

The Not So Obvious – During an interview on ESPN radio, Drake again commented how Sooners' outstanding defensive lineman Dan Cody asked Big Bad John to run the ball more to keep the clock moving so that OU could leave the stadium quicker as the Trojans' rout was on.

The Obvious – Tailback LenDale White led the Trojans in rushing with 118 yards and two touchdowns, despite the fact that he was so questionable early in the week with his ankle status.

The Not So Obvious – For those who were privileged to attend Sunday night's practice at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, there was no question White was ready to go. The day before Sunday night's practice, White reportedly dunked a basketball after practice. When the O/NSO asked White about the dunk, White replied, " I did it on one leg." Still smiling after the comment, LenDale revealed he has a 35-inch vertical leap.

The Obvious – For all the glory of the Trojans' defense, no performer was more evident than middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who made Sports Illustrated's All-Bowl Team and had a team-high 12 tackles, and was brilliant in stuffing OU freshman tailback Adrian Peterson.

The Not So Obvious – Much has been made of Tatupu's desire to enter early into the NFL draft due to family financial considerations. Upon returning to the team hotel to party around 2:00 p.m., Tatupu bypassed the party to sprint through the Westin Dipolmat lobby grinning and saying, "I need to greet my family."

The Obvious – After the game, there was almost no sign of OU defensive end Larry Birdine, who had much to say about Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart and company before the game.

The Not So Obvious – Birdine, who had one tackle, was understandably the least quotable players after the game. However, the Trojans had a lot to say to Birdine as the score rolled on. According to Sports Illustrated, after the Trojans were up 45-10, Trojans' senior tight end Alex Holmes asked Birdine, " Is (Leinart) still overrated?"

The Obvious – In our O/NSO Oklahoma Edition pregame analysis, in The Obvious we wrote "Can the Oklahoma secondary, even with the return of senior DB Antonio Perkins, deal with the mind of Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow, especially once the legendary OC figures out the Sooners' strategy and quarterback Matt Leinart starts dissecting the Sooners' linebackers and secondary?"

The Not So Obvious – In The Not So Obvious analysis we wrote "In a simplified form, the game may very well come down to the Trojans' offensive line, a unit that will be taking their roughest and toughest final exam. Should Matt Leinart get time to scan the Sooner secondary, there is a logical feeling that the Sooners could be in deep trouble." With Leinart on intergalatic fire and the Trojans' OL giving up one sack, Troy has made an old geezer from the 60's look like Grantland Rice.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart threw for 332 yards and five touchdowns, eliminating all Heisman jinx talk.

The Not So Obvious – Not bad for an "average" quarterback. When the Trojans entered the field before the game, Leinart went up to the SC crowd and pumped his arms high in the air to generate some pre-kickoff fan enthusiasm. After the game with his jersey off, Leinart headed immediately to the stands near the Trojans' bench to find his loved ones.

The Obvious – Before the game in our Oklahoma Edition of the O/NSO, we wrote in The Not So Obvious "The real forecast is whether the perceived weaknesses of the two teams, the Trojans' offensive line and secondary and the Sooners' secondary, is fact or fiction. The word from both camps in Miami is that there's healthy respect in that each club realizes the ability of the other to inflict immediate offensive and defensive pain in lightening fashion."

The Not So Obvious – The immediate difference between the two teams was displayed in the first quarter when both teams hit the other in "lightening fashion," and it was the Trojans who survived the shock and awe. There is an old saying "A true champion gets up after being knocked to the canvas." It truly was a harbinger for the balance of the game and the Sooners remained on the mat.

The Obvious – The Sooners found out how valuable Trojans' sophomore wide receiver Steve Smith was to the offense as the former Taft star had three killer scoring receptions.

The Not So Obvious – Smith, who also made Sports Illustrated's All-Bowl Team, might have had more scores had Leinart been able to locate him during different segments of the game as the kid was constantly finding big holes in the OU secondary. Yep, the Sooners were having all sorts of problems containing Stevie. Smith's performance removed all doubt from some that the kid might have been a tad overrated coming out of high school. Think how much better the Trojans' offense would have been had he not missed such a large number of games because of a broken leg.

The Obvious – There was quite a war in the pit between the Sooners' Outland Trophy All-American tackle Jammal Brown and the Trojans All-America defensive tackle Shaun Cody and Sooners' heralded center Vince Carter and Trojans' All-American defensive tackle Mike Patterson.

The Not So Obvious – War might be putting it mildly. Brown was very adept at using his forearm to plant in Cody's throat. Numerous times Brown was holding so bad that fans could literally see Shaun's uniform being pulled from his body. On one particular non-call from the SEC officials, Pete Carroll went wild. As for Patterson's battle, the Sooners tried everything but a SWAT team attack to slow up Los Al Mike, who had three tackle assists.

The Obvious – Coach Pete Carroll told the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press that he fully intends to return as coach of the Trojans and has no interest in the NFL and the San Francisco 49'ers.

The Not So Obvious – As they say in different sports circles, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings" or as some might insist, "It ain't over till the 49'ers select a coach and he isn't coming from USC." There is protocol in the NFL that requires a procedure that includes a minority interview. The fact is the 49'ers have not yet thrown their offer Carroll's way and probably won't until they have done other interviews. If you are looking for a silver lining, it could be the hiring of Coach Blackwell from Clemson as defensive line and potential recruiting coordinator. Should the hiring of Blackwell to USC take place before the 49'ers select a coach, then you know Carroll is staying. No way would Captain Charisma hang Blackwell, who coached Carroll's son Brennan at Pitt, and his family out to dry.

The Obvious – Corner back Justin Wyatt probably played his best game of his young CB career, closing on Sooners receivers faster than he had all season.

The Not So Obvious – Wyatt's play was especially impressive considering that Sooner QB Jason White had just enough time to throw. It was Justin's closing speed and technique in swatting away passes that helped greatly in the Trojans' cause.

The Obvious – Tight end Dominique Byrd's 33-yard scoring touchdown from Matt Leinart was reminiscent of Dom's critical scoring grab at foggy Oregon State.

The Not So Obvious – Byrd's one-handed scoring grab in the first quarter stopped the bleeding after OU had marched 92 yards in 12 plays to open the game's scoring. The Sooners appeared somewhat stunned on their sideline not only at the lightening speed of the Trojans' scoring drive but in the NFL skill No. 86 showcased.

The Obvious – Trojan kicker Ryan Killeen ended his career with two impressive field goals of 45 and 42 yards.

The Not So Obvious – Killeen's 45-yarder was especially a killer since it occurred with just three seconds left in the first half. However, you knew Killeen was also hotter than the Miami sun in the summer when, in the second half, he got in the kickoff groove of nailing it in the Sooners' end zone for repeated touchbacks. In his final three games, Killeen ended his career as hot a player as any Trojan. Good luck, kid.

The Obvious – As the Trojans continued to pour it on in the third quarter, OU fans were disguising themselves as Orange Bowl seats.

The Not So Obvious – It reminded many Trojan fans at Pro Player Stadium of being at the Rose Bowl two years ago when the Trojans destroyed the Bruins 52-21 and the only fans remaining in the third quarter were USC fans. The Sooner fans departure was like the gridiron version of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense was so dominant and confident that it almost was a shock that OU finally scored with 3:59 remaining in the game.

The Not So Obvious – When OU quarterback connected with his second scoring toss, the ONLY noise was the OU band. You could have heard a pin drop from the remnants of Sooner faithful.

The Obvious – There was no better excitement in the game than when Traveler made his appearance.

The Not So Obvious – One OU fan said, "Oh no, we're in trouble. They actually brought that horse!" Now OU coach Bob Stoops not truly understands the misery that Notre Dame Coach Ara Parsegian endured, but there is little doubt he is now quite familiar with "Conquest."

The Obvious – With the Trojans' offense rolling in high gear, it is almost unbelievable that Reggie Bush didn't score a touchdown.

The Not So Obvious – However, don't discount the fact that Reggie did have enough big moments during the game to open it up for the rest of Norm Chow's cast of scoring threats. In fact, Bush's opening drive catch that almost went the distance was a beautiful call by Chow that served notice from the very beginning. The Bush factor had now been established. Hell, The Roadrunner still averaged 12 yards a carry and 15 yards per reception.

The Obvious – It didn't take long after the game for Trojan national championship items to be made available to the dispersing Orange Bowl attendees.

The Not So Obvious – With a print shop available at the stadium, national championship T-shirts were selling like hot cakes and there was a poster with the final score on it being sold for $5… if you didn't have an Orange Bowl coupon. The coupon was inside one of those plastic ticket holders, which went for $10 a piece.

The Obvious – Parking at Pro Player stadium was relatively easy once you came off the intrastate onto Dairy Road.

The Not So Obvious – However, it was quite a long ordeal from the freeway into the stadium and probably would have been longer had a large group of fans not come early to tailgate.

The Obvious – One of the more exciting moments before the game was the arrival by the Trojans in their USC mural busses with sirening police escorts.

The Not So Obvious – With the Trojan Walk a difficult proposition due to security, fans did have a chance to stand behind metal barriers and see the USC coaching staff and players, who acknowledged their adoring fans by making a point to give the "Fight On " salute. Tailback Desmond Reed was especially animated by waving his arms to pump up the crowd.

The Obvious – Throughout the game, Trojan players made it a point to get their fans involved by pointing to them or motioning with their arms for noise.

The Not So Obvious – Although the game was not being played in the Coliseum, Trojans fans did not need "The Gong" to yell during critical Sooner third down plays. Almost on cue and now well trained, Trojans fans were at their very best in trying to disrupt Sooner quarterback White.

The Obvious – For most of the game, fans in the lower sections, especially those behind the Trojan Marching Band in the end zone, stood relentlessly.

The Not So Obvious – There was so much standing that some fans of the AARP generation were grateful when the ABC red flag man came out to signal a break in the action. As soon as the guy with the orange gloves came onto field, a number of blue and gray hairs sat down faster than the Oklahoma team left the field after the final gun.

The Obvious – Trojans' senior All-America linebacker Matt Grootegoed, who had seven tackles, made life miserable for Sooners' freshman running back sensation Adrian Peterson.

The Not So Obvious – However, as tough as "Groots" was on Peterson, some of Matt's other hits were just as lethal, especially the one that the former Mater Dei star planted on QB Jason White, which was almost criminal. In fact, when Grootegoed got his chance for a "kill shot," it brought out a big "Ooooooooo" from the stadium. For a moment, it appeared that White might not make it to the next play. You can bet all those former SoCal high school players who once felt the wrath of No. 6 during their prep days had mucho compasssion for Mr. White.

The Obvious – The country got an eyeful of the Trojans' super stable of receivers, especially future All-America tight end Dominique Byrd from Minnesota and freshman phenom Dwayne Jarrett from New Jersey.

The Not So Obvious – The next time your wife or buddy says that too much is made of recruiting and you shouldn't stay home to watch the U.S. Army All-America Game from San Antonio (NBC) next Saturday, remind them of Dwayne Jarrett's performance in the all-star game last year and this year's Orange Bowl. As an added note, our Garry P. and Johnny Curren will be in San Antonio to give Trojan fans first-hand WeAreSC news when some of the Trojan recruits make it public they are joining the No. 1 program in the country.

The Obvious – The Trojans victory on the national stage brought forth some recruit phone calls to Pete Carroll after the game and some alledged silent commits.

The Not So Obvious – The Orange Bowl win was "obviously" a major recruiting window of opportunity,but the bigger impression was to all those future prep stars who watched the Trojans' demolition. The junior, sophomore, and freshmen prep football classes across the country have now been branded with Trojan dominance. Consider the ABC telecast a nice four hours-plus Trojan recruiting video.

The Obvious – After the game, Pete Carroll directed the Trojans' Marching Band with a round of "Conquest."

The Not So Obvious – A rather touching moment was when Dr Bartner had outgoing defensive line coach Ed Orgeron take the sword and direct "Conquest." Although he appeared somewhat stoic, you could tell it meant much to Orgeron when he stepped back down to the field.

The Obvious – Game tickets were based at $150 per ducat.

The Not So Obvious – It was shocking and unbelievable to see tickets be sold at $20 and less outside the stadium. There were so many available tickets in so many areas around the stadium, you would have thought it was a Pop Warner playoff game and not a national championship contest. Interestingly enough, all seats appeared full by kickoff.

The Obvious – There will be growing speculation how this team of Trojan national champions compares with the legendary 1972 club.

The Not So Obvious – While this group went 13-0 and a trouncing of Oklahoma, the 1972 club went 12-0 and finished their season with a resounding 42-17 pounding of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. This year's Trojans included six All-Americans while the 1972 club featured five All-Americans. John McKay was also named National Coach of the Year.

The Obvious – The 2004 national champions averaged 38 points per game and survived four games by eight points or less.

The Not So Obvious – The 1972 club averaged 39 points per game and never trailed in the second half. Their smallest margin of victory was nine points against Stanford.

The Obvious – Sophomore defensive tackle Manuel Wright, who had three tackles, played a fine game and displayed the kind of toughness that teams like Oklahoma respect.

The Not So Obvious – Wright was on crutches after the game and it should be noted "left it all" on the field. His presence allowed Shaun Cody to move to defensive end to apply pressure to Jason White.

The Obvious – The Sooners won "Shaq's" coin toss and elected to defer until the second half.

The Not So Obvious – The strategy backfired as the Trojans held the Sooners on their first drive of the second half and Troy went on to score on their first series. A check of the Oklahoma sideline after the early second half Trojan score where the Sooners looked like pins in a bowling alley.

The Obvious – The Pro Player Stadium concession stands had a variety of food options, depending on the level where you were seating.

The Not So Obvious – A tasty chicken sandwich went for five bucks. The only rub was the service was way too slow, but the food wasn't all that bad.

The Obvious – Each fan in attendance received a little gift packet, which included a form spirit hand to wave.

The Not So Obvious – The form hand was not in red and seemed to have no significance to either school. However, the big-ticket item was a free admission ticket to one of Disney's various theme parks in celebration of Disneyland's 50th birthday. Fans in attendance were asked to go to a Disney web site and were told to bring their Orange Bowl tickets to a Disney ticket booth for verification.

The Obvious – The colorful 71st Orange Bowl Game program sold at Pro Player Stadium for $15 a copy.

The Not So Obvious – This is one of the best game programs we have ever seen. If you're a Trojan fan who did not attend the game, you would be well advised to get a copy of this 312-page souvenir. Compared to the Trojans first visit to the Orange Bowl in 2003, this game program is like an encyclopedia compared to a weekly Sports Illustrated. The color cover is a photo shot of Pete Carroll, Bob Stoops and past Orange Bowl stars Carson Palmer and Terrance Marshall with a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and a cluster of colorful oranges. It must be a football fetish, but we like the color player mugs of the Trojans and Sooners. Heck, even majority of the Trojans' athletic administration got color mugs.

The Obvious – So, it took three hours and fifty-two minutes in Miami to validate a Trojans' back-to-back national championship season and increase USC's winning streak to 22 games and 33 of its last 34 games.

The Not So Obvious – Still, there are many questions that now must be answered even as the cardinal and gold party is in full swing. Will Pete Carroll really return to continue his mercurial rise into the pantheon of college football lore or will the City by the Bay break the hearts of Trojan players, fans, and adoring alumni? Is it only a matter of time before QB Matt Leinart announces he is going pro? Can this national championship propel the Trojans into another No. 1 recruiting class? These off-the-field interrogatives will eventually be answered, but for now, the on-the-field questions have been answered. The USC Trojans are the most powerful college football team and program on the planet. They did it the old fashioned way; they proved it. Not bad for an "average" team.


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