One Man's Opinion - Fresno State review

Coming into this game, Pete Carroll said the same thing over and over again. Fresno State might be the best team they will have played up to this point in the season. I am convinced that many did not believe him, especially folks who happen to watch SC but also follow Notre Dame and Oregon. Well, after this hard fought 50 to 42 victory by USC, I think Fresno State has made believers of many.

Over the past 38 years or so, I have seen many many games and victories by the Trojans, but I am not sure I have ever seen a more exciting or bigger offensive shootout than the game tonight. Yet despite the total of 92 points between the two teams, one could still argue that some of SC's biggest plays came on the defensive side of the ball such as the four interceptions and the crucial fumble recovery by freshman Brian Cushing. Up till this season many fans complained that Darnell Bing had yet to live up to his potential. Well, after his two big interceptions tonight, I think it is fair to say that Darnell has finally taken that big step up that all the SC fans have been hoping to see. In fact, the much heralded safety duo of Scott Ware and Darnell Bing might very well be as fine a duo as there is in college football today.

When discussing Reggie Bush, what can one really say? I have personally had the chance to see OJ Simpson, Anthony Davis, Charlie White, Ricky Bell, and Marcus Allen among other stars, but I have never seen anyone playing tailback for the Trojans have one single game that matched the phenomenal display that Reggie put on tonight. Incredibly, Reggie accounted for 513 total yards--that is as much as some guys manage in an entire season. He rushed 23 times for 294 yards, had 151 return yards and he gained 68 yards through the air. That is a USC record and I'll take a guess that few, if any, D1 football players have ever surpassed Reggie's one game performance tonight. It is true that he did have one very costly fumble and smacking the opponent on the helmet right in front of the referee was not a Phi Beta Kappa move. Having said that, I don't think it's a stretch to say if anyone has room for error, it is Reggie Bush. Reggie Bush might not win the Heisman Trophy, but to my way of thinking, he should.

When a team scores 50 points, it is hard to find much fault with the offensive performance. Despite gaining 508 net yards offensively, the passing game was never in any kind of groove. Matt had a very commendable night passing, hitting 22 of 33 for 198 yards and 1 TD without throwing any interceptions. However, it seemed like he was under alot of pressure and it also looked like the receivers were having some trouble separating from their defenders, or Matt was having a tough time finding the open guy. It would be unfair to lay this all on SC. To some extent, the difficulty in the passing game was a result of the very tough defense played by Fresno State. In addition, it did not help that Dwayne Jarrett did not have his best night in a Trojan uniform, dropping one sure touchdown pass very early in the game. In some ways, it seemed like DJ's drop was indicative of a less than stellar offensive performance by USC in the entire first half. During the second quarter of this game, USC had to settle for field goals twice to end drives, and that has been the exception, not the rule, this season.

It has been said by many people that this offense is the best ever at the college level. After watching tonight's game, it is easy to understand why that is very likely true and why I personally believe that the USC offense is unstoppable. Tonight, on a night when the passing game was merely average, it was the rushing game that was unreal. USC gained 310 net yards rushing which beckons this question. How often does a team rush for that kind of yardage and still manage to lose a game? I guess it happens on rare occasions, but the Fresno State game was not one of them. As stated before, Reggie was a one man show for much of the night and every time he touched the ball, he was a legitimate threat to go all the way. The strange thing about that statement is that it is not an exaggeration in any way. Bush was simply more than the Bulldogs could handle and watching the game on TV, one could actually see the look of dejection on the face of some of the FSU defenders after Reggie ripped off yet another long run and there were oh so many in this game. And when mentioning the running game, we should never forget to complement the great effort by the dominating USC offensive line. Sure Reggie was awesome, but on most of those great runs, the Oline played an initial vital role in setting him free and of course, the Oline also did a very good job of protecting Matt against a blitzing and pressuring Bulldog defense.

What about the USC defense tonight? Was it really as bad as one might initially think when they see that Fresno State put up 42 on the Trojans? The short answer to that question is no, the defense was not that bad and the guys stepped up big-time when the game was on the line. That total of 42 points is the highest total scored against USC during this entire 33 game winning streak. But to be fair, Fresno State deserves lots and lots of credit for that. The Bulldogs managed to do what others have attempted to do, but have not succeeded. Other teams have actually gained more yards against SC in recent years than the 426 gained by Fresno State. What the Bulldogs did differently was convert those yards into points and also, the Bulldogs refused to wilt. All the credit in the world goes to the FSU Offense and the valiant effort, especially in the first half, by FSU quarterback Paul Pinegar. He was simply on fire in the entire first half, hitting 17 of 22 and leading his team to 3 first half touchdowns. He reminded me of Aaron Rogers and Trent Edwards in last years games against Cal and Stanford. I believe Pete Carroll would be the first to admit that when a quarterback gets in a groove while executing the short passing game, even the very best of defenses can be in for some hard times. Such was the case for SC tonight, more prominently in the first half than in the second half. What was especially hard to watch was FSU converting on 3 and long or 4th and long. When an offense does that against the SC defense it is maddening to watch. One can't help but wonder why the Trojans did not bring the heat, since almost every time Pinegar had time he was money. But then, when carefully thinking about the situation, one realizes that by not blitzing all the time and dropping guys back into coverage, SC was able to pick off 4 crucial passes, all of which played no small part in SC's victory. The truth is simple. SC is not the only good team around and even with good or great defenders wearing Cardinal and Gold, some very strong offensive units are going to put up their share of points.

What about special team play? First and foremost, kudos go to Mario Danelo. He was a perfect 3 for 3 tonight on his field goals and for the first time all season, those points were crucial since SC won by only 8 points. He does not have great range, but he is very accurate and reliable from short and medium range distances. He also made each PAT attempted. As for kickoff and punt coverage, the woes continue. FSU had good success on some kickoffs and they had a very long punt return which certainly helped keep the Bulldogs in the game. The kickoffs by VanBlarcom ran the entire spectrum from very poor to excellent kicks that sailed out of the endzone for touchbacks. And once again, it is only fair to mention that Fresno State has excellent kickoff and punt return guys who have a record of making some outstanding returns. As for penalties, well SC had their share; they were penalized 4 times for 56 yards according to the official box score, though it seemed to me that there were a couple of personal fouls that were rather costly. These kids are only human and though I am sure they regret some of their actions, it is easy to understand howsome things might get out of hand in the heat of a huge game like this.

Injuries are never an excuse for anything, but it is worth noting that once again, SC played somewhat shorthanded at linebacker. Very early in the game, emerging star Keith Rivers went out of the game with a recurrent hamstring injury and he never returned. Once again, Colin Ashton was called upon to step up and he did just that. At one time in the game, SC actually had Ashton, Maualuga and Cushing as their linebackers. That means they were going with two true frosh against the number 16 rated team in the country and the third guy was a former walk on. It also appeared that SC played a little short handed at wr. I am not sure what injury Patrick Turner suffered, but he was reportedly carted off the field and he never played in the game. Yet once again the Trojans came through with flying colors. When the final whistle sounded, SC came out on top once again, for the 33rd consecutive time, the 44th time in the last 45 games and they beat a top 25 rated AP opponent for the 15th consecutive time. Despite being down at halftime for the 7th time (statistic given by Fox Sports) during this incredible winning streak, SC managed to storm back, take the lead, and then continue to fight off each and every comeback effort that FSU could muster.

Now that the Unviersity of Southern California Trojan Football team has played for 10 consecutive weeks without a break, now what? SC has taken each and every team's best shot and they are still undefeated and rated number one in the country as they so very much deserve. Finally, the Trojans are going to get a much need week off to rest, heal and to prepare for their bitter rivals, the UCLA Bruins. This is a very important game for many reasons. SC always wants to beat the Bruins, that is a given. However, this time, the Bruins could share the Pac-10 title if they were to beat USC. At the beginning of every season, USC's primary goal is to get to the Rose Bowl. This year is absolutely no exception and it is more important than ever. This is one of those years that the Rose Bowl is also home to the BCS Championship game. For USC to realize all its dreams, they must beat UCLA. The Bruins will likely put up some significant points against this Trojan squad, but I simply can't see UCLA stopping SC. I don't care if the Powder Blues have a month to prepare. Games are often won and lost in the trenches and I just don't see anything from the Bruins that tells me they can stop this USC Offense or match up with the SC Offensive Line. In two weeks, I guess we will know for certain.


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