Obviously most of those who attended the game did not get to watch it on live television. Most times the announcers do not do much to warrant special mention in my review of the game, but this broadcast of the USC-Arkansas game was an exception. So surreal was this demonstration of near perfect offensive execution by the Trojans, that Petros Papadakis outdid himself with some of the most classic lines that I can recall in broadcast journalism. I could barely contain my laughter after listening to Petros comment on Matt Leinart's touchdown run. When Matt flopped into the endzone, Petros let out a loud, "Now I've seen everything" and it was as funny as anything I have ever heard. It was as if he were talking to his buddies in a private setting and it was one for the ages. Both Petros and his broadcasting partner Barry Thompkins were at their wits end while trying to avoid the obvious. They never came out and said that Arkansas's defense flat out stinks, but I got the feeling that they were thinking that. If anyone has a tape of this game, I highly recommend watching it, if for no other reason than to listen to what may be a once in a lifetime experience.
Before getting to carried away with the many positives of this game, one should remember that there were a couple of terrible injuries. Murphy's Law states that if something bad can happen, it will and at the worst possible time. Well, two positions at which USC is not incredibly deep are cornerback and the Sam Linebacker position. SC already lost Eric Wright in the off-season, Will Harris has been injured, Mozique McCurtis is not available and now Terrell Thomas is out and by the looks of things, he will not be back any time soon. When he hurt his knee tonight, it simply added injury to insult. When talking to my brother who was at the game, he pointed out that both Cary Harris and Kevin Thomas were in the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter. And then he abruptly pointed out that they each have about 14 minutes of playing in game time to grow up before one or the other, or perhaps both, is needed in prime time in the coming weeks. It also has to be a real cause for concern that strongside linebacker Dallas Sartz went down with a painful shoulder dislocation. How weird is that? He suffered the exact same type of injury that his replacement, freshman Brian Cushing, suffered last week. USC is a deep team and injuries are definitely a part of the game, but come on. Combining the injuries at cornerback, linebacker and Defensive End, things have become almost bizarre.
Now, let's review what might arguably be the most dominant single game offensive performance that I have ever seen. USC scored its first four touchdowns so fast, I honestly don't know if Arkansas knew what hit them. I give lots and lots of credit to the players and coaches on this incredible team, but those guys who play Defense for Arkansas appeared to be clueless. Every single time Matt looked around, at least one USC receiver was running wide open, completely uncovered. After reading the trashtalking from he Arkansas guys, are we to assume that is how they play defense in the might SEC? Never, and I mean never, have I seen anything like what I witnessed tonight. Arkansas could not stop anything SC was running. Is there anyone who doubts that on one of the long drives of the second quarter, USC deliberately took its time so that the USC Defense could rest? SC scored four touchdowns in less than 2 minutes of ball possession and that incredible offensive power and efficiency was actually becoming somewhat detrimental to the SC defense. One definitely got the feeling that had SC really wanted to, they could have scored absolutely every time they had the ball and I honestly feel that 85 or more points might have been approachable.
When discussing this offensive juggernaut, it is hard to know where to start and who to praise the most. First and foremost, it seems to start with the offensive line. They protected the quarterback very well and they opened up holes to allow SC to run for some 290 yards from the line of scrimmage. LenDale ran, Reggie ran, Desmond ran, and we also got a glimpse of some walk-ons and another stud named Michael Coleman. Anyone who thought Michael would redshirt seems to have been mistaken. Of course, there is Matt Leinart. What more can anyone say? Once again he toyed with the opposition and he completed 75% of his passes and he threw for four touchdowns without being picked off. Then there is Reggie Bush. On his very first carry it was Adios to the defense. He got through a small hole and that was the beginning of the onslaught. And yeah, right, he is just another player like they have in the SEC---NOT! Reggie followed up his great run with a very nice catch and once again he proved to be as potent an offensive weapon as any I have seen in modern college football. And of course there is the incomparable Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. Anytime one looked, either or both were running so far open in space, one had to wonder if they teach defense at all at the University of Arkansas or if our offensive coordinators are just so brilliant that they figured out a way to totally confuse the Razorbacks. Ironically, as superb as both Jarrett and Steve Smith are, I felt that the two best catches of this game were made by Kaluka Maiava on his incredible interception and by Tight End Jimmy Miller who made a very nice grab of backup quarterback Michael McDonald's first career touchdown pass. By the way, the final statistics for this massacre included 725 total net yards for SC with 435 through the air and 290 on the ground. I guess most would consider this to be a nice night's work.
How about the USC defense? Coming into this game there seemed to be some real concern about the defense and whether or not this unit could stop the opponents. Well, they held Arkansas to 333 total yards and 204 on the ground. Of those total rushing yards, a good number came in true "garbage time" when SC was playing 2nd and 3rd string players along with some walk-ons. However, during those minutes in the fourth quarter, we also got to see some real quality play from stars to be Kevin Ellison, Ray Maualuga, Kaluka Maiava, and Kevin Thomas and Cary Harris. During prime time , I thought the Defensive Line for the Trojans really brought the wood to Arkansas. The middle of the line was virtually impenetrable and I personally thought Sedric Ellis really stepped up. The down four were able to get very good pressure on the Hogs' quarterback and eventually they knocked the Razorback starting quarterback out of the game by administering repetitive tough hits. Arkansas was never really able to dominate the line of scrimmage and SC's defense was up to the task, even without their top two Sam Backers and even without Schweiger, Moore and Barrett at Defensive End. The guys who played got it done and Frostee Rucker, in particular impressed me with his unrelenting pass rush throughout the game. It was interesting to see the cornerbacks get involved in the game and now the young kids certainly do have to step up even faster than may have otherwise been planned.
One could question the Trojan special teams, in particular the kickoff team. On two occasions, Arkansas got terrific returns, with the first leading to Arkansas' first touchdown which briefly tied the score. So far Troy Van Blarcom's kickoffs have not routinely sailed deep enough to prevent returns and the tackling on the returns have left much to be desired. As for the field goal unit and punting team, there is really not much to say. SC did not try a single kickoff and Malone must be wondering if he will ever be called upon to punt regularly this season. His lone punt of the night came very late in the game, long after the final result had been determined. Although the first two games were cakewalks, one would hate to see this great streak of 24 straight wins come to a screeching halt based on a blown kickoff coverage or a messed up punt. I guess only time will tell about these issues, though one might assume that the tackling on kickoff return will be the subject of some serious conversations between now and next Saturday.
Up to this point in the season, USC has not faced a formidable defensive team or a truly balanced offensive juggernaut. I personally don't think any team in America matches up with this USC offense, but things are likely to become much more challenging beginning with the next game. Once the Pac-10 season starts for SC up at Eugene, things might get tough, at least for the USC defense. After watching Fresno State put up 34 points on the Ducks, it is a real stretch to think that Oregon's defense can stay with this USC offe nse. However, Oregon also has a very potent offense and they have a fine group of receivers and runners to complement their own excellent college quarterback. Their offense will present numerous challenges for this USC defense and it will be interesting to see if the SC defense can handle the Ducks better than the Oregon Defense can clamp down on this USC offense. I don't think they can or will but I guess only time will tell. This week of practice should be a real slugfest at USC and the new kids on the block are going to have to grow up in a really big hurry. I can hardly wait to see if USC can tie its own longest winning streak of 25 games.