Final Thoughts - Nebraska

The Trojans came away from the game on Saturday with a comfortable 28-10 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in front of another sold out crowd of 92,000 at the Coliseum.

If you had been asked to describe your expectations of this USC team at the beginning of the year you would have pretty much described what we saw in this game; a solid if unspectacular offense with John David Booty relying on receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, a running game looking to find it's way as Chauncey gets healthy and the young runners get their feet under them, and with all of this being held together by a defensive unit that has an amazing collection of athletes, particularly at the linebacker spot. This recipe was more than enough for success against Nebraska and the good news for Trojan fans is that there is still a lot of room and potential for growth.

No Passing Fancy

We felt coming into the game that the passing offense of the Trojans was going to be the key, especially with scenarios surrounding Dwayne Jarrett (healthy quad, Kiffin comments) as well as the boastful comments made by Cornhusker corner Andre Jones. In fact, it didn't take long for Jarrett beat Jones on a slant route in the end zone to help put the Trojans up 7-3 in the first quarter. John David Booty continued to utilize his receivers by hitting Steve Smith right before the half to make it 14-3 and it was a tremendous catch by Steve to go down and get the ball. When we came out after the half, John David had a shaky series deep in our end where he was almost picked twice but, after a Trojan punt, Cary Harris recovered a fumble on the first Nebraska play of the half and John David wasted little time in finding Jarrett again for another touchdown to put the game basically out of reach at 21-3. Jarrett left little doubt that he still has the ability to be one of the premier receivers in the country on a day when he caught 11 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, a mark which slid him past Mike Williams for the most TD receptions in USC history (Dwayne now has 31). As far as John David is concerned, so far so good. His team is 2-0, he has six touchdowns to his credit and has yet to throw an interception. That is good stuff. In terms of improvement, there are times when it looks like he thinks he has less time than he does while rolling out looking for a receiver. Often times with a player who is seeing his first extended action, the game is going so fast that you can think it's going faster than it really is. Look for John David to get even more comfortable with his timing as he becomes more and more adjusted to the game speed and tempo.

Getting Defensive

It's not like Nebraska came out firing with this new offensive attack we've been hearing so much about but, still, you have to like the effort put forth by the Trojan defense on Saturday. Despite being down a couple key leaders in Pinkard and Ellis we didn't notice any drop in performance. In fact, Chris Barrett and Fili Moala both were involved in four tackles each and they did a good job of stuffing the middle of the line to thwart the Cornhusker run game while safety Taylor Mays more than held his own with four solo tackles and he was never really challenged by the Nebraska passing game. You have to wonder if that was poor game planning by the Huskers to not go after the true freshman or if it was good scheming by Pete Carroll to keep Taylor out of harms way as much as possible. Whatever the case, the debut for Mays was a success. The stars of the defense, however, were clearly the linebackers, especially Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers, Brian Cushing and Thomas Williams. They were all over the field and the one thing I really like about this group is how well they play together. They are so quick to the ball with a swarming, attacking mentality that is a lot of fun to watch. The best hit of the day came when Thomas Williams clobbered Zac Thomas to cause a fumble, the referees disagreed and said the play was dead, and that ruling cost Chris Barrett his opportunity to appear on all the highlight shows with his recovery of the fumble and then a quick dash to the end zone.

Extra Points

The loss of fullback Ryan Powdrell put a damper on what was otherwise a very satisfying day for the Trojans. Powdrell suffered a dislocated ankle in the first quarter and was on the Coliseum turf for several minutes before being carefully lifted to the cart and taken off the field. As he rode up the tunnel, Ryan raised both hands in a Victory salute to the cheers of the Thundering Herd. Ryan will have surgery immediately and is expected to miss most, if not all, of the remainder of the season. Look for Allen Bradford to be one player who gets a look at fullback…..Clay Matthews and Patrick Turner did a terrific job on punt coverage when they combined for a tackle at the Nebraska five yard line late in the third quarter…..Ryan Kalil, who had missed practice time early in the week with concussion symptoms, was also slowed by the flu during the game although you would have never known it by the way he played. Ryan showed the kind of warrior he is as he had to basically be carried off the field by trainers and coaches after giving all he had during the game…..In addition to the performance of Mays, we saw a couple nice plays by Mozique McCurtis in a reserve DB role. Zeke can play both corner and safety, also in the nickel, so he may prove to be extremely valuable as the season goes along……Emmanuel Moody got the start at tailback, the 2nd true freshman to start this year at the spot, and he ran very well with 70 yards on nine carries. We saw his change of direction moves a few times as well as his burst of speed but what really impressed me was the patient way he used a block by Drew Radovich on a key third down run which kept alive the opening scoring drive by the Trojans…...Nebraska failed to capitalize on some early opportunities created by their special teams. In the first quarter, they successfully executed a fake punt, pinned us deep with a punt and also had a nice punt return of their own. Unfortunately for them, they were only able to get a field goal out of the long return and you need to do more than that if you want to get the Trojans out of the game early…..It didn't look pretty when we ran it in the game but during practice last week Patrick Turner completed a real nice touchdown to Jarrett on the reverse pass….Props to Troy Van Blarcom for another terrific job on kickoffs with three touchbacks in five attempts….Averell Spicer, who has battled injuries through last spring and into the fall, saw action early in the fourth quarter and he could end up being an important part of the DT rotation in the coming weeks.

Notables in attendance

Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen, Petros Papadakis, John Papadakis, Sam Cunningham, Marlin McKeever, Sultan McCullough, Marcell Allmond, Darrell Rideaux, David Newbury, Mike MacGillivray, Kevin Arbet, John Jackson, Paul McDonald, Jeremy Hogue, Craig Gibson, Mike Salmon, Delon Washington, Craig Fertig, Hal Bedsole. Boston Celtic star Paul Pierce (seen talking with fellow Inglewood HS alum Lawrence Jackson after the game) and rapper Master P were also there.

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