O/NSO - Stanford game review

Like watching a Jerry Lewis Telethon, the top-ranked USC Trojans (9-0, 6-0 Pac-10) turned the Coliseum scoreboard into one huge board of escalating numbers, as Pete Carroll's boys rolled to their 31st consecutive victory by flattening the Stanford Cardinal (4-4, 3-3) with a resounding 51-21 victory before 90, 212 at the Coliseum.

The Obvious – Like watching a Jerry Lewis Telethon, the top-ranked USC Trojans (9-0, 6-0 Pac-10) turned the Coliseum scoreboard into one huge board of escalating numbers, as Pete Carroll's boys rolled to their 31st consecutive victory by flattening the Stanford Cardinal (4-4, 3-3) with a resounding 51-21 victory before 90, 212 at the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – It has become quite clear that the Stanford outing appears to be the last reasonable schedule laugher as the Trojans begin preparation for their push to Pasadena. So it was appropriate that the unfortunate Cardinal, who came into the Coliseum with the Pac-10's worst defense, played the Trojans' punching bag by allowing the Men of Troy to land one haymaker after another. For the Trojans, the light shining brighter and brighter at the end of the tunnel appears to be a date in the BCS championship while the light at the end of the tunnel for Stanford was a cardinal and gold locomotive.

The Obvious – The Trojans were again ranked No. 1 in the country on Sunday for an AP record 29th consecutive week.

The Not So Obvious – This marvelous record is only matched by the entertainment value that this team projects across the country. With superstar role models like Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, the national media has come upon the conclusion that there really isn't anything to dislike about this team. One Coliseum visitor from New York City, attending a medical convention in Long Beach, commented, " I don't know too much about football, but these guys are really entertaining." And so it goes.

The Obvious – The Trojans 31st consecutive victory ties them for 10th all-time longest winning streak in college football history.

The Not So Obvious – Does anybody want to talk about the fact the Cardinal and Gold have now won 25-straight games in the Coliseum? Oh, hum. The Trojans many streaks have gotten to the point that they seem as old and archaic as the Coliseum temperature "clock."

The Obvious – The San Francisco Chronicle is one of the main Bay Area papers that covers the Stanford Cardinal.

The Not So Obvious – It's always interesting to see the opponents' media view of a loss to the Trojans. Chronicle writer Michelle Smith's lead paragraph said it all, writing "Los Angeles -- It was simply too much. Too much Matt Leinart. Too much Reggie Bush and LenDale White and Dwayne Jarrett. Too much work for the Stanford defense and too much pressure on Trent Edwards." That about says it all.

The Obvious – Stanford won the opening coin toss and elected to kickoff.

The Not So Obvious – Call it courage, poor judgment, or lack of pre-game preparation, but the Cardinal gave the perception they were "calling out" the Trojan offense, being the first Trojan opponent all season to win a coin flip and go on defense first. That decision to challenge the vaunted Trojan offense right off the bat was like giving matches to a pyromaniac and the Trojans responded to the slight by marching 80 yards to "light up" the Coliseum scoreboard on their first possession.

The Obvious – With Saturday's first-week November victory over the Cardinal, Pete Carroll is now 14-0 in his favorite month.

The Not So Obvious – Appreciate that stat, Trojan fans, especially when you read about the Virginia Tech and UCLA disasters that occurred during Saturday's November games. Are the Trojans peaking or are they simply playing inferior opponents in Washington State and Stanford? It's probably a little bit of both and that's not a bad thing, especially the peaking part.

The Obvious - The Trojans gained 395 yards in the first half and 529 overall.

The Not So Obvious – While both stats are impressive, the most impressive stat and the most important was the fact the Trojan continue to show they are back to scoring early and often in the first half. Again, some of it is the opponent, but taking advantage of Stanford turnovers and converting them early certainly shows that if the Trojans make the opponent believers early, the spirit is broken. Most Trojan fans would agree the past two-game laughers have done wonders, however, for their digestive systems.

The Obvious – The Trojans wasted no time early, scoring on each of their seven first-half possessions and putting the Cardinal away in a nice, neat defeated box.

The Obvious – Although the game was said to be a sell-out due to tickets sold, the crowd count of 90,212 was below capacity of 92,000.

The Not So Obvious – Like Pete Carroll's team, the Coliseum crowd was into the game from the beginning and Stanford appeared to be intimidated by the top-ranked environment. Perhaps there was a good reason for it. Saturday night's attendance was the biggest crowd the Cardinal had played in front of since the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2000, when the lads from Palo Alto fell to Wisconsin 17-9 in front of 93,731

The Not So Obvious – The score could have been worse considering that Stanford has been outscored 77-26 in the fourth quarter. Pete Carroll appeared to show some compassion for Stanford head coach Walt Harris, Carroll's former secondary coach at Pacific, without taking away opportunities to improve for his backup units. While the Trojans scored only seven points in the second half, they were still able to get some production from the balance of the squad and many watching the game were impressed with seeing the likes of oft-injured fullback Brandon Hancock again showing his good-for-a-fullback-speed on an 8-yard scoring run to the outside in the fourth quarter.

The Obvious – Saturday was designated as Sam Cunningham Day, a celebration of the legendary Trojan fullback from the 70s, who sprinted from the Coliseum tunnel to mid-field for his halftime recognition.

The Not So Obvious – Old No. 39 looked like he made the sprint in 20-year-old fashion, much to the delight of the standing and clapping crowd. In his honor, Sam Cunningham commemorative t-shirts were being sold at the USC Bookstore. The wonderful thing about Sam Bam from our conversations is he is even a better person than a football player and that is saying a ton. Having followed his career from Santa Barbara High where he played for Coach Cathcart, to his glory days with the Trojans, and eventually New England, Cunningham has been class, class, and more class.

The Obvious – Matt Leinart passed for 259 yards and four touchdowns. The Not So Obvious – Well, you have to say that Lefty was on fire and to see him so relaxed in doing his thing leaves you with the impression that he will finish his Trojan career for all the reasons he came back for one more encore. While he admitted the Trojans seemed to do whatever they wanted against the Cardinal, after the game he brought up the California Bears, the Trojans next opponent and recent nemesis. Recalling the Bears in Berkeley as the Trojans' last loss in what seems like decades ago, Leinart said," The last time we were up there, we all know what happened." Somehow, the O/NSO got the impression that No. 11 is looking forward to his Bay Area "vacation."

The Obvious – Stanford has been known throughout the years for its passing game, thanks to the likes of legends Frankie Albert, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, and Guy Benjamin.

The Not So Obvious – One of Stanford's few scores came in the third quarter while running the option. Stanford running the option? What next? The Stones' Mick Jagger singing opera?

The Obvious – Before the game, Pete Carroll said of his friendship with Stanford coach Walt Harris, "I always like playing guys I know. Walt and I have battled so much in hoops. This is a whole different level of competing against one another. It's fun, after all these years of knowing him, to figure out what he's going to do against us."

The Not So Obvious – Stanford coach Walt Harris probably didn't think Saturday's game was too much fun, but he did probably realize, as mentioned earlier, that his former player showed compassion in the second half. Harris was quite complimentary about the Trojans, saying they were a tremendous offensive team and very underrated defensively.

The Obvious – Trojan tailback Reggie Bush returned to the Heisman hunt with an evening that included 113 yards rushing and a sizzling 42-yard touchdown run.

The Not So Obvious – Before Saturday's game, ESPN GameDay guru Lee Corso predicted that Bush would three touchdowns – one running, one receiving, and one on special teams. Not so fast, my friend. While Bush didn't have a Heisman game, it was more important from a team aspect that he was able to show that his knee injury appeared to be a thing of the past as he turned on the jets down the sideline, leaving Cardinal defenders in his wake.

The Obvious – LenDale White gained 60 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.

The Not So Obvious – Again, White is nails between the tackles and even showed some Reggie Bush by reversing his fielding in the second quarter for a 13-yard gain and, yes, Mattt Leinart threw another good block. However, White, no doubt, turned on the pro scouts again by showcasing his catching ability during his 16-yard touchdown reception from Matt Leinart in the first quarter.

The Obvious – Dwayne Jarrett caught eight passes for 101 yards for the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Jarrett's 19-yard touchdown pass from Leinart in the second quarter was a thing of NFL beauty. Split right, Jarrett ran a perfectly executed corner pattern as Lenart was looking off defenders to his left. Working from hours of practice, Jarrett came out of his break to head to the back corner of the end zone and at the precise moment of Dwayne's break to the outside, Leinart turned from looking left and threw a perfect strike to the right corner of the end zone. It was a perfect football Monet.

The Obvious – Stanford's Trent Edwards completed 21 of 35 passes for 245 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions.

The Not So Obvious – The pressure from coach Jethro Franklin's defensive line more than made up for just one sack. Poor Edwards was hit silly on a number of occasions as he was releasing the ball. Sack totals don't always tell the story and Saturday night's game was a classic example.

The Obvious –Trojan linebacker Thomas Williams picked off a pass in the first quarter from Stanford's Trent Edwards.

The Not So Obvious – Edwards had thrown 113 passes without an interception and it was rewarding to see one of the Trojans most inspirational players get an early holiday gift interception. Williams really loves the game of football and the Trojan faithful, and it shows in his emotional display on the field and his interaction with the fans. When Oscar Lua went down with an early knee injury, Williams played some middle linebacker. One thing about Thomas the Hitman, if he gets a chance to knock you silly, the former Vacaville star will bring a "No. 1 in the country" calling card.

The Obvious – 1540 KMPC is the home radio station for the USC Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – 1540 was handing out free Trojan rally to fans that came by their booth.

The Obvious – Trojan middle linebacker Oscar Lua went out with a knee sprain after getting hurt on the kickoff team.

The Not So Obvious – Wholly special teams, Batman, not only do the Trojans again show vulnerability from the get-go, but this albatross of a unit takes its curse to Lua, who was forced into "infantry" duty due to lack of even "average" coverage during the season. It would almost be too cruel to think that Lua is sidelined because he had to play special teams to help his team. One injury may lead to two position losses, your starting middle linebacker AND valuable special teams performer. Somebody call a lawyer.

The Obvious - Stanford played without three starters on offense: wide receiver Mark Bradford, running back Anthony Kimble and center Tim Mattran.

The Not So Obvious - Bradford was out with a reported high ankle sprain, but it wouldn't have changed much., Mark's absence did hurt the Cardinal offense to move through the air, especially considering he is Stanford's leading receiver. Think of Bradford as Stanford's version of Steve Smith. Fifth-year senior Justin McCullum replaced Bradford and he equaled his career high with nine catches for a career-high 138 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass from Edwards.

The Obvious – The two Trojan starting corners, senior Justin Wyatt and sophomore Josh Pinkard, gave up long pass receptions.

The Not So Obvious – In fact, Wyatt gave up two long receptions. You get the impression that the former Compton Dominguez star is trying to work through this, especially considering he didn't have a past history of giving up the big one. Part of the problem is the Trojans' weaker pass rush, which is understandably not the same as last year, and part of it has been the a combination of Wyatt's lack of height against taller defenders and some uncharacteristic breakdowns in technique.

The Obvious – The Trojan defense with Josh Pinkard at corner continues to show some renewed confidence despite this season's unordinary amount of injuries.

The Not So Obvious – Pinkard's return of fumble after recovering a fumble on the same play by Frostee Rucker, who led the Trojans in tackles with seven, showed not only alertness but a will not to go down by returning the ball 21 yards down to the Stanford 4-yard line. Pinkard's ball carrying skills from his playing days at Hueneme High were evident. In his senior year, wide receiver Pinkard had 22 receptions for 200-plus yards and five touchdowns.

The Obvious – The Trojan offensive line was its "normal" dominating self, helping to pile up 184 rushing yards on the Cardinal and not allowing a sack of Matt Leinart.

The Not So Obvious – Speaking of offensive lines, the Cardinal started redshirt freshman Alex Fletcher in place of starting center Tim Mattran, who was out due to injury. Fletcher was recruited two years ago by the Trojans when he was senior at St. Anthony's High School in New York City.

The Obvious – Defensive end Lawrence Jackson played a marvelous game against the Cardinal.

The Not So Obvious – Jackson's play was so effective that he received the high honor of being on the Trojans' post-game radio show with John Jackson. Lawrence of Inglewood had three tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery, and harassed quarterback Trent Edwards on numerous occasions.

The Obvious – The states of Louisiana and Tennessee really aren't that far away in distance when you take a look at it.

The Not So Obvious – Well, those two states looked a lot closer when Louisiana Trojan backup quarterback John David Booty (7-of-10 for 86 yds.) connected with Tennessee's Patrick Turner for a 24-yard gain. These two showed some "connection" during the course of the second half.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll elected to play freshman linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was allegedly involved in an incident last week involving another student.

The Not So Obvious – Carroll took big heat from the media for playing Maualuga, who was demoted to the scout team and appeared to be a lock for not playing on Saturday. Although the decision by Carroll would appear send a wrong message to his team about discipline, we'll leave it to the coach to clarify his decision in depth this week, probably at his Tuesday press conference.

The Obvious – The Trojans hosted three big-time recruits in Ohio running back Chris Wells, Florida linebacker A.J. Jones, and Oklahoma City defensive lineman Gerald McCoy.

The Not So Obvious – All three were having a good time during Trojan warm-ups and Oklahoma's McCoy was even taking picture during the Trojan stretching sessions. When the Trojan ran back up the tunnel for their final preparations, all three ran, too, like they were part of the club. It remains to be seen if Wells, who is still committed to Ohio St., McCoy, who is rumored for Notre Dame or Oklahoma, or if Jones fell in love with the Trojans, but all three said they had a great time and time will tellbut Ohio's Chris Wells called his experience "California love."

The Obvious – Trojan reserve tight ends Fred Davis, Dale Thompson, and Jimmy Miller all saw extensive action in place of the injured Dominique Byrd.

The Not So Obvious – Davis, who hosted Ohio running back recruit Chris Wells, had a fine evening with four catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. Davis has really matured and you can see he wants to be a contributor. As for sophomore Thompson, he had a chance for a score but couldn't quite control a Matt Leinart pass. It was probably a tough moment for Thompson who is trying to get used to a cast being taken off his injured hand. Miller's 2-yard TD might not have been a Dominique Byrd highlight, but for the former Westlake standout, it might as well been a 75-yarder. Of course it helps to get wide open like Miller was thanks to play-action to LenDale White. What is it about goal line defenses when LenDale is in the game?

The Obvious – With coach Ken Norton's linebacking crew starting to get banged up like the Trojan secondary, the play of freshman Brian Cushing was a welcome addition.

The Not So Obvious – Now you just know that the Cushing family back in New Jersey was whopping and hollering while watching the game on TBS. Watching young Brian get extensive play that contributed to five tackles and a tipped pass, makes up for the 10 p.m., East Coast starting time.

The Obvious – The Trojans kickoff team has received its fair share of criticism.

The Not So Obvious – One Trojan that became visible on special teams on Saturday night was junior linebacker Ryan Powdrell. Ryan, who has been granted an extra year by the NCAA, had a big hit on Stanford's T.J. Rushing on the kickoff following a Mario Danelo 21-yard field goal. Ryan also had five tackles, four of which were unassisted.

The Obvious – The Stanford Band was its "usual" entertaining self, meaning they antagonized much of the Coliseum crowd, who couldn't decide whether to applaud or boo.

The Not So Obvious – One apparent Trojan fan either couldn't take it anymore or was having a flashback of some sort and leaped over the Coliseum wall on the closed end of the stadium and ran at the band. Showing the tackling skills of Frostee Rucker, the "intruder" was bounced upon by some gang tackling security that would have made Marv Goux smile and was escorted out through the famed Coliseum tunnel.

The Obvious – Former Trojan coach John Robinson was on the field prior to kickoff.

The Not So Obvious – Yep, Jolly John was wearing red for those that keep record. A number of Trojan fans gave the former Trojan coach some positive shout-outs and JR responded with a wave.

The Obvious – So now the storm clouds have reached the Trojan shore with the final three games of the season against respected opponents beginning with unranked but dangerous California in Berkeley next weekend and home finishes with No.20 Fresno State and No.14 UCLA.

The Not So Obvious – In a season that has presented all sorts of challenges from tough road games to devastating secondary injuries, there will be no greater challenge than the final three games. In a sense, these will be the final chapters in what the Trojans hope leads to a glorious epilogue in the first week in January at a place called the Rose Bowl.


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