O/NSO - Cal review

Some called it a workmanlike performance. Some called it a gridiron exorcism. Some even called the 32nd consecutive Trojan victory revengeful punishment. All called it a huge, final road advancement as the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans (10-0, 7-0 Pac-10) literally intercepted all thoughts of another monumental California Bears (6-4, 3-4) upset with a methodical 35-10 victory before a sun-splashed crowd of 72,981.

The Obvious –Some called it a workmanlike performance. Some called it a gridiron exorcism. Some even called the 32nd consecutive Trojan victory revengeful punishment. All called it a huge, final road advancement as the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans (10-0, 7-0 Pac-10) literally intercepted all thoughts of another monumental California Bears (6-4, 3-4) upset with a methodical 35-10 victory before a sun-splashed crowd of 72,981.

The Not So Obvious – As the O/NSO sat in Memorial Stadium and watched Trojans ascend to their 32nd consecutive victory, one couldn't help but admire this piece of Trojan history, although the game was no Picasso and, at times, lackluster. It could also be argued that there is no more beautiful setting than a picture-perfect day in Strawberry Canyon, especially when you can view the San Francisco Skyline from one direction and the economical fans that sit free atop Tightwad Hill in the other. With another roaring, hostile enemy crowd begging for another infamous Trojan date in history, Pete Carroll's Trojans again rose above the Golden Gate Bridge and continued their date with destiny.

The Obvious – The Trojans were ranked No. 1 in the country on Sunday for an AP record 30 consecutive polls.

The Not So Obvious – And as tradition has it, there are those that see the Trojans not in the same light as the masses. "I think Miami's clearly playing the best of the three," said Neill Ostrout, of the Connecticut Post. "I've had them as top one-loss team for several weeks." Ah, nothing like a little extra incentive for the Men of Troy and certainly for the Pete Carroll messenger service. For those that said the Trojans have a "weak" schedule, this week's AP poll features two Top Ten Trojan victims, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 10 Oregon and here comes cantankerous No. 16 Fresno State on Saturday night in the Coliseum.

The Obvious – There is the old football adage that "offense scores points and defense wins championships.

The Not So Obvious – In the Trojans' case in 2005, it may be a more balanced adage. Saturday's offense provided time consuming drives on one hand and aggressive, winning defense on the other. Maybe it just seems this way, but despite the surprising ineptness of the Cal passing attack, since the injection of sophomore Josh Pinkard at corner, this defense appears to have risen to another level. It certainly helps when Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob completes just nine passes for 98 yards, but the feeling here is we are definitely seeing the maturation of a November Pete Carroll defense.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense accounted for four interceptions that set the tone for the entire game.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday's contest, the Bears' passing attack ranked last in the Pac-10 and after watching the Trojans repeated thievery, it is quite clear why. Cal's original starting quarterback, Nate Longshore, had beaten out Joe Ayoob… until Longshore's untimely injury. No only did the Trojan defense begin to dissect the ego and mentality of Ayoob, the junior college transfer looked like he was ready to get on the first BART back to City College of San Francisco ASAP.

The Obvious – The first Joe Ayoob interception was his first pass that was picked off by Trojan strong safety Darnell Bing.

The Not So Obvious – It was almost Hawaii déjà vu for Bing, who was in the right place at the right time but couldn't' keep his FieldTurf balance. There was clear sailing into the end zone for Bing if he had managed to stay on his feet. In fact, fans in the Trojans' section were shocked Darnell didn't take it to the house.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart completed 20 of 32 passes for 246 yards but no touchdowns.

The Not So Obvious – The beautiful thing you see watching a game in person is the whole field. In Leinart's two scrambling scores, you were truly seeing the nation's best field general in action. Brains, brains, and more brains. Forget about the fact that Lefty didn't throw one for a score, he has now again reminded us more than ever that in his final push for a third national, he is now, at given moments, as dangerous a runner as he is a passer. Don't you think Fresno State coach Pat Hill and UCLA's Karl Dorrell might already be having nightmares with the Trojan offense?

The Obvious – Despite the Trojans prior 31-game winning streak, the Bears got a lot of mileage for the being the last team to beat the Trojans. Pete Carroll said, "I know Cal has had a great time with this fact."

The Not So Obvious – Nobody was happier after the game than the old coach. Leading his team over to the Trojan band along the south end of Memorial Stadium, Carroll had a smile that stretched from Richmond to San Leandro. When these two rivals meet next year in the Coliseum, the media will be talking how Carroll's record against Cal coach Jeff Tedford is now 3-1. What a difference a 35-10 victory can do for perception. Carroll even said the win puts some "separation" between the two programs. We thought 32 straight wins did the trick.

The Obvious – LenDale White finished the day with 90 yards rushing, thus putting him over the 1,000 rushing mark for the second time in his career.

The Not So Obvious – Hey, if gregarious LenDale continues to get receptions as well - No. 21 had 61 yards in receiving - Reggie Bush might have a serious challenger for the Heisman. The truth is White is a complete back and has the killer instinct, as well as a new hairdo that he exhibited getting off the Trojan team bus prior to the game. If there is one change in the past couple of games in terms of his running, White has wisely avoided the Reggie Bush spectacular and returned to running for first downs. Saturday, Thunder was really the thunder that all Trojan fans have long admired.

The Obvious – The Trojans scored 35 points and 434 yards in offense, their second-lowest totals in 2005.

The Not So Obvious – Let's give credit to Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, who made life difficult last year for the Trojans at the Coliseum. The problem with the Cal defense was their offense kept giving the Trojans opportunities. In a bigger picture, Cal's defense, No. 2 in the Pac-10, gave future opponents a larger worry. Let's face it, if you hold Leinart to no scoring passes and Reggie Bush to under 100 yards rushing and no touchdowns and still lose by 25 points, it's time to call Pac-10 911.

The Obvious – The Trojans were penalized for 90 yards on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – While the illegal procedures and some false starts were annoying, the killer Trojan penalties were the undisciplined unsportsmanlike calls that did as much as anything in keeping the score down. Whether the flags were a case of a Trojan team bent on proving their dominance, discretion would have been better than valor. This has been a major problem throughout the season, and one has to wonder that in the really big game, Fresno State, UCLA, and perhaps the you-know-what, one of these undisciplined actions won't prove to be lethal at the worst time.

The Obvious – The first Trojan penalty of the afternoon was committed when former Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits Darnell Bing and Cal freshman DeSean Jackson "met" for the first time in college.

The Not So Obvious – It could be argued you could see this one coming, but Bing laid some extra activities on Jackson, which seemed to inspire DeSean. The play began with a reverse to the speedy Jackson and he was brought down by Bing on a fine play. Bing was also accused of a personal foul on the Bears' Marshaun Lynch on a kickoff following the LenDale White's opening Trojan score.

The Obvious – Prior to Saturday, Cal linebacker Ryan Foltz said,"It helps to know that they're (USC) just a bunch of college kids just like us. There's a lot of pride that we were the last team to knock them off. We take pride in always playing well against these guys."

The Not So Obvious – As the old British 60's group Chad and Jeremy crooned, "And that was yesterday and yesterday's gone." Well, if six Cal turnovers is playing well, it was truly an outstanding day for the Bears.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense recorded four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

The Not So Obvious – In holding Cal to its lowest point total under the three-year direction of Jeff Tedford, the Trojan defense is making a move, although it certainly helped that quarterback Joe Ayoob was in full panic mode after his first pass interception.The Trojans' front four of Frostee Rucker, LaJuan Ramsey, Sedrick Ellis, and Lawrence Jackson are no longer a question mark. Holding Cal's sensational running back Marshawn Lynch to 87 should be the final piece of evidence. Their intimidation of Ayoob left the Bear fans unmercifully booing the JC transfer and applauding the switch to junior signal-caller Steve Levy, who entered the game in the final quarter.

The Obvious – After the game, Cal guard Aaron Merz complained that while the Trojan defense was outstanding, they were spitting on them and getting in their facemasks.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday's game, Cal guard Aaron Merz said, "We're the only team that's put a blemish on them in recent history, and all the attention we got from that is a good feeling," Well, Aaron, it's not like we disbelieve you, but you don't pet the rattlesnake on the head with those type of comments before a game and expect not to get bit. Since when is football played by choirboys?

The Obvious – It figured that Saturday's game was going to be played by the big boys and this was not going to be a contest for the feint of heart.

The Not So Obvious – Early in the game, Bear linemen were going down like flies as first offensive lineman Erik Robertson was helped off the field in Cal's first series and then later in the second quarter, he was joined by stellar defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. It's safe to say, the Trojans were playing this one with some intense physical play.

The Obvious – It's hard to imagine a better pass receiving fullback than Trojan senior David Kirtman.

The Not So Obvious – Kirtman validated the O/NSO assessment with a great 18-yard grab early in the first quarter. In the fourth quarter, Pete Carroll allowed this talented athlete to run some tailback in the Trojans thin running back unit. This senior season for Kirtman certainly presents a valid NFL application and a Sunday paycheck.

The Obvious – Many fans that didn't wish to pay the entrance fee to Memorial Stadium or couldn't get a ticket sat up in an area behind the stadium called Tightwad Hill.

The Not So Obvious – On television, Tightwad Hill looks like a spot too far away to enjoy the game, even for free. In person, however, it is a great spot if you can stand sitting on a pronounced slope. In the spirit of good will, there were also a number of Trojan fans, wearing their cardinal and gold colors, sitting with a large gathering of Bear fans.

The Obvious – The Trojans showcased, for lack of a better word, their "awesome," young linebackers as sophomore Keith Rivers. Brian Cushing, and Rey Maualuga all showed an ABC audience of things to come.

The Not So Obvious – So, when your friends doubt the publicity attributed to the Pete Carroll recruiting machine, just says three words – Rivers, Cushing, and Maualuga. Frightening might also apply to these three consensus prep All-Americans being on the same field at the same time. If LenDale White and Reggie Bush are Thunder and Lightening, the three prodigal linebackers must be DDO - Death, Destruction, and Obliteration.

The Obvious – True Trojan freshman linebacker Brian Cushing led the Men of Troy in tackles with seven.

The Not So Obvious – Thanks to the ABC, fans in New Jersey were able to watch the game and what a time for young, Garden State Cushing to display his skills to his family and friends. From the days we watched the kid on FOX with his incomparable athletic skills at Bergen Catholic High, he has reminded us of Bill Romanowski. The fact that this was his first Trojan start was probably overwhelming and exciting for his family back in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Who can forget how the kid came to Los Angeles on his recruiting visit with his mother, who was blown away with the "Trojan" vacation , only to return to a stunned father, Frank, who expected the Trojan weekend to be nothing more than a nice visit? And haven't we heard that one before?

The Obvious – Linebacker Oscar Lua did not play on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – Did it matter? Probably not in the short run in Berkeley, but with the future status of freshman linebacker Rey Maualuga uncertain, any Trojan fan in his/her right mind will want the former Indio star ready to go. Lua's leadership and stability is a necessity for the Trojans to reach their final destination. Certainly Rey-Rey looked every bit as good as his billing, but the off the field issues are deep, intense, and highly unpredictable.

The Obvious – Tailback Reggie Bush was held to 82 yards rushing, four yards receiving, and no touchdowns.

The Not So Obvious – Did it hurt his Heisman hopes? For the moment, the answer is probably yes. However, no matter what the San Diego star does from here on out will probably go a long way in the Trojans' chances of winning a record third consecutive title. With the UCLA game on national television, voters will get one, last good look at No. 5. In the eyes of NFL teams, Bush has already won the NFL's Heisman draft.

The Obvious – On one play in the fourth quarter, tackle Sam Baker left the game to be replaced by junior supersub Kyle Williams, the junior from Highland Park High in Dallas, Texas.

The Not So Obvious – As Williams made his way into the Trojan huddle, a Trojan fan yelled, " Yeah Kyle! That's your grandfather talking." And, yes, there was a proud smile on Rod Rojas' face.

The Obvious - The Trojans offensive line received one of its stiffest challenges from a determined Cal defensive line.

The Not So Obvious - Give credit to the lads in the trenches for being able to adjust to whatever Cal's defensive coordinator and scheme was thrown at them. Offensive guard Fred Matua seemed to be the pancake master of Strawberry Canyon as a number of times Bear defensive linemen were on their back with Big Freddy playing the part of the Maple syrup. Freddy did get concerned on one play when the Bears' Matt Malele, a cousin, was put on his back and you could tell their was some personal anguish from No. 51 who stayed with the Cal trainers who were checking Malele out.

The Obvious – One of the missing traditions around the country is that of Card Stunts, where students in a section hold up colored cards to form a picture or saying.

The Not So Obvious – Cal students performed the rarely seen activity and displayed a USC logo, which drew Trojan applause, and then the Cal section added a "blue cross" through it to show their distain for the Men of Troy. Trick or treat.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll's defense is charted for every possible statistic.

The Not So Obvious – One of the areas that the Trojans chart is "strip attempts," the number of times a Trojan defender tries to rip the ball out of an opponent's arms. The Trojans' were successful on Saturday in the "ripping" department, thanks to two fumble recoveries by linebacker Keith Rivers and freshman defensive tackle Kyle Moore. The fact that the Carroll's defense has 11 caused turnovers in their last two games increases the evidence this defense is also making is making a Pasadena push.

The Obvious – The Trojans' special teams did not allow a kickoff or punt return for any significant damage.

The Not So Obvious – Considering that Cal's Marshawn Lynch was back receiving kickoffs makes this an important aspect of the game. Let's also give credit to freshman kicker Troy Van Blarcom who nailed some fine kickoff efforts for touchbacks that didn't allow Lynch to display his unlimited skills.

The Obvious – The Trojans are awaiting word on the condition of linebacker Thomas Williams, who went out to a knee injury.

The Not So Obvious – A source close to the team said on Sunday that Williams is expected to play next Saturday against Fresno State, but the Trojan injury beat goes on and on. The potential loss of Williams, a football "gym rat" would have been deeply felt. If there is one consistent about Williams, the Vacaville star comes to play each and every play. His enthusiasm is well documented and he is certainly instrumental at the Coliseum in getting fans up to cheer.

The Obvious – The Trojans' Coliseum game program, which contains around 228 pages, is about as good as it gets and costs a reasonable $5. The Not So Obvious – The Cal game program, called Kickoff, is a $5 dollar buy and featured standout center Marvin Philip on Saturday's game cover. The program on Saturday contained 176 mostly color pages. Both programs contain black and white mugs of the players, an admitted personal disappointment of this wag.

The Obvious – Arriving at the Oakland Airport around 8:48 a.m., a rental car representative said to the O/NSO, " Boy, there are sure a lot of USC fans here today, Is there a big game today?"

The Not So Obvious – Leaving out of John Wayne earlier at 7:15, a security guard said, " Boy, I am sure glad you guys beat Notre Dame. If they had won, I couldn't have standed their arrogance. Go beat Cal for me, okay?" Sure, no problem, where's the leather helmet?

The Obvious – The USC parking structures charge $20 per car on game day.

The Not So Obvious – There is no tougher place to park than a game in the hills of Berkeley. However, a number of WeAreSC staff found a place in a church that was charging $20 and was just a short walk onto the pretty Cal campus. The church rep even said to hold on to the receipt because it's tax deductible. Now that's a deal. Somebody call Dr. Sample.

The Obvious – It is not unusual to see a large amount of cars driving to the Coliseum with their Trojan flags flying above their side windows.

The Not So Obvious – The ride on the 880 into Berkeley featured more than just a number of cars that had Trojan flags flying high.

The Obvious – With the top team in the nation making a visit to Berkeley, there was a large number of fans trying to get tickets throughout the campus and nearby the stadium.

The Not So Obvious – Nope, we didn't see too many ducats available and should that be expected considering the hype of the game and the Trojans' celebrity status?

The Obvious – The Bears have their own version of the Trojan Fan Fest, that conglomeration of party, food, son, and commercial give-a-ways that takes place on the lawn in front of the Coliseum peristyle end.

The Not So Obvious – Located next to Memorial Stadium and on a FieldTurf surface, to compare the Bears' Fan Fest with the Trojans' Coliseum arrangement is like comparing a VW with a Porche.

The Obvious – Before each home game, the Trojan team traditionally does the Trojan Walk, that wonderful fan experience of forming a spirit tunnel for the players coming off the team bus.

The Not So Obvious – The visiting players entrance for Memorial Stadium is located on the opposite side of the main entrance and is a very small parking lot on a hill. More than a number of Trojan fans were concerned when the Trojan busses didn't arrive two hour prior to the 12:30 kickoff time. According to the crack O/NSO watch, team busses arrived at 10:57, allowing fans and player families to breathe a sigh of relief. No way was Pete Carroll going to repeat the disaster of 2003 when the team arrived too early. Saturday was a case of better late than early.

The Obvious – Former Trojan standout receiver John Jackson is a 1540 sideline reporter and post-game talk show host.

The Not So Obvious – Having done the FSW2 play-by-play on Friday night's exciting game between Colton and Redlands East Valley, Jackson came dashing into Memorial Stadium on Saturday with a roller suitcase. Telecasting a game in Redlands that ended well past 10:00 p.m. on Friday night and being in Berkeley on Saturday morning is even a challenge for as gifted an "athlete" as Jackson.

The Obvious – Cal freshman wide receiver DeSean Jackson and the Trojan freshman receiver Patrick Turner both wear No. 1.

The Not So Obvious – Following the game, the two former prep All-American receivers met at mid-field for some final exchanges. There they were, perhaps the top two receivers coming out of high school last season and perhaps going to universities that nobody really thought they would be attending. For Jackson, most thought USC and in Tennessee, there was the hope of seeing Turner in Nyland Stadium. It is a tangled recruiting web we weave.

The Obvious – There is no more intense competitor in Trojan football lore than athletic director and Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett.

The Not So Obvious – As Garrett approach the entrance to Memorial Stadium, old No. 20 looked as though he was playing in the game. There were no smiles and the face was a look of all business. The painful memory of 2003 will do that to the supreme commander.

The Obvious – As the Trojans continue on the path to Pasadena, a number of fans in Berkeley were wearing all sorts of new T-shirts with entertaining messages.

The Not So Obvious – A number of fans that were waiting for the team bus came prepared for a potential tough game from the Bears. One fan wore a T-shirt that read vertically on one side "4+9&9, 1:32 left, No Timouts, 80,000 fans, Notre Dame Stadium" and on the backside read "No Problem, Fight On." Now that's telling it like it is.

The Obvious – The Trojan Marching Band is its usual splendid job up in the Bay Area, both at the rally and the game.

The Not So Obvious – It was hard to tell before the game whether Trojan fans, who showed up in large numbers and vocal chords, were cheering louder than the Bear fans who were booing when Art Bartner's band began their traditional pregame routine.

The Obvious – On Dec. 3, the Trojans final regular season game against UCLA will be preceded by the annual spirit tunnel and recognition to the Trojan seniors.

The Not So Obvious – Cal had a nice pre game touch for their seniors as the Bears' band formed a spirit tunnel and the players were greeted at the 50-yardline by their parents, who posed with a photographer for a picture with their son. The O/NSO thought it was very classy.

The Obvious -.Fans who attended the game in person got a chance to sit on ancient wooden seats with no backs.

The Not So Obvious – The only difference between the seats at Notre Dame Stadium and Cal is the fact that the wooden seats at Cal have more horizontal length in which to sit. As far as discomfort, it's take your pick, although Cal does offer fans a chance to rent soft cushions that have a back to them.

The Obvious – There was your usual vendor stands of food at Memorial Stadium, including the usual hamburgers, hot dogs, and tacos.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO particularly enjoyed the teriyaki BBQ chicken kabobs and the tasty garlic fries. Okay, it wasn't Benihanas, but it served its purpose.

The Obvious – The reputed bad traffic getting into Memorial Stadium was not a problem, especially for those that came early or by BART.

The Not So Obvious – A freaking disaster would be the best way to describe getting out of Berkeley. It took nearly two hours on University Ave to get to the Hwy 880 and on to a San Jose Airport departure. Needless to say, we missed our flight and ended up leaving from San Francisco International, another story altogether. A special thank you from the O/NSO and WeAreSC crack photog Joe Andras to Dave Baker, Commissioner of the Arena Football League and father of starting Trojan left tackle, Sam. The Commish was kind enough to help two tired and straggling media members with a ride back to John Wayne airport at 12:30 a.m.. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

The Obvious – So now the Trojans magic number is just two, as in two winning games and it's back to the Rose Bowl and an appearance with Texas, a match that now has the country buzzing.

The Not So Obvious – However, there is still much work to be done with the braggadocios and cocky No.16 Fresno State Bulldogs (8-1), probable champions of the WAC. These will be hungry and rabid Bulldogs, both team and fans, heading through the "Grapevine" into LA with a pit-bull mentality of destroying the Trojans' season and multi-streaks. Until next Saturday night, we'll just relax and know there is no place like home, a location the Trojans figure to hopefully be the next "three" games.


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