That was a satisfying victory. The USC Trojans defeated the Oklahoma Sooners by a score of 55-19 to capture the national championship of college football and they did it in a dominating fashion that should leave no doubt as to who is the top team in the country this year.
There were so many Trojan heroes on this night and they will be discussed over and over again by USC fans through the years but for now we will simply say thank you to players like Matt Leinart, Steve Smith, Reggie Bush, Shaun Cody, Matt Grootegoed, Lofa Tatupu, Justin Wyatt and all the others for the job they did last night and all season long. It almost feels wrong to leave anybody out at this point because there were so many top performances in this game. A special thanks as well to Pete Carroll, Norm Chow, Ed Orgeron and the coaching staff for the job they did as the players weren't the only ones who put together an amazing night in this game.
It was a familiar sight for USC domination in the Orange Bowl as the Trojans fell behind quickly by a 7-0 score before turning things around and rolling to a convincing victory against a Midwestern opponent at Pro Player Stadium. We've seen the scenario before when the Trojans played Iowa two years ago but this time the stakes were higher with the Oklahoma Sooners standing on the opposite sideline and the BCS national championship trophy waiting at the end for the winner.
Just as we saw in the first game the opponent jumped out to an early lead which caused their large fan base in attendance to go wild in thinking they had a chance against the soft boys from the Pac-10. Against Iowa we saw Carson Palmer hit Kareem Kelly with a deep pass immediately following the opening Hawkeye score and in this game the Sooners saw a key 3rd down reception from Steve Smith after their opening score and Matt Leinart was able to follow that with a toss downfield and beautiful catch from Dominique Byrd for the tying touchdown. The Trojan bench exploded with emotion when Byrd came to the sidelines following the play with teammates surrounding him and giving him the bird-salute which he so often likes to use. From that point there wasn't a whole lot of cheering from the Boomer Sooner crowd as the Trojans seized control of the game and kept their foot on the gas until the outcome was well in hand.
Everything Oklahoma tried SC had an answer for. Want to try running superlative freshman Adrian Peterson down the throats of the Trojan defense? That didn't work. How about 2003 Heisman winner Jason White working his magic behind a mammoth offensive line? No, that didn't seem to fare much better. Every year in a bowl game it seems the pundits on Sports Center want to pick our opponents to overwhelm us and every year we come out and shut them down with a suffocating defense and explosive offense. At what point do we get credit for being a pretty good football team that is more than capable of holding our own with the "big boys".
The Trojans are so often viewed as flashy, an exciting offense that feasts on the Pac-10, and we've certainly shown that we can score points with the best of them. In this game we saw much of our success through the air as our own Heisman winner spread the ball around and got it downfield to move his team into position for the victory. Not bad for a squad that Sooner defensive end Larry Burdine had described as "average". The only people who are going to get tired of these Orange Bowl displays by the Trojans are the stadium concessionaires as once again the opposing fans had streamed out of the stadium by the end of the third quarter to leave the USC faithful alone to celebrate into the South Florida night.
1) Matt Leinart – when the teams left the locker room to take the field Jason White was in the middle of the Sooner line not saying a word while Matt Leinart was out in front of the Trojan team and gathering them together for their traditional chants. It may only be a small point but it illustrates something about the leadership of Leinart in such a big game. Matt was absolutely on target with his passes on the biggest stage of his life to put an end to the talk of a Heisman bowl game jinx.
2) Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett, Dominique Byrd – the pass catching trio provided the difference in the game with their ability to continually get open and make the tough catches. Smith made a dazzling one handed grab in the end zone while seemingly being mugged by the Sooner defender but it may not have been the best USC catch of the day after the opening grab by Byrd.
3) Lofa Tatupu, Matt Grootegoed – Lofa has talked about possibly entering the NFL draft and his performance in this game likely helped his cause. Lofa was all over the place as was Groots as Matt was shadowing Adrian Peterson throughout the game.
4) LenDale White, John Drake – Both of these stalwarts of the Trojan running game were battling sore ankles in recent weeks but they responded with yeoman efforts that were the perfect complement to the passing attack of Leinart.
One of the biggest hits of the night came in the 2nd half courtesy of Thomas Williams when he came down on kickoff coverage and did his duties as the wedge-buster. It took several minutes for the recipient of the hit to leave the field on his own power and Williams got an enthusiastic greeting from Pete Carroll upon his return to the sidelines. Lee Webb followed that up on the final kickoff with a big hit of his own…..Justin Wyatt had multiple pass break-ups in the game including a key play on a 3rd down pass in the first half that forced the Sooners to settle for a field goal….Fred Matua received a celebration penalty for spiking the ball after LenDale White's final score…..Ryan Killeen had another nice day kicking the ball, particularly on kickoffs where he never let their return game get in gear. Ryan also passed Charles White to become the all-time leading scorer in USC history……Tom Malone didn't hit any booming punts but he did put several balls inside the Sooner ten yard line……Burdine said Reggie Bush was the only Trojan player the Sooners were worried about and Reggie proved him right with multiple big plays. Reggie never broke a big one for a score but he made a nice gain on the opening play of the game and he had two long runs which were so close to going for touchdowns…..Dominique Byrd made the catch of the year with his one handed grab against OSU but his first TD catch in this game deserves to be ranked in the same category as far as style points. It was also good to see Dom get a chance to carry the ball with his short run up the middle……Jason Leach had an early interception which brought smiles on the sidelines from fellow Bishop Amat alums John Jackson and Daylon McCutcheon…..After one stuffed run at the line of scrimmage Manuel Wright turned to the sidelines and bowed in thanks to the good play call from the coaches…..Eric Wright showed some nice moves with his interception return but he also broke out some fine dance moves in front of the Trojan rooting section after the game to get the party started…..
Keys to the game
1) Stopping the run – there was much hope from the Sooners coming into the game about the abilities of Adrian Peterson and there's no doubt he's an impressive back with a bright future. On this night, however, he ran into a Trojan buzzsaw in the form of Cody, Patterson, Grootegoed, Tatupu and the rest of the USC defense. The first priority of the Pete Carroll defense is always to stop the run and in this game they did it in fine fashion against an Oklahoma offensive line that was supposed to be as talented as any in the country.
2) Attack OU secondary – With Leinart at the helm of Norm Chows play calls and a stable full of healthy receivers it stood to reason that USC would see some success throwing the ball as long as we were able to keep pressure off Matt. Well, the Trojan offensive line did their part and Leinart took it from there as we exposed the Sooner secondary throughout the game. It was great to see us get the ball downfield so much as deep throws to Smith, Jarrett and Byrd were all critical to the overall game plan.
Play of the Game
I've watched the replay over and over and I still don't have any idea what Mark Bradley was thinking when he tried to pick up a punt and run with it inside his five yard line. Bradley navigated around John Walker to get the ball and the immediate strip by Collin Ashton and recovery by Josh Pinkard gave USC the ball on the six yard line with an opportunity to gain valuable momentum. When LenDale White took it into the end zone on the next play the Trojans had a 14-7 lead and we never looked back.
Quote of the Day
After the LenDale White touchdown to make it 14-7 Pete Carroll ran up to Anthony Munoz and Tony Boselli and yelled "Are you fired up?" Both players looked as if they were ready to suit up right then.
Anthony Munoz, Tony Boselli, Carson Palmer, John Jackson, Jacob Rogers, Petros Papadakis, John Papadakis, Keary Colbert, Will Ferrell, Monte Kiffin, Rodney Peete, Sean Salisbury, Charles White, Brian Kelly, Sammy Knight, Daylon McCutcheon
It was supposed to be a classic, a match-up of the top two teams in college football with an array of talented athletes and intelligent coaches but somewhere along the way it turned into another ho-hum Trojan rout. This is no secret when we see it happen over and over, the Trojans are able to put together staggering victories such as this not only because we have great football players but also because we have coaches who know how to prepare a team in ways that are a step above what anybody else is doing right now. We saw it on both sides of the ball as the Trojans were able to add some new wrinkles on offense and on defense we seemingly knew what was coming before the Sooners ever snapped the ball. The Oklahoma coaches pretty much ran what they have all season long and if you try to do that against Pete Carroll it's almost an insult to his football intelligence.
Carroll had his team primed for this game and it showed from the start as he calmly had his team walking the halls of Pro Player Stadium while waiting for kickoff to come. He had them so ready that despite a month off they were able to come out and put together their most complete game of the season. One sign of how far this program has come was to see the smiles on the faces of all the former Trojan players on the sidelines. From Munoz to Boselli to Peete and all the rest they were basking in the glory as much as the Cardinal and Gold clad fans in the stands. Amazingly, there were three voters in the AP poll, out of 65 total, who looked at the USC performance and ranked the Trojans #2 behind the Auburn Tigers. That's simply ignorant. Let's line up today, let's line up tomorrow, let's line up whenever you want. With these players on the field, and with these coaches preparing them, there isn't a college team in the land who has what it takes to knock them off.