USC beats heat and Hawaii in opener

It was billed as an opening game in paradise and the final 63-17 score is certainly indicative of the dominating performance by the Trojans but it wasn't as easy as it looked as the team faced an oppressive heat on the field at Aloha Stadium and a pesky Hawaii Warrior team that was determined to put on a good showing for the sold out crowd and national televsion audience.

The Warriors controlled the ball for the majority of the first quarter (although a Darnell Bing interception return put USC on the scoreboard first) but once they were forced to give the ball to the Trojan offense it didn't take long for Matt Leinart and company to show why this unit has been compared to some of the great offenses in college football history. Leinart ended the day with over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, garnering the USC career TD mark along the way, while Reggie Bush got into the act with a pair of touchdowns and Dwayne Jarrett added three touchdowns of his own.

The game was pretty much what we expected to see and that is a tribute to where this Trojan program is at right now when a 46 point victory is viewed in that manner. There has been so much anticipation for what this team has the potential to accomplish and you could tell the players were ready to get back to playing an actual game, when they were lining up in the tunnel getting ready to come out for the opening kickoff you could hear the players shout "It's been too long" and Trojans fans would certainly agree with that statement. Pete Carroll was calm as ever and could be seen throwing the ball around during pre-game warm-ups with members of the championship Hawaii Little League team and giving warm hellos to fellow former NFL coaches June Jones and Jerry Glanville.

Once the game got started it took a little while for the Trojans to get on track as the Warriors did a good job of coming out with an offensive plan that was very different from the one they had used in the past. Hawaii has been known as a wide open passing team, former QB Timmy Chang set the NCAA career yardage mark last season, but they came out in this game alternating quarterbacks and running their version of the spread option attack that worked so well for Utah in recent years. It quickly became clear that Hawaii QB Tyler Graunke was the runner while Colt Brennan (the QB who took over for Leinart at Mater Dei) was the thrower and both had some success early. The Bing interception was a critical mistake that gave the Trojans an early lead but they were able to hold onto the ball for much of the first quarter which also kept the ball out of Leinart's hands as well. Carroll praised the Warrior offensive plan after the game by saying that Jones and RB coach Mouse Davis "kicked my butt" but the initial drives by Hawaii in the first quarter gave way to the offensive onslaught by the Trojans once the second quarter began. Our offense was able to dominate for the remainder of the game, Leinart seemed to have all day to throw thanks to solid protection from the offensive line, and you had to love the way we moved the ball consistently (the Trojans didn't punt until late in the fourth quarter).

The defense, which eventually adjusted to the Warrior offense and certainly put up some decent overall numbers, still has some questions to answer as we head into the remainder of the season. The coaches will also continue to preach to the players the importance of keeping a level head while being a team that is targeted by every opponent they will face. The Trojans received several personal foul penalties after being baited by the Warrior players, one that moved the team out of scoring range and resulted in a missed FG opportunity, but these are not examples of consistent behavoir in the USC program and the common thought is that we will not see that in the future.

Game Balls

Matt Leinart - It was an opening game worthy of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Matt completed 18 of 24 passes for 332 yards with three touchdowns and one interception (the result of a missed PI call where the DB clearly used his left arm to gain separation from the Trojan receiver). On top of that he looked in control on the field at all times and he was one of the first players to race down the sidelines to congratulate John David Booty on his first TD pass as a Trojan.

Reggie Bush - Reggie is fast becoming the Human Highlight Film with his signature move being the dive into the end zone. His 41 yard touchdown run, the first of two on the day, came when he faked the corner and got to the outside before leaping from the four yard line and landing four yards into the end zone.

Steve Smith - Steve had a huge day production-wise with seven catches for 185 yards and a touchdown.

Dwayne Jarrett - Dwayne is officially settled in as the Trojans big play receiver, he not only had seven catches for 88 yards and three touchdowns but it was a telling substition in the 4th quarter when the coaches put him back in the game for a 4th down fade pass from Booty. It was clear the coaches wanted to get John David his first college TD and they knew Jarrett would be the one who could deliver. What a difference a year makes as Jarrett was a nervous freshman against Virginia Tech and now he is confident and playing well.

Collin Ashton - The reserve linebacker had five solo tackles, a forced fumble and a KO return at the end of the game when he ran forward to catch the on-side kick attempt and made a nice return as well.

Desmond Reed - This guy simply makes plays. He picked up a fumble on a kickoff that had been forced by Brian Cushing and returned it for a touchdown and then late in the game when the Trojans were simply trying to run out the clock he reversed field on a run and went untouched into the end zone. He also added a solid tackle on kickoff coverage earlier in the game.

Key to the Game - Too Many Weapons

The Hawaii crowd was in a frenzy to start the game and they were able to keep that momentum in the first quarter but, as happens so many times, the Trojans simply overwhelmed them with our firepower and by the end of the third quarter many of the island faithful could be seen headed for the exits. It was another good sign for the Trojans that we were able to come away with this victory while keeping things fairly vanilla in our offensive and defensive play calling.

Game Notes

Dallas Sartz had an interesting game. He led the Trojans with eight solo tackles, had two tackles for loss and also added a sack yet he was one of many Trojan defenders who seemed to struggle at times with the Hawaii offensive attack.....Kyle Moore recovered a fumble for the Trojans in his opening game in Cardinal and Gold.....Speaking of opening games, Kaluka Maiava was the recipient of a barrage of catcalls from the stands including shouts of "Don't forget your roots Kaluka, you shouldn't hit the Hawaii guys braddah". The attention surrounding the Hawaii native was noted after the game when he was still on the field answering questions from a local reporter while the majority of his teammates were showered and headed to the team bus for the post-game luau.....Taylor Odegard handled the lone punt for the Trojans although Tom Malone could have kicked if needed. Tom spent the majority of his day riding the stationary bike stationary bike on the sidelines.....Troy Van Blarcom was solid in his debut and he got progressively better with his kickoffs as the game went along, one of his final efforts was deep into the end zone....LenDale White had more carries than Bush (13 to 12) but his role was later in the game and the guess is that LenDale will return soon to his normal major role in the offense....OL coach Pat Ruel sprinted down the field outside of the coaching box at one point in the first half to let the officials know that Hawaii was running the time clock down to zero on many possessions. Pete Carroll promptly waved Ruel back inside the coaching box and began jawing at the refs himself....One of the finest sights of the day came during a TV timeout late in the game when the Trojans had the outcome well in hand. The Hawaii band started playing the theme from "Hawaii Five-O" and Deuce Lutui could be seen at midfield in the USC huddle dancing to the music.


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