Get the ball to the big man: And in this case, big means big. It's not all that uncommon for an offensive lineman to recover a fumble. If a quarterback mishandles a snap, or drops the ball following a sack, an offensive lineman just has to flop on the ball to keep possession. But in Saturday's game, fumbles were recovered by Winston Justice and Fred Matua in the most unlikely of places. Justice's recovery, which resulted in a touchdown, came after a Reggie Bush fumble where Justice corralled the ball just before it rolled across the left sideline. Keep in mind, Justice plays right tackle. Matua's recovery came well over ten yards downfield after a completed pass to Dwayne Jarrett. The offensive line has been absolutely dominant this season and it's great to see how much pride they are taking in finishing plays and taking their blocks all the way downfield.
Hey, would you cut the malarkey? Silencio! Ungawa!: After Dwayne Jarrett's first touchdown catch, Reggie Bush came over and jumped into Jarrett in celebration. Watching it on TV, ABC had a great shot of the sideline referee sprinting toward the two in an effort to break up the celebration before it got totally out of hand and they did something ridiculous, like high-five or congratulate each other, or even act happy about achieving the main goal of the sport they are playing. For some reason, referees seem to have it in the back of their minds that the Trojans are excessive celebrators. I don't know if it's because Trojans are in the end zone so often or what, but watching the refs as a Trojan near the goal line, it seems like they hover their hands over their flags as if they're waiting for someone to yell, "draw." Maybe it's just me being paranoid, but I don't think it is. The celebration penalties are just silly. When I'm commissioner, you'll get ten seconds to cross the goal line and head to your sideline. Celebrate however you want, but if you go over the ten seconds, you're penalized. Also, if your celebration stinks, Dave Chappelle, who will be the PA guy, has every right to openly mock you.
Say what you see: ABC's Keith Jackson is down to getting about 80% of the plays right and slowing down to the point that Dan Fouts need to jump in occasionally and take over the play-by-play. The best example of this was when Winston Justice recovered Bush's fumble in the end zone, and after about 15 seconds of touchdown celebration, Jackson said, "Winston Justice," as if that's all we needed to know. But, in spite of all that, there is absolutely no one I want to listen to more than Jackson. I truly hope he announces games until he just keels over in the booth. He's one of the few people who could be reading from the phone book and I'd shush people around me in order to hear him. When he's announcing Trojan football games, all is right with the world.
That's great, but can he farm?: A lot of people have tried to find holes in Reggie Bush's game over the last couple of years, saying he isn't tough enough to carry it between the tackles, isn't big enough to pick up the blitz and isn't smart enough to actually use his power to fly. But in the past two games, Bush has done everything, proving that he might in fact be the most complete back in the nation. He single-handedly blocked Cougar defensive lineman twice during Saturday's game and took on Manase Hopoi, Washington's standout defensive tackle during the game two weeks ago. It looks like this is the season that everything is clicking for Bush. People complained last year about his tendency to dance in the backfield instead of heading toward the line of scrimmage, but that hasn't been an issue this season. Bush even carried the ball on a few third-and-short situations on Saturday, something that we haven't seen much of. It looks like Reggie knows that his time to dance is during kickoff and punt returns, which is more than fine with me. I'm more than willing to roll the dice and risk a five yard loss on a punt return in exchange for a chance at another mind-boggling return from the President.
Doggy Fizzle Touchdown-izzle: Count me among those who had no problem with Snoop Dogg's appearance at the game. College football is supposed to be about having fun and LenDale White's flip to the D-O double G was all in the name of fun. And don't give me the grumbling about his checkered past. Nobody has any problem with Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson being affiliated with the Trojans and they've done far more to corrupt America's youth than Snoop. If you disagree, you've obviously never seen Newlyweds. There were actually two surprises on this play though. The first was that White wasn't penalized, either for unsportsmanlike conduct or an illegal forward pass, and the second was that Snoop actually finished the play with a nice catch, camera point, Heisman pose and a dash up the tunnel. Apparently the ball was cool enough that he was able to hold onto it.
I can't wait until they break out the Sacagawea gold coin formation: A staple of Pete Carroll's defense has been to force a lot of third downs for opposing offenses. It's just a byproduct of allowing less than three yards per carry and passes to be completed to underneath receivers. But this season's defense seems to be allowing more third down conversions than in previous years and I think a big reason is Carroll's third and medium nickel package. Against Notre Dame, Irish quarterback Brady Quinn converted about 200 quarterback sneaks into first downs and on Washington State's first drive, a third and seven from the 13 led to a Jerome Harrison touchdown run straight up the middle of the Trojan defense. While the nickel package can work in defending the pass, removing that middle linebacker doesn't exactly shore up the middle of the run defense. In years past, with Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson at the defensive tackle positions, it wouldn't have mattered if there was a linebacker or a line dancer behind them, nobody was converting a third down with a run up the middle. This season, even though the defensive tackles have played admirably, I'd probably rather see three linebackers stay in on third down situations of under ten yards. Later in the game, Washington State faced another third down and medium. The Trojans left in all three linebackers and Jerome Harrison, on a run up the middle, was stuffed to force a fourth down. I think these Trojan linebackers, no matter who is in the game, are athletic enough to play both run and pass defense on third downs. I realize that formation changes are part of the gameplan, but I'm also sure that future opponents have seen what teams are doing against the Trojans on third down.
At least they'll be able to sleep after that one: Until Saturday, Washington State's four losses this season were by 21 total points, and that includes an 11 point loss to Oregon State. I can't imagine qualifying a 42 point loss as the most gratifying loss of any season, but that might be the case for the Cougars after their game against the Trojans. It's usually easier to put a blowout loss behind you and regroup from it rather than trying to continue on after a heartbreaker.
LenDale being LenDale: Against the Cougars, and despite his huge game on the ground, LenDale White still showed signs of stutter stepping and was actually replaced by Reggie Bush on a few third down and short situations. I'm sure Pete Carroll will just chalk it up to wanting to present different looks for the defense and not allowing them to key in on LenDale in short yardage situations, but I sure do love watching White hit that hole between the tackles. There's really nothing you can do about it though. After every run where he's brought down in the backfield, you can see the LenDale is as disappointed in himself as anyone and he knows that, to be successful, he needs to be a north and south runner. He's like a kid with his hand hovering over the cookie jar before dinner time. He knows his parents are going to catch him if he takes one, but the reward is sometimes just too tempting. Go ahead and eat your dinner first LenDale; pound on that defense a few times. You'll get your cookies in the end.
Like Paul Shirley winning the opening tip over Shaq: One of my favorite sights from this weekend's game was Brad Walker throwing the lead block after a quick throw outside to Reggie Bush, springing him down the sideline for a first down and a pretty good gain. If you don't sleep with a Trojan roster under your pillow at night, chances are you've never heard of Brad Walker. But there he was, on the first series of the game, providing a big play in a key situation. That, to me, is what the Trojans under Pete Carroll are all about: guys making plays when called upon. It doesn't matter if you're a starter or the last guy off the bench, when you're in the game, you contribute. I'm willing to bet that on a majority of other teams, a guy in Walker's situation either wouldn't be playing at all in that situation, or would be so used to his role on the bench that he would have no hope of being ready to make a play. Thus far, this season has been defined by guys like Walker, Will Buchanon and Ryan and Brandon Ting. No other school in the nation could sustain as many injuries as the Trojans have and still carry an undefeated record into November.
There's great, there's the best and then there's what we're watching: Tom Malone hasn't quite developed bench sores yet and Matt Leinart has something other than a zero underneath his interceptions column, so while you can't truly call this offense unstoppable, they are about as prolific as an offense can get. Everyone will point to the stats that the ball handlers are on pace to rack up: 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing or receiving yards for anyone who touches the ball, but everything starts with the offensive line. They just turned the most sack happy defensive line in the Pac-10 into a bunch of sad sacks, keeping Matt Leinart protected and opening holes big enough to run through three or four times. The offensive playmakers would be great on their own, but with this offensive line, they are unparalleled.