0-IS-ZONA

The USC Trojans score their first touchdown in Arizona around 3:30pm Friday when their charter jet gently kisses a luke, no not Lute, cause this isn't basketball, tarmac. That'll be about the only thing gentle this Trojan team has planned for on this journey.

Pete Carroll's defense is about to enter the 0-Zone. It's something I've been saying since the fat lady sang at last year's Rosebowl – the 2006 Trojan Defense will never suffer through an under-manned effort again – not as long as Saint Pete has God's ear.

When so many compare this year's team to the 2003 Trojans, it amazes me more people haven't taken on my call for this defense. What's that, you say? " SHUTOUTS!" is my response. If the 2006 Trojans are anything like their 2003 predecessors it is on defense. And those Men of Troy never had any no-hitters but threw more than a few, shutouts. I expect the same from this group and as tall-a-call as it might be, against a very talented Arizona Wildcat club, I anticipate the era could begin this Saturday.

Again, I know, walk softly and blah, blah, blah… Let me tell you, I would if only this year's defense would let me. Did anyone see what occurred on the Coliseum floor last Saturday night – the violence, the bloodshed, the near dismantling of a once great program. No offense Christians but when it was your turn you had it a lot easier than any Cornhusker.

Despite the low score, it was never a game for games are supposed to be fun. When I looked across the field, I saw nary a man dressed in crimson laughing. No bull Bill Callahan did his best to make it look respectable, by keeping it close and holding on to the ball. Chicken, if you ask me, Coach but when you sensed the Trojan machine was about to put it in sixth gear, I guess I could understand. Why be destroyed in a blow-out when you could let your charges live to fight another day. That's parenting 101 and these are, after all, still kids we are watching run around the field.

Mike Stoops, head coach of Arizona will have no part in "laying down" this week. He plans to come out swinging and not stop until that fat lady, once again, let's ‘er rip. I like Mike. Pete does, too. He's always talked highly of the newest coach to Pac Ten ball (yes, I know Walt's up north but he's yet to show up, and until he does, he doesn't make the list.)

In the Stoops family it has become obvious that despite their reverse order in birth, Mike's the Man and Bob's the baby. Big brother Bob still hasn't stopped crying since the Trojans' whooped his ass a couple years back as was evidenced after last week's fiasco with the Oregon Fowl. Fowl he's cried but like a falling tree in the forest when there's nobody around to listen, he isn't making much noise. Sure the Pac Ten Commissioner rolled over and suspended a couple guys but beyond that, nobody really cares. Oklahoma's not back and Texas is OK about it.

SC is back, however. In fact, we never left, and again the Trojans will produce a little more evidence of that come Saturday night. And if Saturday night's alright for fighting, the Trojans are gonna get a little action in. I can't believe I just wrote that but we're all up for some corn now and again.

Speaking of Corn, that Daily News guy, who has as little to do with News as Jerry Springer does with dancing, or news for that matter, was set straight by his latest confidant – Trojan freshman running back Alan Bradford. Bradford made it loud and clear that he did not, ever, say he rejected the coach's request for a move to fullback. He just said he wasn't a fullback and did so with reverence to the position. I must admit, when I first read this I thought of Marcus Allen and how he paid his dues for a couple seasons before he got to be the leading man, but unlike others I kept those thoughts to myself. I wish many of my fellow Trojans on the net had done the same. Lesson learned? I hope so.

Mike Stoops seems to have learned his lesson. When asked how he would play against this year's Trojan ball club compared to the way he fared last season he was quick with his response…

"We can't turn the ball over in this game. We can't turn it over one time," he said. "We have to play close to the best we can to put ourselves in position to win."

Almost right, Coach. You do have to play your best, shall we say A+ game, but even with that effort, I doubt you will ever be in position to win. Try again…

"As long as Pete Carroll is there, they are going to have a great defensive team. I think last year was a little bit of an anomaly with the way some of their numbers were. They take a great deal of pride in what they do. Their defense is back." -- Arizona coach Mike Stoops

Better, Coach. You're learning. I wish your players would follow your lead.

Once again, we have another candidate for the "Don't I look Stupid Now Award." Up to the mic, let's welcome Mr. Antoine Cason…

"I want to (cover Jarrett)," Cason said. "I really want to. Just for the challenge. He's a pretty good receiver and I think I am a pretty good db. I am ready for the challenge to guard him." Cason has obvious NFL aspirations and knows that Jarrett is the type of player he will have to cover Cason is well aware that a good day against a player like Jarrett can only add to his reputation.

"He's pretty good, but so am I," Cason said. "He has a big body, he used his body well. He runs good routes and catches the ball."

Cason is a player numerous NFL teams have their eyes on, but he did not attract the attention of the USC staff.

"That's where I am from. 30 minutes down the highway and the coaches did not say a word to me," Cason noted. "It means a lot to play good against these guys."

Cason did not grow up a Trojan fan when he was a kid.

"I was never a fan but I always watched them," he explained. "It would have been nice, maybe (to be recruited), because they are the hometown team, but they never said a word to me."

Although Cason makes no bones about the fact that he would have loved to have been recruited by the Trojans, he isn't bitter about it. In fact he completely understands why he was not a top target.

"That is part of the recruiting process and I didn't really take it personally," Cason said. "They did their job. They won 47 of 49 without Cason, so they didn't do too badly.

I always wonder when people, entertainers or athletes talk about themselves in the third person. But ours is not wonder why, ours is just to teach this poor child the error of his ways. It is obvious he and Mrs. Jones, his Nebraska counterpart, did not have a "thing goin' on" or he might have thought twice before he spoke. Let's not pretend the Trojans don't expect a brawl – they do. Mike Stoops is a very good coach and his players have enough talent to make it more than interesting – at least for two quarters, but to hang with SC is something few, if any have ever been able to do. Here's some evidence, a brief recount of an imaginary conversation I had with the AZ coaches last night right around 7pm, to show that the Cats get it…

Them: "We plan to open up their playbook."

Me: "Good Coach, you do that. No Bill Callahan tactics for you."

Them: "We are going to be aggressive and with the mindset that we are going to open it up a little bit and give our kids a chance," UA offensive coordinator Mike Canales.

Me: "A chance. That sounds about right."

Them: "You better be mentally and physically 100 percent into the game," he said, "or you don't have a chance against them."

Me: "You might want to listen to your boss."

Them: "We have to play to (quarterback) Willie (Tuitama's) strength."

Me: "You mean trying to keep him from getting knocked out again? Have I introduced you to Rey Mauluga?"

Them: "The only problem is that USC has one of the top defenses in the country despite having just one senior in its starting lineup. Their defense is very, very good, and very accurate," UA coach Mike Stoops said. "I thought their defense would be one of the better ones in the country, and they are. They are very skilled."

Me: "Thank God. I was getting worried you actually believed the stuff you've been telling your kids. Consider it a white-lie, Coach. What they don't know won't hurt them…too much."

So, that's where it sits for me and the Coach – their Coach, Mike "no, I'm nothing like my brother" Stoops – it's a coming out party for SC's defense. Now that's not to say the Trojans' counterparts on offense are going to be asleep at the wheel. Far from it. In fact, I truly feel we might see Lane Kiffin's best game to date.

Lane wasn't happy about his performance last week and came right out and let it be known. Because of that, along with increased comfort with his men, I don't think we'll be hearing any "Bear Down" calls from the opponents sideline – unless it's to bring attention to another fallen comrade. Yes, "Bear Down" could have an entirely new meaning by the time SC is done with the Cats.

"They're going to throw out a little different (look with) formations," said linebacker Marcus Hollingsworth. "They don't have (players) like they had with Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, but they do have some…other (players)..."

"Ah, Coach, you've got another one running loose. Can I get some help, here?"

Mr. Hollingsworth's Opus is going to be heard in F flat. Say hello to Fred Davis, he should be the man you will cover most.

Davis was nearly left behind in the Trojan's last battle. I'm told not to ever expect that again. With the loss of our two starting fullbacks and the growing comfort of our Mr. Booty, look for Right Said Fred to see half a dozen touches. Music to Trojan ears.

What will be interesting to watch this week, is the clock. As much as teams are trying to slow things down and keep the ball out of SC's hands, the clock has become their enemy.

In last week's game against the Cornhuskers, Nebraska's coach applied that strategy but in so doing his team only produced 53 total offensive plays. Now unless an opponent has the sort of play makers the Trojans have, 53 plays is just not enough touches to beat SC. The management of the game, the type of plays called and the clock, is going to play a huge factor for every coach hoping to compete with Pete Carroll.

As much as SC has the Fred Davis's, they also have the Patrick Turner's, Steve Smith's, four or five of the best running backs in the nation and oh yeah… the Dwayne Jarrett's.

Heading into Saturday's game at Arizona, Jarrett averages 10.7 yards per catch and Smith 10.9. That isn't what Kiffin has in mind, although the video sessions after the Nebraska game were a little easier for all concerned.

"The receivers played a lot better in all aspects -- blocking, running, catching," Kiffin said.

Jarrett was too big, too fast, too strong for the Cornhuskers' secondary, catching 11 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The secret, he said, was getting healthy after being slowed for almost a month with a left quadriceps strain.

He still was trying to shake off the injury when he earned Kiffin's displeasure with five catches for 35 yards at Arkansas.

"I couldn't really push off like I wanted on my releases," Jarrett said. "I could feel it pulling, you know? I just did what I was supposed to do. I was out there trying to help my team. If I could make a play, I tried to make it to the best of my ability."

Jarrett said he never told Kiffin, who coaches the wide receivers, how much his leg bothered him.

"I didn't want to use it as an excuse for why I didn't play great," he said. "The plays I had to make, I made them. But at the same time, I could have done way better if my leg wasn't hurting that bad."

Last I heard, Jarrett was a hundred percent. "I want to cover Jarrett." Be careful what you wish for young man.

So with the Trojan defense and offense on the plane, what's to fear for USC this coming weekend. Fear – F alse, E vidence, A ppearing, R eal. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Positively nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing! Go team!

Sorry, I got carried away. I wish our yell leaders would suffer the same fate.

SC 54 UA (dare I say it) 0

"I know all of you thought ‘0-IS-ZONA" was a play on the musical "Oklahoma" but I'm saving that for if and when we ever see that "other" Stoops again. "Choke-lahoma where the wind goes whipping on the range… Or something like that."

Fight On Trojan fans. See you Saturday.


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