Move Those Chains

There are tons of players around the college football landscape that make the game challenging for opposing defenses. There is only one that makes it truly unfair. A lot of people use a lot of different words to describe Reggie Bush, but there are really only three that matter. Best. Player. Ever.

Play it again, Sam. And again, and again, and again and…: I want to like instant replay. I really do. Th problem that I have with it now is how poorly it's being used. When officials review a play, they are looking for one thing: indisputable evidence.

So answer me this. When the replay official has to look at the same play from five different angles 20 times each, how can there be anything "indisputable" about it? It should take one, maybe two looks from a couple of different angles and if nothing jumps out right away, there isn't going to be anything conclusive about the play.

Most replay reviews should be like The Matrix sequels: watch them once, go with your first impression and never think about them again.

Who throws a shoe? Honestly: Was I the only one who was more than slightly miffed when Richard Marshall brought down Reggie Bush in the open field and then proceeded to launch his shoe a good 20 yards in the air?

First of all, at that point in the game, the Trojans were trying to conserve time and put some points on the board before halftime. USC used a timeout directly after the play, but what if the Trojans hadn't used one and were hurrying back to the line? Reggie would have had to come out of the game.

It's one thing to go back a few yards, slip your shoe on and get ready for the next play. It's an entirely different thing to have to wait for it to come back down from orbit.

At the very least, Marshall's shoe shot put should have resulted in a delay of game penalty. And at the very most, it's not all that different from Kyle Turley's helmet toss a few years ago that got him ejected from the game and fined. I realize that one was in celebration and the other in anger, but throwing equipment is throwing equipment, no matter how you spin it.

One more year! One more year!: There are tons of players around the college football landscape that make the game challenging for opposing defenses. There is only one that makes it truly unfair.

A lot of people use a lot of different words to describe Reggie Bush, but there are really only three that matter. Best. Player. Ever.

I've only been alive for 22 years, but if Reggie Bush is the best football player I ever see, I won't be the least bit disappointed.

Analysts will go on and on about how he is a combination of so many great running backs like Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders and LaDanian Tomlinson. But against Fresno State, comparisons to other football players just wouldn't do. On Saturday night, Bush was Takeru Kobayashi, The Godfather and David Blaine rolled into an iron-willed, lightning quick, one-sleeved blur of cardinal and gold. His performance was dominant, timeless and magical.

In 50 years, someone is going to mention the Heisman trophy and be met with a response of, "That's the thing that Reggie Bush won, right?"

And now for something completely different: For the first time under Pete Carroll, the Trojan defense allowed over 40 points in a game. Fresno State scored three times in each half and seemed to be moving the ball at will against USC. If you're looking to assign blame for the defensive implosion, lay it on Pete Carroll for the first half and the Trojan defense in the second.

For the entire first half and most of the second, Fresno State ran six different plays. They weren't even variations on six plays, they were six, and only six, plays.

The first was a run with the tailback straight up the middle, which the Bulldogs tried eight times in the first half with little to no success.

Fresno State also tried pounding the fullback up the middle, which led to a touchdown and a few first downs, but no long gains, at least in the first half.

The third play, and the one that gave them the most success, was a route that the wide receivers and tight ends ran seemingly at will against the Trojans. The wide receiver took one step to the inside of the Trojan cornerback, put him on his outside hip and ran straight up the field. Bulldog quarterback Paul Pinegar hit the receiver in stride before the safety help could get there every time. This route led to the Bulldogs' third touchdown of the first half and numerous first downs.

The other plays they ran were a simple ten-yard hitch to the wideout, some form of quick screen to a receiver, and a pass to the tailback in the flat or just in front of the line of scrimmage.

Of course, there were other plays, but not many, and if you review the game, you'll see those six again and again.

Now, the reason Pete Carroll should get the blame for the defense's performance in the first half is that no adjustments were being made to any of the passing plays.

The running plays were being stopped simply because the Trojan defensive linemen and linebackers were better than Fresno State's, but the area between the cornerback and safety was constantly open for the Bulldog receivers.

The second half was an entirely different story however. Carroll started making those adjustments, as everyone knew he would. Carroll had Scott Ware and Darnell Bing step in front of that seam route quicker and Trojan safeties were perfectly positioned to intercept four Pinegar passes.

The Bulldog passing game was shutting down, but unfortunately for the Trojans, their run defense abandoned them. The safeties were forced to protect those seams and the Trojan linemen and linebackers simply stopped performing against the run. Late in the third quarter and into the fourth, they were allowing those runs straight up the middle to go for eight or nine yards, when in the first quarter they were stuffed at the line.

No amount of coaching can help you stop a running game like Fresno State's. It's all about drive and determination, and towards the end, the Bulldogs had more of both in the trenches.

I think a large part of the lack of tenacity was that, for the first time this season, the defense seemed to think that the game was in hand well before the final whistle sounded. They felt that somebody else would make the plays as long as they just showed up on the field.

Luckily, the defense was able to focus and get two huge late-game turnovers, finally cutting off all hope for the Bulldogs.

Phew. All that actual football analysis gave me quite a head rush.

And sometimes God's greatest gifts are answered prayers: After the Trojans' opening drive, I wrote in my notes, "How do you not let Reggie Bush touch the ball one time on the first drive?" The only reason I mention this is because of how right I was to want the ball in Bush's hands on just about every play during that game. Of course, I also said that The O.C. would never catch on, so I'll take ‘em when I can get ‘em.

Talk the talk, balk the walk: On a Trojan kickoff return, Reggie Bush hit a seam and took it upfield before being upended by Bulldog kicker Kyle Zimmerman. After the tackle, Zimmerman hung around, standing over Bush and jawing away, presumably about either what a great tackle it was or how he'd finally be able to sit at the grown-up table during team meetings. Either way, what was this guy thinking?

If people haven't learned by now, they should take note that when you tackle Reggie Bush, or more correctly, when Bush lets you tackle him, you pick him up, dust him off and thank him for allowing you a story to tell your grandchildren. But under no circumstances do you make him upset by running your mouth and ultimately looking like a fool. Also, this guy was a kicker. By rule, the only person a kicker can talk smack to should be the opposing team's mascot. And even then it depends on what team he's playing.

Shot of the game: After Darnell Bing's first interception and apparent return for a touchdown, FSN showed Pete Carroll running, skipping and shouting down the sideline, his arms raised and a huge smile plastered across his face.

I absolutely love Carroll's energy and obvious enthusiasm for his team as a whole and his players as individuals, and I can't get over how ridiculous the notion of Pete Carroll being too "rah-rah" or looking too unprofessional is. This is college football. Everything about it is supposed to be unprofessional. In fact, the word "professional" is basically taboo when it comes to the college game. Pete Carroll doesn't just coach this team; he plays with it. When Matt Leinart drops back to pass, Carroll is in pass protection. When LenDale White runs up the middle, Carroll lowers his shoulders. When Steve Smith goes over the middle, Carroll braces for impact.

Carroll genuinely cares about these kids so much, it's impossible for him to hide his euphoria over a great play or grief over an injury, which is exactly how a college coach should act. Every other team in the nation would be lucky to have a coach with half of Carroll's enthusiasm.

Miss momentum: Early in the third quarter, the Trojans went on a 21-0 run that put them ahead and basically told Fresno State that there would be no outscoring USC on Saturday night. But even with every Reggie Bush run and Matt Leinart completion, there were four things that led to the swing. The first was an incomplete pass on third down, deflected by Ryan Ting and forcing a Bulldog punt. The Trojans put up a touchdown on that drive and on the ensuing possession, Brandon Ting came up with an interception on another third down play. After the Bulldog's got the ball back, Pinegar's very next pass was intercepted by Darnell Bing. While those three plays were instrumental in the Trojans' comeback, nothing was more important than my girlfriend arriving home from work during halftime. In games against Oregon, Arizona State and now Fresno State, Shayna has arrived at halftime of a deficit and turned it into a victory.

Pete Carroll can keep making it hard on himself by coming up with inspiring halftime speeches, or he could just save himself the trouble and give her a field pass.

Finish strong: As a writer, it's important for me to take notes during the game in order to have something to jog my memory when writing these reviews. That being said, when the game finally drew to a conclusion on Saturday night, I looked down at what I'd written from the middle of the fourth quarter until the end of the game. It went something like this, " ." I suppose it was party because I was standing in front of the television during that entire time, but it was mostly because it's hard to type with one hand shielding your eyes and the other checking your pulse for abnormalities. Say what you want about this season so far, but just don't say that it hasn't been fun.


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