O/NSO - Washington State review

Maybe it was the BCS poll demotion. Maybe it was the inspiration of finally playing a Coliseum home game. Maybe it was a 50th Trojan coaching win for old Coach Carroll. Or maybe, just maybe, the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans (8-0, 5-0 Pac-10) are starting to peak and don't tell coach Bill Doba's Washington State Cougars (3-5, 0-5) otherwise after a 55-13 shellacking on a perfect Southern California afternoon.

The Obvious – Maybe it was the BCS poll demotion. Maybe it was the inspiration of finally playing a Coliseum home game. Maybe it was a 50th Trojan coaching win for old Coach Carroll. Or maybe, just maybe, the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans (8-0, 5-0 Pac-10) are starting to peak and don't tell coach Bill Doba's Washington State Cougars (3-5, 0-5) otherwise after a 55-13 shellacking on a perfect Southern California afternoon.

The Not So Obvious – Pete Carroll's Trojans sure showed like it was moving to the next level of improvement, especially on defense where the previously "feared" third down was eradicated by holding the Cougars' offense to a paltry two of 13 conversions. As for the offense, a 28-point first quarter explosion certainly put to rest the slow-starting stereotype. About the only negative was a somewhat "lackluster" offensive second quarter, which also seemed to put the announced sellout crowd of 92, 021 into a brief stupor.

The Obvious - Sunday's AP poll again selected the Trojans as the No. 1 team in the land for a record 28th consecutive poll and Texas remained No. 2, losing two first-place votes back to the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – AP voter Doug Segrest of The Birmingham News in Alabama, who started the season with USC No. 1 and then switched to Texas for three weeks and returned to Troy on Sunday, said, "I think it's so close you have to evaluate them on a week-by-week basis. It's that close and I don't think Virginia Tech is all that far behind -- and remember where I'm calling from."

The Obvious – There were many pundits before the season that called the Trojans' schedule a virtual cakewalk into Pasadena.

The Not So Obvious - That's what makes college football so much fun and so unpredictable. Nobody should argue the Trojans schedule the rest of the way, certainly not after Stanford's "almost" against the Bruins and those wacky Cardinals coming to Los Angeles next Saturday evening. The Trojans "cakewalk" concludes the season with at No. 23 Cal, No. 21 Fresno State, and No. 7 UCLA.

The Obvious – Trojan Tailback LenDale White was named Pacific Care Player of the Game, thanks to a two-touchdown performance (2 and 27 yards) and 155 yards rushing.

The Not So Obvious – The junior from Colorado seemed content even during pregame warm-ups as he came over to the stands to say hello to some admirers. Throw in his second quarter touchdown run where he flipped the game ball to a No. 21 attired Snoop Dog, who did the Heisman pose for ABC cameras and then proceeded to run up the Coliseum tunnel with the ball. You knew it was going to be White's day when LenDale should have been flagged for the tossed souvenir and wasn't. As for the Snoop ball, the poor Pac-10 ball girl chased the renowned rapper up the Coliseum tunnel but to no avail.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart threw for 364 yards and three touchdown passes.

The Not So Obvious – Like White, you knew Leinart was relaxed and ready to go when he came through the Trojan Walk before the game and comfortably hugged some recognizable acquaintances. With a smile on his face and the look of confidence, it was foreshadowing of things to come.

The Obvious – Leinart has become quite adept when knowing when to run out of the pocket and take off down field.

The Not So Obvious – Lefty could have gained some valuable yards rushing on a deep Trojan drive in the second quarter but elected to throw into double-coverage in the end zone for a pass intended for roommate Dwayne Jarrett. The pass was intercepted by Cougars' left corner Alex Teems for a touchback. After the game, Leinart admitted he was very disappointed in his decision-making and called the play typical of the ones that brought on undue pressure on him in earlier games.

The Obvious – Saturday's game was the first Trojan Homecoming sellout since 1965.

The Not So Obvious – While the 1965 game Homecoming game was against UCLA, Saturday's sellout reunion against Washington State was only remarkable because it was Washington State. The current winning streak, the star-studded lineups, and the national championships have made Trojan games more cultural events than just football games.

The Obvious – Trojan wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett had 200 yards in receptions and one touchdown, the 26th in his young career.

The Not So Obvious – Saturday's performance left more than just a handful of fans in spirited debate as to who is better at the same sophomore stage, Jarrett or Mike Williams. While Williams, now with the Detroit Lions, used his big body to shield defenders, the slender Jarrett manipulates the sidelines like a master tightrope walker from Ringling Brothers. It was an awesome day for the sophomore stud, who was also featured with Steve Smith and Dominique Byrd on the cover of Saturday's game program.

The Obvious – WSU coach Bill Doba says he has never seen as potent an offense as the Trojans in his 30 years of coaching.

The Not So Obvious – When Trojan wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett beat WSU junior strong safety Eric Frampton for the opening 29-yard scoring reception, Reggie Bush was split out left and LenDale White was at tailback. Talk about your "checkmate" formation. There are those in-the-know who believe all eleven Trojan starters on offense will someday be in the National Football League.

The Obvious – The Trojans pride themselves as being well coached and prepared for every game situation.

The Not So Obvious – Cougars safety Eric Frampton now has some first hand experience. Frampton said, "They're a really good football team, but I would attribute their success to being very smart. They play very, very smart."

The Obvious – Trojan sophomore Josh Pinkard played impressively at corner, replacing the injured John Walker.

The Not So Obvious – With a team-high 10 tackles (6 solo), Pinkard was the opening target of the Cougars' offense, attacking Josh in their first two offense plays to open the game. Seeing that Pinkard was no pushover, WSU tried corner partner Justin Wyatt as an alternative. You don't have to be Vince Lombardi to see that Pinkard is only going to get better with each quarter played the rest of the way. Perhaps the most impressive play of the day for the kid was his relentless pursuit of Cougar tailback Jerome Harrison, who appeared to be on his way to a weaving, long touchdown jaunt when Pinkard never gave up, tracking down Harrison and "holding" the Cougar star to a 59-yard gain.

The Obvious – The Trojans rolled to 745 yards in total offense.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday, the Cougars' defense was allowing 400.7 yards per game.

The Obvious - The way the Trojan offense performed for the most part on Saturday, it would have been a nightmare for any defensive coordinator, let alone WSU's Robb Akey.

The Not So Obvious – After the final whistle, Akey said, "I think you could give three Heismans out there. Both those running backs are damn good, and that quarterback earned his Heisman Trophy. They're the best offensive team I've ever seen."

The Obvious – Trojan tailback Reggie Bush accounted for 97 yards rushing and 40 yards in receptions.

The Not So Obvious – By his own high Heisman standards, there was no ESPN highlight moment, although it could be argued that Bush can make a three-yard gain look like a 75-yard gain. Roadrunner Reggie should have completed a long halfback pass to Dwayne Jarrett for a touchdown in the third quarter, but Jarrett didn't come to the ball and it left Bush looking helpless into the sky. You can bet that film sessions in the Stanford football offices this week will be a little more animated knowing that Reggie has become a surrogate Matt Leinart.

The Obvious - The Trojans defense held the heralded WSU offense to 284 yards.

The Not So Obvious - Prior to Saturday, the WSU offense was averaging 518.6 yards per game.

The Obvious – WSU running back Jerome Harrison ran for 147 yards, including one 13-yard scoring run.

The Not So Obvious – Harrison is a tremendous back who is very patient in following his blocker and picking his holes. He is sort of like watching a rabbit crawl through a hole. Despite the loss, Harrison had to be satisfied with his performance, considering that last year against the Trojans in Pullman he was held to 15 yards in 11 carries.

The Obvious – WSU receiver Jason Hill, who came in averaging a nation's second-best 166.1 receiving yards per game, was held to six catches for 49 yards by the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – After the game, the junior humanities major was asked about the Trojans' vaunted offense and maligned defense. Hill said, "You can't compare defense and offense, but they've got a powerhouse defense.They've got powerhouses on both sides of the ball."

The Obvious – The Trojans we penalized for 47 yards against the Cougars.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans came into the game averaging 68.4 penalty yards per game.

The Obvious – So, were the Trojans inspired by their recent BCS poll demotion? After the game, Matt Leinart said, " We don't really care about the BCS….until maybe the last game or two. Then we care."

The Not So Obvious – So, were the Trojans inspired by their recent BCS poll demotion? After the game, wide receiver State Smith said, "It's definitely something in the back of our minds. What are they doing? They're messing us up. We just have to show them on the field."

The Obvious – Trojan offensive tackle Winston Justice scored after recovering a Reggie Bush fumble in the end zone.

The Not So Obvious – These past couple of weeks have been stressful for the former Long Beach Poly All-American, who has seen his invincibility perception take a hit by inconsistent pass blocking and repeated holding penalties. Trojans' offensive line coach Pat Ruel has taken Justice to task over little things like his footwork, which becomes a big thing when Matt Leinart is being belted from the blind side. A little WD-40 is still being administered by Ruel after Justice's year off, but Saturday No. 74 was more than happy to hear his name called by public address announcer Dennis Packer for scoring a touchdown, rather than his number announced by game referee Brian O'Cain for holding.

The Obvious – The Trojans have had many "characters" in their glorious history, players like legendary defensive end Tim Rossovich and safety Mike Battle.

The Not So Obvious – It appears that starting offensive right guard Fred Matua is making a push for "character" status. After recovering a Dwayne Jarrett fumble, Matua pretended not to hear the whistle and started making his way towards the Cougars' end zone."Toying" with the 92,021, Matua looked like he was directing the Trojan Marching Band with the football. With the crowd chanting "Fred-dy,Fred-dy," Matua was having a Love-In with the masses.

The Obvious – The Trojans starting offensive and defensive players again introduced themselves on the Coliseum video board.

The Not So Obvious – It was a little cleaner introduction on Saturday and players who had previously "mugged" for the camera had their moments edited out, which resulted in a more professional look. With a number of high profile recruits like Virginia receiver Percy Harvin, called by many the top player in the country, viewing the video board, they had to be also impressed with the more "serious" approach by Pete Carroll's players. It certainly didn't hurt when players like Harvin heard the hometown of the various out-of-state players like Keith Rivers ("Lake Mary, Florida"), Dwayne Jarrett ("New Brunswick, New Jersey"), and Dominique Byrd ("Minneapolis, Minnesota").

The Obvious – The Trojans defense has been helped by the return of defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, who hails from nearby Compton Dominguez High.

The Not So Obvious – In the player video introductions, Ramsey announced that he was from "Anderson, Alabama." Prior to playing at Dominguez, Ramsey attended Venice High as a freshman.

The Obvious – The Trojans have now won 24 consecutive home games.

The Not So Obvious – You could tell before the game just where the mindset of the crowd was when the Trojan captains came onto the field first and the throng went wild. It was an intense beginning as the Trojans piled up their impressive first quarter of points, but some of the crowd's "steam" was gone by a somewhat placid second quarter. That was more than enough for some of the Trojan players on the field, who constantly turned to the crowd like Art Bartner does to his famous band to pick up the pace.

The Obvious – In the O/NSO Washington State edition on Friday, it was written here that the Cougars had not played before a crowd of over 60,000 this season.

The Not So Obvious – It appeared very much so that right from the get-go Bill Doba's lads were in a state of nervousgagaphobia. As balls were being dropped and Trojan points being scored, a quick check of the WSU sidelines showed a team that looked like chickens going to slaughter and we say that respectfully. As a side note, the crowd of 92,021 was larger than the population of all but six cities in Washington.

The Obvious – The Trojans pass defense has been roundly questioned throughout the season, but Saturday the Trojans turned Cougar sophomore quarterback Alex Brink, who threw for just 64 yards, into Alex the missing link.

The Not So Obvious – It was a far cry from last year in Pullman when Brink passed for 165 yards. Even more impressive or ominous concerning the 64 yards, depending on your point of view, the Trojans had no sacks.

The Obvious – The Trojans, who won the opening coin toss and naturally deferred to the second half, opened with a Troy Van Blarcom pooch-style of kick to not let the Cougars take advantage of the Trojans' Swiss cheese kick off coverage.

The Not So Obvious – Once things got rolling, Van Blarcom again flashed a big leg by repeatedly nailing touchbacks in the second half. The kid is coming along, continues to gain confidence, and could be a major weapon with the likes of Cal's Marshawn Lynch and UCLA's Maurice Drew on the horizon.

The Obvious – The kickoff coverage by the Trojans has been elevated in effectiveness by the relentless play of freshman linebacker Rey Maualuga.

The Not So Obvious – Much like the crowds anticipation when Reggie Bush has the ball puts on a "Gale Sayers" move, the same could be true with Rey-Rey when he approaches a ball carrier. Boom! Zap! Crunch! It's almost a disappointment when the head of the opposition doesn't snap back in a violent manner. You talk about The Terminator. Whoa, this kid will go down as one of the biggest hitters in Trojan history, if he stays healthy and continues to grow. Beware. Beware. Beware.

The Obvious – While Trojan senior defensive end Frostee Rucker has been getting a lot of pub with his relentless play, his other end partner, Lawrence Jackson, has almost quietly been a force unto himself.

The Not So Obvious – While LoJack may not have the flair of Rucker, the former Inglewood star is a star in his own right and there wont be an argument from Washington State, as No. 96 blocked the extra point on the Cougars' opening touchdown and later ripped the ball away from superb WSU tailback Jerome Harrsion and recovered the fumble.

The Obvious – The Trojans senior tight end Dominique Byrd left the field before halftime and returned after the beginning of the second half due to a hip injury.

The Not So Obvious – While the injury is not expected to hold him out of next weekend's contest with Stanford, it did allow backup Fred Davis to see extended action and there certainly was a bounce in the step of the Toledo, Ohio, native. Davis, who seems to be growing each week, was the feature in a recent Toledo Blade story about his growing maturity and his decision not to leave the Trojans and transfer. The story, written by the same columnist who predicted that Freddy would leave Troy and find his way to Ohio State, was actually a positive story on Davis and the Trojans. Davis, who had two catches on Saturday for 28 yards, has become an improved blocker and it showed again on Saturday.

The Obvious – There have been a few fans that have wondered what has become of wide receiver Steve Smith, especially after his huge Orange Bowl performance.

The Not So Obvious – With much of the attention focused on Dwayne Jarrett, just like Keary Colbert with Mike Williams, Smith again on Saturday reminded Trojan fans he is as deadly as the next guy. Smith averaged 17.7 yards per catch to go along with two touchdown receptions of 15 and 24 yards. Who says Smith has gone Clark Kent? On his 15-yard score, Smith masterfully beat Cougars sophomore free safety Hussain Abdullah, who is still looking for No. 2.

The Obvious – Trojan placekicker Mario Danelo converted on two field goals of 22 and 27 yards.

The Not So Obvious – Danelo's 27-yard field goal was critical at the end of the half because it allowed the Trojans to institute their rarely used two-minute drill and allowed Mario to actually be challenged to convert with .03 remaining in the half. Pete Carroll admitted after the game the scenario was a perfect learning tool for his team.

The Obvious – The Trojans will await this week's BCS standings with mild anticipation.

The Not So Obvious – As mentioned, the second quarter was a letdown after the first quarter Trojan scoring onslaught….until the Coliseum video board put the BCS poll rankings. Talk about waking a sleeping dog, the place went wild and it was boo, boo, and boo.

The Obvious – The Trojan offensive line opened gigantic holes to help spring cardinal and gold runners for 312 rushing yards.

The Not So Obvious – Cut down on some holding penalties and toss in the best one-two running punch in the country and it's back to Tailback U. The Trojans came into Saturday's game averaging 249.9 rushing yards while Washington State's rush defense came in allowing 143.7 yards per game. However, the most impressive part of Pat Ruel's group was their ability to keep the Cougars rush off of Matt Leinart, especially when you consider the Cougs came into the game leading the Pac-10 in sacks. Only one Leinart take-down was recorded on Saturday.

The Obvious – There is perhaps no intimidating pair of safeties than the Trojans Darnell Bing and Scott Ware.

The Not So Obvious – Both can knock your eyeballs out of socket and it was no surprise late in the second quarter when a wide-open Cougar receiver, Brandon Gibson, took his eyes off the ball and when he saw Mr. Bing on approach. The play of these two "strikers" has gotten better each week and Ware continues to deliver lethal blows on a regular basis.

The Obvious – It was a beautiful day at the Coliseum with temps at kickoff officially listed at 69 degrees.

The Not So Obvious – Of course the heat on the field is a bit higher and both teams were using Big Fog, the hug cooling fans. During one series in the third quarter, Trojan starting offensive left tackle Sam Baker took a series off to sit in front of one of the cooling propellers. While Baker cooled his heals, valuable reserve Kyle Williams kept the rushing attack going.

The Obvious – There is little question that the Trojan freshmen linebackers may be the best newcomers in the nation.

The Not So Obvious – In the fourth quarter, both Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing combined to rattle the teeth of WSU tailback DeMaundray Woolridge on a goal line stand. Maualuga came up to greet Woolridge at the seven and Cushing applied the coup de grace.

The Obvious – Quarterback John David Booty got some much-needed playing time, which began at the end of the third quarter and completed his outing with 69 yards through the air.

The Not So Obvious – However, John David did have a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage and had a poor exchange at center for a fumble. Despite the snafus, Booty looked efficient and certainly throws a pretty ball. Interestingly enough, Fred Matua came in at center and backup center Matt Spanos was moved to guard.

The Obvious – The Trojans have a potential offensive line star in reserve guard Chilo Rachal, who played extensively in the second half.

The Not So Obvious – During true freshman tailback Michael Coleman's final 6-yard score, Rachal (6-5, 300) showed remarkable pulling ability from right guard and led Coleman into the left hole, clearing the way for the former Inland Empire Player of the Year.

The Obvious – Reserve defensive tackle Travis Tofi has been quietly making strides on the front four.

The Not So Obvious – Tofi possesses remarkable quickness and has been a contributor in recent weeks. Plays that move away from the pocket seem to put Tofi in good pursuit angles.

The Obvious – The Trojan Fan Fest has increased its sponsorship with a new interactive in Tailgate411.com.

The Not So Obvious – Tailgate411.com provided kids of all ages a chance to catch a pass from a high-powered passing machine. Winners received a Lawrys' football and a Mission Tortillas T-shirt.

The Obvious – The Fan Fest Nike store told the O/NSO that they are selling Reggie Bush No. 5 jerseys at a torrid pace.

The Not So Obvious – Of course it was also added that the store had run out of Matt Leinart No. 11 jerseys. Saturday's Deal of the Day was Orange Bowl national championship shirts being offered at 50 percent off, meaning $10 per shirt.

The Obvious – The new tailgate and fan fest area has become quite popular.

The Not So Obvious – One tailgater next to the peristyle actually had his Winegard Satellite Dish planted in the grass watching the Miami and North Carolina struggle.

The Obvious – If you're ever in the mood to eat and shop, no store beats this combination like Costco.

The Not So Obvious – Inside the Coliseum is turning into a Costco food feast as one vender actually had a lady representative in the middle of the walkway offering fans a sample of glazed almonds from a large silver dish.

The Obvious – The Trojans return to the Coliseum next Saturday evening to play the Stanford Cardinal at 7:00 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – After Saturday's game, a number of fans were debating the various kickoff times for Trojan games this season. Most agreed that 12:30 p.m. was too early and 7:00 was too late. Most liked the 4:00 kickoffs. However, all agreed the most important element was that the Trojans get win No. 31 and keep their national title hopes alive. Like Sunday's clock adjustment, it continues to be time for the Trojans to stay on time with their date with destiny.


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