Move Those Chains - UCLA review

With all the amazing numbers that this team put up this season, LenDale White's record-setting 54th career touchdown was largely overlooked, but that is an amazing feat. Anytime you're setting records as a tailback at USC, you're doing something right.

Fourth and what now?: In case you haven't seen it, ESPN has a Pontiac Game-Changing Performance contest where one of four plays is chosen by voters as the ultimate "Game Changing" moment for the season and the respective school gets a $100,000 scholarship contribution. The final four plays for this season are: Auburn's fourth down completion against Georgia, setting up the game-winning field goal, Penn State's late-game touchdown pass to beat Northwestern, Alabama's Tyrone Prothro's catch against Southern Mississippi, and Texas' Vince Young pump faking his way to an 80-yard touchdown run. All great plays to be sure, but are you really going to sit there and tell me that Matt Leinart's fourth-and-nine completion to Dwayne Jarrett isn't one of the four game-changing moments of the year?

I can't wait to see ESPN's poll about which is the greatest band to come out of England during the 60's and list The Animals, Cream, The Kinks and The Bee Gees as the possible choices. Like I said, sure those plays were great, but 4th and nine was The Beatles of college football. Not only was it the game-changing play of the season, it might be remembered as the greatest clutch play in the history of the game, and you're telling me it can't crack the top four for this season? Hopefully ESPN wises up before they award Troy Van Blarcom the ESPY for Male Performance of the year in "Kickoff for a Touchback."

Just a thought: Matt Leinart will probably go down as the greatest quarterback in college football history when he leaves USC this year, but even that distinction doesn't dismiss him from a few Jekyll and Hyde moments during games. Against UCLA, Leinart began the game quite poorly by his standards, which he attributed to the overwhelming emotion that he was feeling playing in his final home game at the Coliseum.

Leinart bashers will claim that this is an example of the lefty quarterback's fragile psyche, that he can't perform under pressure and that the grueling nature of the NFL will be too much for him to handle. What these people don't realize is that no matter where Matt Leinart goes in the NFL, he will never be scrutinized as severely or pressured as heavily as he has been throughout his career at USC.

Peyton Manning has his team 12-0 and on the verge of becoming the first team in over 30 years to go undefeated in the NFL, but he hasn't faced anything close to what Matt Leinart has had to deal with during his career. As strange as it sounds, making the jump to the NFL will probably relieve a lot of Leinart's stress as he will no longer be playing under the shadow of the streak.

Cardinal, Gold and White: With all the amazing numbers that this team put up this season, LenDale White's record-setting 54th career touchdown was largely overlooked, but that is an amazing feat. Anytime you're setting records as a tailback at USC, you're doing something right. Reggie Bush may be remembered as the best to ever play at USC, but when you look in the record book under football's most important stat, you're going to find LenDale White's name. And even in this era of USC football, with scoring offense reaching ridiculous heights, it's going to be there for a while. I've never seen a player with a nose for the end zone like White's. His number probably won't end up displayed with the Heisman winners, but the Trojans may want to paint a little #21 in the endzone when he leaves (after next season). He spends enough time there as it is.

Reasons why the nation hates USC:

1) Shelly Smith – "Today at the USC Trojans' practice, Reggie Bush wore number five. LenDale White had cleats on and head coach Pete Carroll said a few words. Also, the players appear to be drinking water yet again today. I'll have more for you in the next five seconds."

2) Erica Lucero's articles on ESPN.com. – Have you seen these "updates" from the USC campus throughout the year appearing on Page 2 of the ESPN website? I can watch replays of Trojan games three times a day for an entire week. I will scour the internet for hours trying to find highlight videos of Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. I'll even make sure that my ‘SC hat is at the top of the stack, just to ensure that I can get a constant Trojan refresh with just a simple glance. But these articles, which basically amount to diary entries are just too much to take. I knew there would be trouble when the first installment could be summarized by saying, "Oh my gosh. I saw Matt Leinart once. It was, like, amazing. He's so dreamy." It's not that they're poorly written; it's that they have no business being on ESPN's website. Most of the time her articles are as newsworthy as page 18 of the WeAreSC message board. The free one.

3) Pete Carroll – It's not because of what he does on the field. It's because of how he goes about doing it. While it's one thing to get beat up pretty badly in a fight, it's an entirely different thing to take that same beating while your opponent is laughing and having a great time. For some reason, many fans around the nation believe that college football should be taken as seriously as life-saving surgery. Its participants should be stone-faced, void of real emotion and completely business-like from start to finish.

It cracks me up when Bruin fans claim that they would rather stick with a solemn guy like Karl Dorrell rather than an exuberant one like Carroll. Teams with as much talent as this Trojan team possesses have still found ways to lose games and with the personnel turnover from year to year, college football relies on a great coach to maintain dominance more than any other sport. I know I can only speak for myself, but if I was playing college football, I'd much rather get a fist or chest bump and a huge smile from my coach for making a great play than a pat on the back or just a simple "Atta boy." To any fan that honestly thinks Pete Carroll isn't the most important addition to college football in the past five years, enjoy your non-BCS bowl.

Giving new meaning to Senior Day: Weren't you just waiting for the moment that Keith Jackson wondered, completely bewildered, who this Jones-Drew character was and why he was wearing Maurice Drew's number? It would have been only slightly better than when Dan Fouts started talking about Harry Potter and Jackson acted like he was speaking in tongues, or when ABC's cameras panned around the stadium, settled on actress Kirsten Dunst and Jackson calmly commented, "There's Karen Dunst."

Keith Jackson is by far the best commentator around today, but it used to be completely due to his voice, word choices and knowledge of the game. Now, it's about 80% those things and 20% because there's always a chance that he'll call a guy the wrong name for the entire game. But still, if I'm getting anyone to narrate a day of my life, I'm calling Keith Jackson first, James Earl Jones second, and Mike Gottfried last.

By the way, did you catch Dan Fouts throw in not one, but two Waterboy references? Was he expecting Keith Jackson to catch this and strike up a conversation about Fouts' involvement in the movie? Fouts may as well have asked Jackson to recite the lyrics to Candy Shop and describe what happened on the last episode of Lost.

Good, gooder, goodest: Reggie Bush might end up being the only player I ever see who truly makes it a chore to write about college football instead of just watching as a fan. Trying to put his performances into words is a more difficult task than bringing him down in the open field for the simple reason that the right words don't exist yet. Finding the right superlative to describe him is like that optical illusion where you keep climbing flights of stairs but can never reach the top. You throw out, "quickest," "most agile," or even "best" and none of them seem enough, so you keep searching and searching for the right words until you watch a replay of his 13-yard touchdown run and realize that you'll never be able to put to paper what he puts to turf.

Birds can't do with wings what he does with legs. Asking me to write about his ability logically or in definite terms is like asking me to write about how bright the sun is. All I can do is throw up my hands and have you take a look for yourself.

He never was very good at word problems: Spencer Havner gets a lot of credit as the Bruins' best defensive player, but on Saturday, not only did he yet again fail to live up to his hype against the Trojans, he turned in one of the worst defensive performances I've seen from an opposing linebacker.

During the offseason, Havner said multiple times that he'd much rather have Maurice Drew on his team than Reggie Bush because Bush isn't tough enough to run up the middle. Well if I were Reggie Bush, I'd rather have my mom playing outside linebacker for my team than Spencer Havner.

Havner helped make the tackle on the opening play of the game, but probably should have just watched the rest of the game from the locker room, because he sure didn't make a difference on the field. Bush seemingly ran right by him on every other play and even when Havner got a hand on either Trojan tailback, he was never able to bring them down by himself.

Normally I wouldn't take so much joy from the misfortune of any player, but picking Maurice Drew over Reggie Bush? There's stubbornness, there's homerism and then there's just downright lunacy. Okay Spencer, since the first question proved to be so difficult, here's an easier one. 66 or 19?

Maybe they should do it in anger?: There was a clip of Jarrad Page during the UCLA pep rally urging his fellow students to take down the goal posts after his baby blue Bruins took down the Trojans. Well done Jarrad. I'm going to go ahead and file this one away next to "Dewey defeats Truman" and every analyst's 2005 Orange Bowl prediction. Once again a Bruin proves that the most dangerous combination isn't pop rocks and Pepsi. It's a meathead and a microphone.

Like failing an open-book test: It's tough to find anything disappointing with an offense that scores 66 points in a game, but I'll try my best.

There are a lot of guys that make this Trojan offense click. You hear all the time about Leinart, Bush, White, Jarrett, Smith and everyone on the offensive line, but in terms of effort and dedication to the Trojan cause, you'd be hard pressed to someone more important than Chris McFoy. He is absolutely satisfied each week if he doesn't see a single ball thrown his way, so long as he can throw a few key blocks downfield for the Trojan tailbacks. On Reggie Bush's 65-yard run to start the second quarter, McFoy kicked it into overdrive to get out ahead of Bush and get him a few extra yards with a block.

But with that being said, watching him come up empty in the receptions department against the Bruins was incredibly frustrating. Twice he was wide open on check downs and Matt Leinart overthrew him, he had one pass knocked out of his grasp at the last moment, and guess who the intended receiver of John David Booty's interception was.

You're telling me that Matt Leinart can play Jerry Rice but McFoy gets saddled with the "Did not play or no stats accumulated" tag?

Making the best of an embarrassing situation: On the game's second play, Reggie Bush broke a run outside after putting his patented move on Bruin cornerback Trey Brown with a hard step to the inside and a quick shift toward the sideline.

The best part about the play was that Brown was juked so completely that he didn't even try to go after Bush right away. He jumped on the inside move so hard, he had no chance to cut Bush down after the juke, so he kept running toward the middle of the field, circled all the way around, headed toward the endzone and met Bush again on the sideline 30 yards downfield to make the tackle.

It was like when you're walking down the street and trip over some uneven pavement so you break into a trot, hoping that anyone who may have seen you will think that you're health conscious instead of plain clumsy.

National Collegiate Athletic Association or Never Comes Around Again: In the coming months there will be a lot of discussion centering on whether or not Reggie Bush will choose to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft. There is no doubt that Bush is physically ready to enter the NFL draft, but when questions about early entries pop up, there is usually little debate over their physical tools. The question with Bush will be whether or not he is emotionally ready to leave USC for the professional ranks. The issues of money, injury risks or being the number one overall pick mean little compared to whether or not Bush is emotionally ready to leave college.

Last season, Matt Leinart wasn't ready to call it quits on his Trojan career. He wanted one more season of playing for the love of the game, one more season of walking around the USC campus like a king wanders a castle and one chance to play on his own senior day, sent off by one of the loudest and most heartfelt standing ovations ever heard in the Coliseum.

Next season, I will be sad if Reggie Bush doesn't receive the same treatment. After winning at least two National Championships he won't owe anything more to his team or fans. After receiving his degree he won't owe anything to the University or his parents. But after putting together one of the great careers in college football history, Reggie Bush will need to decide if he owes himself one more year. One more year on the throne. One more year to just have fun playing football. And one more year that will culminate with the loudest Senior Day ovation in nearly 12 months.

Declaring early for the NFL is like taking the red pill and diving into the Matrix: you can never go back. I completely understand all the reasons that Reggie Bush has to go pro. I just hope he fully understands all the reasons he has to come back.


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