Move Those Chains

If you take a look around the college football world every week, you'll find games like Arizona's undressing of UCLA or North Carolina State's flogging of Florida State. It's just how college football works, following the old adage of "on any given Saturday."

But that is what makes USC's current run so impressive. For 31 straight games, the Trojans have had a chance to trip, to surrender, to just not care as much as the other guys, and for 31 straight games, they haven't. Some games go down to the last second and some games are over in the first, but no matter who lines up across the field, no team will want it more than these Trojans.

Quote of the night, Part I: As the game wound to a close and Pete Carroll met up with Walt Harris at the 50-yard line, the TBS announcer actually said that Carroll, "was probably not pleased with his team in the second half." I'm sorry? Carroll just watched his team put up a 30-point win, played almost every one of his players, kept his meal tickets injury free, let his friend, Harris, escape L.A. with his dignity intact and went to bed riding a 31 game winning streak and this guy wants to suggest that Pete found something in there to be disappointed about? Sure buddy, and I bet Michael Jordan really cried himself to sleep at night after each of those ten losses in 1995.

I'm sorry Mr. Armstrong, but we already employ a bike messenger: TBS sideline reporter Craig Sager did a pre-game piece about Stanford rejecting Reggie Bush's application based on their admission standards. You're telling me that Stanford looked at Reggie Bush, arguably the best student-athlete football player in the nation and said, "You know what? I think we'll pass." Seriously? Doesn't that make you want to root against Stanford in everything they do? Had Lebron James not gone straight to the NBA, do you think they would have let him in, or do you think they would hold out hope that they could fill their point guard spot with some high school student who won his high school spelling bee and solved a rubix cube in under ten minutes?

Walking into the lion's den is one thing; doing it while wearing a suit of raw meat is something else entirely: When you win the opening coin toss and choose to defer, it's like getting into a fight and offering your opponent a free punch. Stanford probably should have realized that when you find yourself going toe to toe with Mike Tyson, you need to do everything in your power to limit the hits that you take, and for God's sake, you never stick your chin out and offer him a free shot. In fact, not only should Stanford have taken the ball to start the game, they should have spent the 20 minutes during halftime trying to figure out how to make USC kick off again to start the third quarter.

In this week's coaches spotlight…:I saw three fumbled laterals in three separate games last Saturday and the Trojans were the only one of the six teams that had every player on the field going after the ball with the knowledge that it was still live. When UCLA dropped a backwards pass, no Bruin ran after the ball in the end zone and it was only recovered after a Wildcat defensive back stopped celebrating and dove on it with some prodding from his teammates. Against Tennessee, Irish wide receiver Jeff Samardzija gave a half-hearted attempt on a pass and completely gave up on it when he couldn't corral it. All of this is just further proof that the Trojans are the best-coached team in the nation, and that I can now spell Samardzija without looking it up.

Sure Michaelangelo, I guess it's pretty good, but is God's finger really that long?: It's tough to critique a guy who is actually playing better than when he won the Heisman Trophy, but there have been a couple times during the season where a little less air and a little more zip on the ball would have resulted in touchdowns for both Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. On Saturday, Jarrett had to slow down a bit on a 30-yard reception and Smith got his feet tangled up at the two yard line after a pass led him toward the sideline rather than into the endzone. Of course, I'd rather see a completion than an overthrown ball and Leinart is probably having the best season ever for a returning Heisman winner, so I'll just go back to watching him throw the ball around now.

If we limit pants to one color, keep pony tails on the back of the head and don't use cheesy special effects, the 80's will be a very enjoyable decade: With the Trojans up 14-0, TBS showed a graphic titled "Stanford Keys to the Game." There were three bullet points. Number one was Protect the Quarterback. By the end of the second quarter, Trent Edwards looked like he had been dragged behind Traveler on each of his touchdown trots. Number two was Force Turnovers and Protect the Ball. By that point in the game, Stanford had already committed two turnovers and Trent Edwards was on his way to more than doubling his interception total for the season. Number three was Slow the Game Down. The first play after the graphic went down was a false start penalty, so at least the Cardinals were able to take advantage of one of the three. Maybe if TBS had put the graphic up sooner, Stanford would have actually known what it could do to win the game.

Wait, wait, wait: That was a dummy?!

Just enough Rocky and Bullwinkle, just far enough away from Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley: Forget about the timing needed between Matt Leinart and Dwayne Jarrett on their 19-yard touchdown. What impressed me the most was the choreography displayed by both on their leaping-on-the-flipside-high-five celebration. Very few quarterback- receiver tandems would be able to pull that off. Never mind fourth and nine, it's that kind of celebration that is really where you can see the roommate connection paying off.

Quote of the night, Part II: When the halftime stats were displayed, I turned to my friend watching the game with me and remarked that the Trojans had already put up 400 yards of total offense. He quickly totaled up the rushing and passing numbers. "It's only 395," he said. "You guys are good, but you're not better than the laws of mathematics."

Reason number 493 why I love Pete Carroll: Late in the second quarter of a 31-0 game Dwayne Jarrett was called for offensive pass interference, negating a touchdown and the camera switched to a shot of Pete Carroll and Matt Leinart laughing with each other before calling the next play. So many other coaches wouldn't be able to share that moment with their quarterback because they'd be too busy scrambling after their clipboard or visor after slamming it to the ground in frustration over either the play or the call. Pete Carroll has more fun coaching college football than Willy Wonka has in his factory.

Shot of the night: When John David Booty threw a fade and Patrick Turner ran a slant on a fourth down and goal, TBS cut to a shot of Lane Kiffin in the coaches' box with his head resting face down on his desk. He was either frustrated with the miscommunication or in the midst of a grueling game of heads up seven up with the rest of the assistants upstairs.

So good it's unfair: The game of football is supposed to be played with each team fielding 11 players at a time. Having Reggie Bush on your team basically turns it into 11 on six. During his 42-yard touchdown run, five different Cardinal players had relatively easy chances to bring him down or force him out of bounds. Of course, the only problem for Stanford is that the "him" in question was Bush. On the play, Reggie turned a two-yard loss into an untouched scamper down the left sideline just like he turns the term "pursuit angle" into a laughable phrase meaning "first cameo in his touchdown celebration." Once Bush gets even with or behind you, it doesn't matter if you've got 22 guys on the field; the only way you're bringing him down is with a tranquilizer dart and a hunting net. Watching him cradle the ball in his right hand and start pumping his arms as he shifts into his personal sixth gear is the most exciting event in college football.

It even takes a few episodes a season for "24" to get into full swing: Sure, there was a blip during the first kickoff, but the special teams coverage units were outstanding against the Cardinal. Watching Rashaad Goodrum and Brian Cushing bust the wedge on the second kickoff was absolutely stunning. With the way this Trojan team loves to hit, I'll bet asking for two guys to fly down the field and throw their bodies against a wall was like asking who wanted to be first in line for ice cream after the game. Everyone expected the Trojans to field exemplary kick coverage units this season, but there was a lot of shuffling from last year's group. Couple that with the fact that last year's unit didn't get a lot of attempts due to the strong leg of Ryan Killeen and it's easy to understand if the Trojans are just now getting into the swing of things when it comes to kickoffs.


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