A Familiar Feeling

What struck me the most about the Trojan victory over Arkansas on Saturday was how familiar it felt. The Trojans relied on their defense early to hold the opponent while creating some turnovers to help put some points on the board while the offense got things figured out.

Then, after halftime adjustments were made, the offense exploded and we cruised to a dominant win. So many times in the early years of the Pete Carroll era at USC we saw this script play out and that's why it was such a familiar feeling against the Razorbacks.

We knew coming into the game that the USC defense was going to be good but it was still pleasant to see the kind of flat out speed they possess and the way they were flying around the field causing havoc for the Arkansas offense. All told in the game the Trojans had five turnovers which were converted into 30 points and you aren't going to win many games against a Pete Carroll team when that happens.

Keith Rivers got things started on the third play of the game when he recovered a Felix Jones fumble and before you knew it the Trojans had a 3-0 lead. Kevin Thomas later picked up another Jones fumble and returned it inside the Arkansas five yard line to set up a quick touchdown run by C.J. Gable (nice crackback block by Chris McFoy) to make it 10-0.

The Hogs closed the gap before halftime but early in the third quarter Terrell Thomas intercepted an errant pass that bounced off the hands of Marcus Monk and a John David Booty pass to Patrick Turner gave the Trojans a little cushion. By the time Cary Harris and Thomas Williams added late interceptions the rout was on and the Trojans had another impressive victory well in hand.

Of course, the defensive performers weren't the only stars of the day.

A special mention needs to be made of Booty. He played a solid game in the first half, nothing fancy, but in the second half he stayed calm and cool and really showed what he is capable of as the leader of this team. His ball to Turner in the end zone, low and away where only his receiver could get it, was a thing of beauty as he stayed in the pocket and set his feet before making the throw. A big third down completion to Steve Smith kept a drive alive and later he was able to connect with Fred Davis on a pair of completions, including a high thrown ball in the end zone where Fred was able to make the grab for the touchdown. John David also hooked up with Ryan Powdrell for several throws late in the game. All in all, it had to be considered a very successful starting debut for the Trojan signal-caller.

Who else played well? Where do you start?

How great was it to see Chauncey Washington back in action? Chauncey seemed to gain momentum as the night went on and he showed flashes of being the workhorse back this team needs.

Ryan Powdrell was also impressive, especially considering the hits that he and Thomas Williams took on a kickoff return in the second quarter. Both men laid on the ground for several minutes yet both also came back in the game and contributed big plays. Ryan showed his good hands as well as the ability to gain yardage after the catch. One Arkansas observer called him the most athletic fullback he'd ever seen.

A pair of freshman running backs also flashed promise in C.J. Gable and Emmanuel Moody. Gable seemed to do better once he got some early jitters out of the way and he began running with more authority. Moody has game-breaking ability, no doubt about it.

We mentioned Fred Davis earlier and he's worth mentioning again. His leaping run after the catch in the third quarter was surpassed only by the touchdown catch that followed shortly thereafter. I think the rest of the country now has a pretty good idea of how good this guy can be.

Steve Smith showed some nice open field running ability and was his usual dependable self. Dwayne Jarrett had some key grabs but nothing spectacular by his standards.

Sedrick Ellis had a critical third down sack in the second quarter when Arkansas was trying to get some momentum. Sed did a tremendous job of plugging the middle of the line to slow the Razorback run game, along with Fili Moala and Chris Barrett, especially as the Trojans alternated between the 3-4 and the 4-3 to help keep Arkansas off balance.

Keith Rivers was all over the place with his pursuit speed (he led the team with eight tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery). Another Arkansas fan said "when you're linebackers are faster than our receivers you know we're in for a long night". Rey Maualuga was solid after Oscar Lua went out on the opening possession with an injury. Dallas Sartz and Brian Cushing each had five tackles and a TFL. Luthur Brown had a monster hit on a kickoff coverage play.

Terrell Thomas played tremendous coverage against Marcus Monk, one of the elite receivers in the country, and he looked comfortable doing it.

Mario Danelo kept us in the lead during the first half with three field goals, including a career long of 44 yards before the half when the Hogs tried to "ice" him by calling several time outs in a row. Troy Van Blarcom deserves praise after putting the ball in the end zone throughout the night. His kickoffs made the Razorback offense face a long field all game and they were never able to find a rhythm. At one point in the second quarter they junked their new no-huddle offense in an attempt to get something to work.

Thankfully for the Trojans, little went right for the home team. They did get a little spark when local freshman Mitch Mustain led a quick touchdown drive but that was about it for the Arkansas highlights.

As for USC, most everything went well although we wait for word on injuries to Josh Pinkard and Lua. Keyshawn Johnson was on hand to give the team a pre-game talk and the weatherman even cooperated with a relatively mild night that was void of oppressive heat or humidity.

It couldn't have been a much better opening night for the Trojans, especially when you look at other teams that struggled yesterday including Cal, Notre Dame and Colorado. The Irish barely beat Georgia Tech and the Razorbacks could be considered as formidable of a foe as the YellowJackets.

There would be no such concerns for the Trojans, at least not on this night. Instead, it was a nice game to remember the type of football that started this run we've all enjoyed under Pete Carroll and here's to hoping we see a lot more of the same as the season goes along.

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