O/NSO - ASU review

Reaching deep inside into the heart and soul of their football lore, Pete Carroll's top-ranked USC Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-10) summoned the power and glory of Tailback U. by overpowering the No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils (3-2, 1-1) 38-28 in one of the great Trojan comebacks before 71,706 withered fans at the dry inferno known as Sun Devil Stadium.

The Obvious – Reaching deep inside into the heart and soul of their football lore, Pete Carroll's top-ranked USC Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-10) summoned the power and glory of Tailback U. by overpowering the No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils (3-2, 1-1) 38-28 in one of the great Trojan comebacks before 71,706 withered fans at the dry inferno known as Sun Devil Stadium.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' victory, setting a school mark with its 12th straight road win, was more resurrection than comeback, overcoming an incredible amount of first-half penalties, missed opportunities, mental mistakes, instant replay, some curious play-calling, and sweltering heat. Considering the national championship expectations, the streaks, a potentially disastrous Pac-10 Conference loss, this win ranks as one of the all-time Trojan wins.

The Obvious – The Trojans, who gear for Arizona this Saturday (12:30 p.m.) at the Coliseum, remained the AP No. 1 team in the country on Sunday for a record 24 weeks after recording their 26th straight win, setting a Pac-10 record for consecutive games won and consecutive conference games won.

The Not So Obvious – The intense comeback, the Trojans 13th straight against AP Top 25 teams, didn't effect the AP voting booth as the Trojans maintained 59 first-place votes with No. 2 Texas receiving the other six votes.

The Obvious – Tailbacks Reggie Bush and LenDale White reminded the nation that for all the offensive pyrotechnics of the Trojans passing game, when it was all said and done, it was about Mr. Thunder and Mr. Lightening.

The Not So Obvious – In the second half, the Trojans' offensive line, called by Oregon coach Mike Bellotti the best he has seen, looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate, using brute force and near precision technique to blast open holes for Bush and White. The biggest strategy move for the Trojans in the fateful second half was to put the stop sign on their "vertical" passing game, where respected, first-year ASU defensive coordinator Bill Miller had his troops in near perfect position. Give some credit to the Trojans' much publicized offensive chain of command for changing strategy after a touchdown-less first half, although a Matt Leinart naked boot right on third down late in the third quarter left Trojan fans scratching their heads.

The Obvious – With the Trojans down at halftime 21-3 and looking about as dead as Aunt Betty's carrott cake, ABC's John Saunders said, "Someone's on the phone to Norm Chow" and before the first half drew to a close, Keith Jackson bluntly said, "They (USC) had their butt kicked."

The Not So Obvious – Even ABC talking head Craig James had thrown in the towel for the Trojans, although partner Aaron Taylor said we will find out what the Trojans are about. About the only one showing hope was Trojan tailback legend Marcus Allen, who said he wasn't worried a bit. For the hard core Trojan fan, the dark thoughts of the Sunday paper headlines was enough to bring on the worst of migraine headaches. Give Trojan coach Pete Carroll credit at the half for telling an ABC audience the Trojans were their own worst enemy.

The Obvious – Saturday's victory was the biggest Trojan comeback in 31 seasons or don't you remember the Trojans' 1974 classic 55-24 comeback against The Irish in a deafening Coliseum?

The Not So Obvious – Ironically in both games the Trojans trailed by 18 points at the half. In both comebacks the Trojans took the opening kickoff and scored. However, playing on the road in Tempe in front a predominately ASU crowd with 100 degree heat gives Saturday's comeback a life of its own. Of course, Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian claimed the SoCal "warm" weather really effected his team. Come to Tempe, Ara, and know what real heat is.

The Obvious – The Sun Devil Stadium was full of press from across the country looking to form their own first-hand opinion of the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – SI.com's Stewart Mandel wrote "Are the Trojans vulnerable? Of course they are -- but they've been so all along. In a game played by college kids, all the talent in the world doesn't assure victory, not when you commit foolish penalties, not when your star quarterback is only one vicious hit away from watching the rest of the game on the sideline, and not when the opponent, like Arizona State, is pretty darn good itself. USC can expect to be similarly tested several more times the rest of the way, starting in two weeks at Notre Dame. ‘It's not easy staying No. 1,' said guard Taitusi Lutui."

The Obvious - "For the second week in a row we were just on a torrid pace for self-destruction in the first quarter," said USC coach Pete Carroll.

The Not So Obvious – Let's give credit to Arizona State for opening up a can of Desert Heat Whoop Ass that lasted a half but certainly led to their own demise with some "game over" premature evaluation. At halftime, Sun Devil quarterback Sam Keller was raising his hands in triumph at the student section. Afterward the game, the Sun Devils admitted they thought the game was over at the intermission. A number of the same Sun Devils also believed the Trojans will now go the rest of the way undefeated.

The Obvious – The most important drive of the second half was the opening drive, which LenDale White broke loose on a 32-yard touchdown.

The Not So Obvious – Moving 80 yards on seven plays, White got a key block from right guard Fred Matua and showed the speed and quickness to the outside that gives him the title of Thunder. It was quite apparent from the drive the Trojans were in the "Fight On" spirit.

The Obvious – Early in the game, a long, sideline Reggie Bush pass reception deep into Sun Devil territory was called back after instant replay review.

The Not So Obvious – Pete Carroll is on the record as opposed to instant replay. The reversal of the play was of critical importance for it would have positioned a potential Trojan score and it seemed to leave everybody, including ABC's Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts and the Trojans, dumbfounded over the ruling. You have to wonder what Pac-10 Coordinator of Football Officiating Verle Sorgen will have to say if he gets to see a conference replay of the replay.

The Obvious – Trojan tailback LenDaleWhite rushed for a career-high 197 yards in 19 attempts and Reggie Bush gained 158 in 17 carries, both scoring two touchdowns each.

The Not So Obvious – This is the combo that Trojan fans have so grown accustomed; Thunder and Lightening were the difference. Who would have thought the Trojans could win the game with All-American quarterback Matt Leinart NOT throwing a touchdown pass? The nation saw again that it will be some time before we see the likes of this duo.

The Obvious – Reggie Bush had touchdown runs of 24 and 34 yards, the second one giving the Trojans the lead for good 31-28 with 3:44 to go.

The Not So Obvious – Bush has been the most explosive Trojan tailback since O.J. Simpson, but the impressive second half performance by No. 5 was his physical and mental determination to move the pile and not be brought down. He seemed to be hell bent on running his team to victory. On the 34-yard score, however, Trojan fans would wish he wouldn't go into cruise control the last ten yards, especially with Sun Devil defenders in hot pursuit.

The Obvious – Arizona Republic columnist Paula Boivin is a former San Fernando Valley Daily News sports reporter and local radio voice.

The Not So Obvious – Reflecting on Saturday's game, Boivin wrote "Sam Keller is right. He doesn't need Jessica Simpson running around to keep him happy. Now if he had Reggie Bush ...The gap separating Arizona State and Southern California is less a chasm than a fissure. But it remains, because a 25-game winning streak does wonders for a team's fourth-quarter psyche, and running backs with the talents of Bush and LenDale White don't find their way to Tempe very often."

The Obvious – One of the best of the Trojan linemen is sophomore tackle Sam Baker.

The Not So Obvious – Of the Trojans second half offensive line domination, Baker said, " We knew we had to take over. We have great backs. We just had to give them opportunities. We take a lot of pride when they (Bush and White) come our way."

The Obvious – The Trojans have now won 26 straight games, establishing a Pac-10 record and continuing their nation's best winning streak.

The Not So Obvious – There is no doubt that Trojan fans would have been happy just to win by one point and it's amazing how little the many streaks mean when it comes to just plain winning. However, with this the sterling victory, the 26-game streak will be front and center next weekend as the Trojan return to what figures to be a wild Coliseum for Arizona. There is something about approaching 30 consecutive victories that creates its own air of excitement.

The Obvious – The Trojans outrushed the Sun Devils 373-68 in a demonstration of ground game superiority.

The Not So Obvious – There were a number of individual rushing moments that were on display, but no moment was any more evident as when Trojan offensive tackle Winston Justice buried ASU's outstanding defensive end Kyle Caldwell as Reggie Bush hurdled over Justice for extra yards. It was also Justice's key block that opened up LenDale White's crushing 46-yard touchdown run to seal the game.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart was 23-of-39 for 258 yards and no interceptions.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devil pass defense was allowing an average of 266 yards per game.

The Obvious – Matt Leinart took a vicious late hit by sophomore linebacker Robert James.

The Not So Obvious – Leinart never seemed the same afterwards and said so after the game. Considering he's such a marked man, it's more surprising Lefty doesn't take more late hits, despite the outstanding protection from his offensive line. In some of the shots Leinart took on Saturday, it was a Trojan running back that didn't sustain a block. However as bad a hit as Leinart took, ASU's Sam Keller was taking a horrific beating in the second half and that and the Trojan secondary contributed to his demise.

The Obvious – Reggie Bush and LenDale White get most of the running back publicity, but senior fullback David Kirtman was a life savor on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – Raise your hand if you thought fullback David Kirtman would be the Trojans' leading receiver on Saturday. All Kirtman did was have seven receptions for 97 yards. Now here's a kid that came to Troy as a star tailback from Gig Harbor, Washington, and is converted to fullback. Receiving should come as no surprise as David had 480 yards worth of catches at Mercer Island High his senior year. The best receiving fullback in the country? Name one better.

The Obvious –ASU quarterback Sam Keller, who was 26 of 44 for 349 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted five times, four in the second half, was hopeful that by not playing in the Coliseum, his teammates would not be as intimidated by the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to the Saturday's game, Keller said, "I'll tell you what, all that tradition is impressive when you see it, especially when I got to watch the whole thing on the sideline. Their (USC) confidence started rolling and you could just feel it, and everybody kind of just got scared. SC is coming to our house, and we want to show them a little bit what it's like." Keller showed guts by taking a pain killing shot before the second half on Saturday and displayed great character right to the end, despite being cracked in two by the ferocious pass rush of Trojan ends Frostee Rucker and Lawrence Jackson.

The Obvious – The Trojans' intercepted five ASU passes which was a major contributor to the Trojans victory.

The Not So Obvious – And wasn't it sweet justice for scrutinized senior corner John Walker, who came up with two critical interceptions. After the game, Reggie Bush said, "The defense won it, especially the late interception." Not everybody wanted to give the Trojans' secondary credit. After the game, quarterback Keller took full responsibility for the Sun Devils loss. Keller said, " A few bad plays by me, if they don't happen, then we win."

The Obvious – The key interception that Bush was alluding was the fourth quarter ricochet shot off ASU receiver Derek Hagan back into the hands of true freshman safety Kevin Ellison.

The Not So Obvious – Ellison, who departed Redondo High after the first semester of his senior year to participate in spring ball at Troy, was a casualty on the play and potentially adds to the mounting Trojan injury total. You don't think that maybe Trojan verbal Antwine Perez, safety from New Jersey, was impressed with another freshman making an impact? Perez, too, is planning early Trojan enrollment and participating in spring ball and if the secondary continues to take hits, Antwine could find himself in the thick of things.

The Obvious – For the second week in a row, junior middle linebacker Oscar Lua was a major performer with some key stops and a key interception.

The Not So Obvious – Performing more and more like Lofa Tatupu, Lua's interception may have gone for a touchdown had he not lost control of the ball along the way to the Sun Devil end zone. Let's not also forget Oscar's critical stop of the Sun Devils on a fourth-and-1 when he stuffed ASU freshman running back Keegan Herring.

The Obvious – Outstanding ASU receiver Derek Hagan had ten receptions for 162 yards.

The Not So Obvious – For the most part Hagan was defended well by Trojan corner Justin Wyatt in a very intriguing match between two of the Pac-10 finest performers. The bottom line is that Hagan didn't have a scoring reception, while Wyatt had one mighty key Keller interception in the second half.

The Obvious – The Trojans were burned by an 84-yard punt return in the first quarter by Terry Richardson and Richardson almost returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, except for a great tackle by Trojan freshman kicker Troy Van Blarcom.

The Not So Obvious – As for the punt return, the lack of seasonal punting and coverage by the Trojans may have helped contribute to Richardson's emotionally inspiring return. As for Trojan punter Tom Malone, the senior kicked seven times on Saturday for a 44.7 average, despite the Richardson return.

The Obvious – Temperature at kickoff was officially listed as 95 degrees.

The Not So Obvious – Again in a ironic twist in the second half, the Trojans wore down the hometown Sun Devils and credit again goes to Chris Carlisle, the Trojans' expert strength and conditioning coach. Nobody knew it better than Pete Carroll who gave Carlisle a big hug near the end of the game.

The Obvious – Starting defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey did not play due to a gimpy ankle.

The Not So Obvious – With Ramsey out, nose tackle Sedrick Ellis stepped up his game and became dominant in the critical fourth quarter of play. Redshirt freshman Fili Moala started in place of Ramsey and rotated with sophomore Travis Tofi.

The Obvious – The Trojans have now outscored opponents in the second half 160-28 this season.

The Not So Obvious –ASU's Achilles heal on defense has been the fourth quarter and the Trojans reminded the Sun Devils of their late loss to LSU.

The Obvious – Before the game, Pete Carroll was concerned with the ASU passing game's vertical approach.

The Not So Obvious – Carroll said, "They're throwing over everybody's heads and they've been successful doing it. If that happens to us, we won't have a chance." The only real "over their heads" came on a Keller's seven-yard touchdown pass to 6-4 Jamaal Lewis who was too tall and too far in the back line of the Trojan end zone to defend. Leis, a Colorado Springs native, had a fine day against the Trojans with five receptions for 71 yards.

The Obvious – Prior to Saturday's game, the ASU offensive line had given up only three sacks all season. Thanks to defensive line coach Jethro Franklin's strong sideline encouragement telling his charges in the critical second half they had one more chance to show their desire or they were going to be replaced, the Trojans' front four jacked it up another notch and Keller became Target A. Yes, shades of Coach Orgeron.

The Not So Obvious – It was appropriate the Trojans defense was led in tackles by defensive ends Lawrence Jackson (7) and Frostee Rucker (6). Again linebacker Keith Rivers was active with six tackles, as well.

The Obvious – There are some who feel that Matt Leinart's success is a product of the talent that surrounds him.

The Not So Obvious – ASU quarterback Sam Keller believes it to be true. Keller said, He's a great quarterback, but I keep telling you he's got a lot of guys around him that make him look good." Do you think for a moment that Keller wouldn't have traded for Reggie Bush and LenDale White on Saturday? Any college quarterback in America would welcome the Trojans running backs performance.

The Obvious – The Trojan offense accounted for 631 yards and 38 points.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday's game, the Trojans were averaging 616 yards and 59 points per game.

The Obvious – Super soph receiver Dwayne Jarrett was held without a touchdown.

The Not So Obvious – Despite a killer fumble after a reception, Jarrett made a number of good plays that made were part of other touchdowns as he had a key block down field on Lendale White's 46-yard scoring jaunt.

The Obvious – The ASU offense accounted for 415 yards and 28 points.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday's game, the Sun Devils were averaging 592 yards and 47 points per game.

The Obvious – Much of the attention for Saturday's game was the offensive explosion from both teams.

The Not So Obvious – Almost forgotten was the fact that ASU's defense was ranked seventh in the Pac-10 and in the end that was the difference as the Trojans took full advantage of the pattern.

The Obvious – The Trojans are contently reminded of the chance to make history with their three-peat and winning streaks.

The Not So Obvious – As if they needed a whisper in their helmets, the BCS Trophy was displayed at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.

The Obvious – Trojan placekicker Mario Danelo connected on a 35-yard field goal in the first half.

The Not So Obvious – Equally critical were his five extra points that kept the Trojans ahead by at least a field goal, especially the three PAT's in the fourth quarter.

The Obvious – The Trojans again were their own worst enemy in the penalty department with 12 flags for 85 yards.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans were averaging 68.7 yards in flags per game. There is now an alarming trend when you see nine more first-half penalties.

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense allowed 28 points on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday's game, a Pete Carroll's defense had never allowed more than 17 points against a Dirk Koetter offense.

The Obvious – Most observers thought the first quarter lasted over an hour.

The Not So Obvious – The entire game lasted 4:03. It just SEEMED that the Trojan fans' agony lasted longer.

The Obvious – The Trojans now return home to the Coliseum for Saturday's 12:30 p.m. game against the Arizona Wildcats.

The Not So Obvious – In the most unusual of schedules, Trojan fans will again have limited October viewing of the Men of Troy as it's back on the road after this week's Arizona contest for games at Notre Dame and Washington. However with the three-peat, the streaks, and the Trojans' heroic comeback in Tempe, Trojan fans will be more than ready to take advantage of the home opportunity to root on their heroes. Even if it's just for one Saturday in early October, the nation's No. 1 team should expect a very intense welcome home.

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