Things got started on the right foot for USC when Matt Leinart moved the ball on an impressive 13 play, 96 yard opening drive that included a key 4th down completion to Dwayne Jarrett and ended with LenDale White pounding it in for the score and an early 7-0 lead. In the first quarter we also saw an encouraging sign for the defense as Jeff Schweiger made his first appearance of the year and promptly made back to back tackles. The performances so far by defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Lawrence Jackson have been terrific but the addition of a healthy Schweiger can be a boost to the defense as he is an extremely talented player who has been missing from the rotation to this point in the year.
After holding the Wildcat offense the Trojans were forced to start the next possession once again deep in their own end thanks to another nice punt from Danny Gaugher. USC moved the ball to midfield in 11 plays before Desmond Reed committed a rare mistake and fumbled it back to Arizona. Des doesn't get nearly enough touches these days as a result of being behind Bush and White on the depth chart so it was a shame to see that happen, it won't be long before he redeems himself with a big play. The Wildcats quickly took advantage with a 38 yard completion inside the Trojan five yard line and another short pass into the end zone was able to tie the score at 7-7.
The Trojans were able to drive for a touchdown at the end of the first half (pass from Leinart to Jarrett) and then they opened the second half with another score (short run by White) and suddenly it was 21-7 and we were in the second half, traditionally a time when the Trojans begin to take control of games. For the fans, it seemed as if it was time to breathe a little easier.
After trading a couple punts though the Wildcat passing game was able to connect on three straight long completions with a touchdown coming on a 42 yard hook-up to bring the Cats back within a score at 21-14. The Trojans responded with an 80 yard drive that was helped by a 56 yard completion to Steve Smith and after LenDale was able to punch it in again we had our 14 point lead back.
However, a long 76 yard kickoff return gave Arizona field position deep in USC territory and they were able to drive the short field for a score to close the gap again. The Trojans began the next possession on their own 20 and methodically marched down the field in eight plays before Leinart hit Jarrett in the end zone and, surely Trojan fans thought, this had to be enough to win the game as the score was now 35-21 and we were into the fourth quarter.
On the next Wildcat drive they had three big plays in a row; a 19 yard pass play, a roughing the passer penalty and a 17 yard run to put the ball in the Trojan red zone. On third down they tried a swing pass in the flat to big Gilbert Harris who squared up for a run at the first down marker with only Trojan corner John Walker in his way. Walker was able to make a solid open field tackle to force a fourth down pass which was deflected into the arms of Ryan Ting and danger was averted.
Reggie Bush helped put an exclamation mark on the victory with his 65 yard run (LenDale put it in the end zone a few plays later for his fourth touchdown to go with 179 yards) but on that long run by Reggie there was shock to see him caught from behind. He had tweaked his knee during a tackle in the first quarter and had spent time on the sidelines working with the trainers, checking on the knee and putting a wrap on it before he returned to the field. His condition in the coming days will be watched closely by Trojan fans as we get ready for a road game next week in Indiana.
Oh yeah, you didn't think we would make it through the whole article without bringing up the Irish did you? Everybody reading this knows how big the game is going to be from a hype perspective so we won't start now. We will simply enjoy the victory over Arizona and get ready for the excitement to come in the next week. It should be a lot of fun.