O/NSO - Fresno State review

It was nasty, physical, and cardiac intensive, but on a rivalry day usually reserved for the UCLA Bruins, the top-ranked USC Trojans (11-0) learned it's not the size of the bulldog but the bite with an E-ticket victory over the No. 16 Fresno State Bulldogs (8-2) 50-42 before 90,007 drained Coliseum fans who departed into the Los Angeles evening in near stunned silence.

The Obvious – It was nasty, physical, and cardiac intensive, but on a rivalry day usually reserved for the UCLA Bruins, the top-ranked USC Trojans (11-0) learned it's not the size of the bulldog but the bite with an E-ticket victory over the No. 16 Fresno State Bulldogs (8-2) 50-42 before 90,007 drained Coliseum fans who departed into the Los Angeles evening in near stunned silence.

The Not So Obvious – In Reggie Bush's record performance that could only be called a Heisman ballot stuffer, the least recognized hero of the evening was little Trojan sophomore placekicker Mario Danelo from San Pedro, whose three field goals were the point difference while Reggie Bush was creating an evening of 513 all-purpose yards that may not be repeated in this generation.

The Obvious – After winning their 33rd in a row, the Trojans were ranked No. 1 in the country on Sunday for an AP record 31 consecutive polls.

The Not So Obvious – Again, voters in the AP were busy reevaluating feeling concerning the Trojans and the Texas Longhorns. Jeff Parson of the Wichita Eagle in Kansas changed his first-place vote from USC to Texas this week, because of the disparity between the two teams in terms of tight games. Parsons said, "Another factor for me is how good Ohio State is playing. Texas won at their place and I think that's even more impressive than [USC's] Notre Dame victory. It's really close to me but if they played right now, I'd favor Texas and this is the first time I've felt this way."

The Obvious – The Trojans opened the game with nine straight passes in their scripted entrance.

The Not So Obvious – On Sunday, ESPN News analyst Jim Donnan spoke with Fresno coach Pat Hill who said the Fresno strategy was to take away the Trojans' passing attack and play physical. On both accounts, Hill's strategy played right into the mindset of the Trojan offensive philosophy of early passing, passing, passing. What the Bulldogs couldn't handle was the incomparable Reggie Bush, the most explosive Trojan running back since Mr. Juice. It appears at times the Trojans go to the running game as a last resort or when all else fails. It is also quite "obvious" that the Bulldog secondary will have some future Sunday players as they virtually shut down the Trojans fleet receivers from any real damage.

The Obvious – Trojan tailback Reggie Bush, who rushed for 294 yards in 23 carries and two touchdowns, set a Pac-10 record with 513 all-purpose yards, erasing the 368 yards established by Anthony Davis against Notre Dame in 1972.

The Not So Obvious – If Bush were to return for his senior year and we think there is a better chance of Marcus Allen returning for one more Trojan season, he might be a biggest football celebrity in Los Angeles than any Trojan in recent years.

The Obvious – In Reggie's 50-yard dash in the third quarter, more than one person said it was almost a carbon copy of the O.J. Simpson's famous 64-yard run against UCLA in 1967, which propelled John McKay's Trojans into the national championship.

The Not So Obvious – Like the Simpson's legendary run, Reggie had one final escort near the end zone in a hustling receiver Steve Smith, who also caught a 6-yard scoring pass from Leinart. In 1967, Simpson had a similar escort in Earl McCullough, a receiver with blazing speed out of Long Beach City College.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offense accounted for 508 yards in total offense.

The Not So Obvious – Coming into Saturday's game, the Trojans were averaging 577.6 yards per game. Reggie Bush proved football can be a one-man game on rare occasion.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart completed 22 of 33 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown.

The Not So Obvious – Don't blame Lefty for a 200 yard performance. The FSU secondary led by stellar corner Richard Marshall and a well-coached defensive backfield kept the pressure on Leinart, who had to improvise what seemed like play after play, making great plays on his own. Again, the Trojans couldn't seem to locate their tight ends for any significant damage. Of course if Dwayne Jarrett would have caught a sure long touchdown from Lefty early in the first quarter, perhaps some of the stream and vinegar would have been drained from the Bulldog's plate.

The Obvious - It appeared that the Trojans' offensive strategy, at times, was playing defense on itself like a third and one pass call in the third quarter that fell incomplete.

The Not So Obvious – Of course, LenDale White was also stopped short at one point on a critical short yardage call off the left side, thanks to the toughness of the Bulldog defense. When you can't get yards behind the dependable Sam Baker and Deuce Lutui, you know there's some head-knocking goin on.

The Obvious – Matt Leinart is certainly one of the Trojan leaders, being named one of the 2005 team captains.

The Not So Obvious – After the Trojans scored on Reggie Bush' 45-yard run in the third quarter, Leinart hustled down the Trojans' sideline and placed himself inside the defensive huddle to urge his teammates to stop the Bulldogs' offense.

The Obvious – The Bulldogs led at halftime 21-12, the first time in three years the Trojans have been behind at home.

The Not So Obvious – You can chalk up a number reasons the Bulldogs walked into their locker room with supreme confidence following the first half of play. The Trojans passed too much early, playing into Pat Hill's game plan, stopping LenDale White on a third and one in the first stanza for a loss of two, a Bulldog fake punt, curious Trojan play-calling, great Fresno emotion and execution on offense and defense, and the knowledge Pat Hill's group had already scored 21 points in the first half compared to the Trojans' game average of 19.5 points per outing.

The Obvious – The Trojans scored 37 points in the second half to hold on to the victory.

The Not So Obvious – Give the Men of Troy all the credit in the world for surviving on Saturday night. As famed attorney Vincent Bugliosi would say, "They have the gonads of ten thousand elephants." These fellas are tough. In the second half, the Trojans, aside from Reggie Bush's near disastrous fumble, showed the heart again of a national champion, even if it wasn't pretty. The offensive philosophy turned to the run and boy did things pick up from there. It appears as the offense does well, the defense feeds off of it. Just ask Fresno quarterback Paul Pinegar about the intensity and pressure.

The Obvious – Considering the man-card both teams possess, the game figured to be one fraught with penalty flags and both teams were caught in a macho battle of wills.

The Not So Obvious – The two teams combined for 129 yards in flags, 56 by the Trojans and 73 yards by the Bulldogs. Some of the penalties were, of course, of the late hit variety and some were poor decision-making by both teams.

The Obvious – Fresno State quarterback Paul Pinegar, who at times looked like former Cal quarterback Aaron Rogers by completing 27 of 45 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns, did end up throwing four lethal interceptions and had one motal fumble.

The Not So Obvious – The difference in the game, besides Reggie Bush, was the fact that Matt Leinart had no destructive turnovers and Pinegar killed his team beyond repair with his. There is no question here that had Pinegar not committed his monster blunders, the Trojans would have been passing out Kleenex boxes in the locker room. However, it could also be said that without Pinegar, the Bulldogs wouldn't have even been in the game.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense intercepted Pinegar four times.

The Not So Obvious – On the season, Pinegar had only been intercepted five times.

The Obvious – One interesting facet of Saturday's game was how low Paul Pinegar squatted in getting the snap from his center, Kyle Young.

The Not So Obvious – There were times when Pinegar almost looked to be sitting on the Coliseum turf. In fact, the smaller Fresno offensive line all stayed low and were very effective in staying on balance and keeping the heavier Trojans at length through this leverage technique.

The Obvious – Trojan junior middle linebacker Oscar Lua returned to his starting position and played effectively through the game.

The Not So Obvious – One of the bigger hits of the game occurred when Lua tagged Fresno quarterback Pinegar wih a vicious hit during a first quarter blitz, which drew a positive response from the Bulldog signal-caller.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart was sacked twice by the Bulldogs' defense.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday night's game, the Bulldogs had 27 sacks on the season to rank in the top 15 in the NCAA.

The Obvious – The Bulldogs were driving for a game-winning ending when Fresno quarterback Paul Pinegar went for the dagger in the Trojan end zone only to be picked off by strong safety Darnell Bing.

The Not So Obvious – You talk about poor decision making by either Pinegar or the Fresno coaches with still 1:37 left, but why would you need to go deep down the middle when you had time and field position in your favor? It certainly appeared that patience was not a virtue by the Bulldogs and outstanding secondary play by the Trojans in the end sealed the finish. Give Bing credit who appeared to get into a wrestling match with Bulldog receiver Paul Williams and Bing's determination and strength was the major factor in the interception.

The Obvious – The critical interception by Bing kept the Trojans hopes alive and possibly sends the Bulldogs to the Liberty Bowl.

The Not So Obvious – Afterwards, FSU quarterback Pinegar said, "I was trying to get the ball to the back line to Paul Williams. I kind of ran out of time, so I tried to just get rid of the ball, so it was kind of underthrown." How about it was thrown into double coverage, Paul.

The Obvious – The interception by Darnell Bing in the end zone on FSU's final gasp sealed the fate for the Trojans' 11th victory.

The Not So Obvious – Despite Bing's great play, the junior from Long Beach will be told, no doubt, he should have taken a touchback instead of returning the ball out of the end zone. In the strange game of sports fate, anything could have happened the way the game was evolving in the Coliseum.

The Obvious – Trojan fullback David Kirtman should be considered for All-Pac-10 honors after another outstanding all-around game, especially on Reggie Bush's final two electrifying runs in which he threw the key lead blocks.

The Not So Obvious – No, it's doubtful that David will be anything higher than honorable mention, but if Reggie Bush comes out with his All-Pac-10 team, the numerous crushing blocks that sprang Reggie on Saturday was a tailback's dream. The Trojans have had some dynamic blocking fullbacks in Danny Scott for O.J. Simpson and Sam Cunningham for Anthony Davis, but for Reggie Bush, David Kirtman will always be appreciated.

The Obvious – Prior to Saturday's game, Fresno State center junior center Kyle Young said he would start at USC if he were there.

The Not So Obvious – Well, after Saturday's game, what Young can say is he played a great game and made life miserable for the Trojans' defensive line. With few exceptions, the big junior from Fallbrook looked like an All-American. On Wendell Mathis' 18-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter after a Reggie Bush fumble, Young opened a huge hole by clearing out Trojan nose tackle Sedrick Ellis, who had his hands full all night with the aggressive Young. Ellis did have a big play in the third quarter, batting down a Pinegar pass.

The Obvious – During the Trojans big run in the third quarter, offensive guard Fred Matua took it upon himself to come onto the field and get the crowd inspired.

The Not So Obvious – It could have led to a Trojan flag and offensive line coach Pat Reul was none too pleased with Matua's cheerleading. Wilmington Freddie meant well but a flag would have really hurt the Trojans' cause.

The Obvious – Fresno State coach Pat Hill said he was bringing his Bulldogs into the Coliseum to win and there would be no moral victories.

The Not So Obvious – After the game, a proud Hill said, "I want to see the Trojans win another championship and be in a position to play them again." Well, it will be interesting to see if the Trojans present Hill with another opportunity in the near future. Hmmmmm.

The Obvious – After the game, Trojan coach Pete Carroll took all the blame for what he called a "miserable performance" against the run by his defense.

The Not So Obvious – No, coach, you aren't responsible for a defense that lost another starter in linebacker Keith Rivers due to a hamstring and you certainly can't control the amount of injuries to your favorite side of the ball. You lose a Shaun Cody, a Mike Patterson, a Lofa Tatupu, a Matt Grootegoed, and a Dallas Sartz and you get a pass here. He is the same coach from last year, right?

The Obvious – The Trojans sacked Bulldog quarterback Paul Pinegar just once by Lawrence Jackson, but it accounted for a critical fumble by the senior quarterback that helped led to the Fresno State downfall.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday night's game, Bulldog quarterbacks had been sacked just 12 times.

The Obvious – Fresno State entered the game ranked 23rd in the nation against the rush.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans rushed for 308 yards. Should the Trojans have run more? Probably as a way to use time, physically equalize the Bulldog spirit, and score at the same time. But as the old saying goes, it's better late than never.

The Obvious – Fresno State showcased a fine receiver in Joe Fernandez, who scored a critical fourth quarter 6-yard scoring pass from Paul Pinegar.

The Not So Obvious – Fernandez is the son of former Miami Dolphin star defensive tackle Manny Fernandez.

The Obvious – The Trojans scored 50 points on Saturday night.

The Not So Obvious – Okay, so the Trojans were averaging 54.5 points in their first four Coliseum home games this season. Although the Trojans were four points shy of their home average, at least they get one more game against UCLA to "recover" from their drought.

The Obvious – The Trojans exploded for 28 points in the third quarter.

The Not So Obvious – The will and spirit of Fresno State is the only thing that kept Saturday's game from becoming a rout. Anybody who thinks that FSU wouldn't be a factor in the Pac-10 is on drugs. Even Pete Carroll said after the game the Bulldogs would be a great team in this year's Pac-10.

The Obvious – The Trojan defense allowed the Bulldogs' offense 427 yards, just above Fresno State's average of 410.4 per game.

The Not So Obvious – Don't blame Trojan defense end Lawrence Jackson for any defenses lapses. Leaving his feet to strip Bulldog quarterback Pinegar late in the game was a beautiful exhibition of effort. Sometimes stats don't always tell a story and this is certainly one of those cases.

The Obvious – The Trojans' kickoff coverage remains a Pete Carroll nightmare.

The Not So Obvious – However, give Fresno State's Adam Jennings credit along with the execution of their kickoff team. Jenning's showed great quickness and his blocking was suburb.

The Obvious - The Bulldogs' kick coverage showed distain for the Trojans as Pat Hill had his team repeatedly kickoff to Reggie Bush.

The Not So Obvious – Obviously "calling out" the Trojans, Pete Carroll tried to strengthen the Trojans' kickoff return potential by having linemen Fred Matua and Chilo Rachal on the return team. The Trojans also got in some special team big hits of their own thanks to coverage by Mike Brittingham and Rey Maualuga.

The Obvious – The Trojan defensive secondary twins, juniors Brandon and Ryan Ting, have been the subjects of mixed Internet banner throughout their careers.

The Not So Obvious – Both played impact rolls on Saturday due to the plight of the injured secondary. With big hits and an interception, these two Bay Area kids are coming to the rescue and it is hoped Trojan fans will appreciate their team-first attitudes.

The Obvious – The Fresno State band was located behind the press box side Peristyle end goal line.

The Not So Obvious – The Bulldogs brought their 250-member band, but only 60 members were allowed inside the Coliseum, the volume the Trojans allows for most non-conference opponents. The Bulldogs entire band did perform outside the Coliseum prior to the game and at Friday night's pep rally in old Pasadena.

The Obvious – The Bulldog's Red Wave showed up in mass with as many as 20,000 fans in attendance.

The Not So Obvious – It didn't take long to feel the Red Wave presence as many red-clad fans began to taunt Trojan fans from the get-go. Upon arriving early at the Coliseum, a group of fans turned to the O/NSO and said, " Hey, you ready to lose, buddy?" Trojan fans haven't heard this amount of "barking" since the heyday of the Washington Huskies. Imagine what it would have been like had the Bulldogs pulled off the upset.

The Obvious – One of the phenomena's of the Trojan spirit ride has been the formation of the Thundering Herd, a grassroots spirit movement that has taken on a life of its own surrounding the players' tunnel.

The Not So Obvious – Fans above the famed Coliseum players' tunnel waved a large sign that read "Fear This – SC." It certainly got the players attention from both teams.

The Obvious – Prior to the game, fans for both teams huddled at the Miller tent to watch Oregon State and Oregon have at in the Civil War.

The Not So Obvious – Normal Trojan radio sideline reporter John Jackson was the FSN television analyst along with play-by-play Bill McDonald. In addition to Jackson and McDonald, Lindsay Soto provided the sideline reports. As for the Trojan game, talk-show host Mark Willard filled in for Jackson.

The Obvious – Trojan safeties Darnell Bing and Scott Ware had critical interceptions to help the Trojans to victory.

The Not So Obvious – Bing, Ware, and corner Justin Wyatt graced the cover of the Trojans' game program.

The Obvious – Harvey Hyde is a former UNLV head football coach who helps with the Trojan 1540 pregame call-in show along with host Mark Willard.

The Not So Obvious – Fresno State head coach Pat Hill was once part of Hyde's Rebel football staff.

The Obvious – One of the highlights before every Trojan game is the Trojan Walk, where a spirit tunnel is formed in front of the peristyle end of the Coliseum to welcome Pete Carroll's team.

The Not So Obvious – The event has become so popular that part of the street where traffic flows is being interrupted, and on Saturday night it became a problem controlling the cars from cutting through the Trojan Walk. To the credit of the Trojan personnel working the lines, they stayed cool and calm as a number of fans were being pushed and moved by cars trying to get into select areas for media.

The Obvious – The Coliseum has increased its food options for those that wait to get inside the famed venue to feed their face.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO has found a respectable cuisine option in the Kamil Kabob House, which features chicken, beef and Kufta mini kababs. Located near Tunnel 11, a Greek salad is an option for the veggie folks and the prices are reasonable.

The Obvious – The Trojans had a number of recruits in attendance including star Colton defensive back Shareece Wright.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojan basketball program is also well served by the success of the football team as super Mater Dei hoops star Taylor King, once a UCLA verbal, was walking the field prior to kickoff.

The Obvious – A number of celebs were on the Trojan sidelines on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – Former Laker Rick Fox, director Spike Lee, Marcus Allen, and Delon Washington, the former Trojan running back, who was honored during the game.

The Obvious – The Trojans have lost a number starters this season due to injury.

The Not So Obvious – When you see the Trojans still winning at an historical pace despite the injury bug, you shake your head when former Parade All-America offensive linemen Jeff Byers and Drew Radovich are standing in street clothes recovering from their maladies and continue to win.

The Obvious – The Trojans grand entrance through the Coliseum tunnel moments before kickoff generally sends cardinal and gold fans into frenzy.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans were led onto the field on Saturday night by cornerback John Walker, who ran with one of the Trojan letter flags.

The Obvious – The Trojans return to the Coliseum in two weeks to host the No. 11 UCLA Bruins in the final regular season game of 2005.

The Not So Obvious – Take a deep breathe, Trojans fans, it's time to reflect and enjoy the incredible ride before history is "just" two wins away. Words can never really describe the position Pete Carroll's program has placed itself in, but in the next two week, you can bet that the nation's media will certainly try. In southern California, the USC/UCLA game has always been a sports media's dream. In the coming days, it will be non-stop rivalry talk and it doesn't get much better than that, unless of course, the Trojans create a new chapter on Jan. 4.


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