O/NSO - ASU review

Before this weekend's game with Arizona State, USC Trojan coach, Pete Carroll said of the Sun Devils, "They're just one game from getting back on track again. It just can't be this week." On Saturday night before 91,126 fans at the LA Coliseum and a split national ABC audience, the No. 2/3-ranked Trojans (6-0, 4-0 Pac-10) almost provided the unranked Sun Devils (3-3, 0-3 Pac-10) with that "game"

The ObviousLOS ANGELES – Before this weekend's game with Arizona State, USC Trojan coach, Pete Carroll said of the Sun Devils, "They're just one game from getting back on track again. It just can't be this week." On Saturday night before 91,126 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum and a split national ABC audience, the No. 2/3-ranked Trojans (6-0, 4-0 Pac-10) almost provided the unranked Sun Devils (3-3, 0-3 Pac-10) with that "game" as the Cardinal and Gold played a deadly game of gridiron Russian roulette before surviving 28-21.

The Not So Obvious – With Sunday's first released BCS rankings having the Men of Troy No. 2 sandwiched between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan, it's quite elementary, my dear Watson. As Pete Carroll now says, "Just win, baby," and haven't we heard that before from some past USC assistant coach? It's now as clear as a Glendale, Arizona afternoon. If the Trojans win out, they will get their ticket punched to Glendale for a third consecutive BCS championship appearance, so help me Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame.

The Obvious – The last time USC played Arizona State on Oct. 14, the Sun Devils upset a No. 2-ranked Trojan team, 20-7, in 1978.

The Not So Obvious – As the O/NSO was departing the scene from the "latest" heart-stopping Trojan victory, a cardinal and gold passerby stopped us and after a quick exchange of pleasantries, we asked the knowledgeable fan how he enjoyed the exciting ASU game. The semi-regular to practice said, "I enjoyed it about as much as I enjoy a colonoscopy."

The Obvious – Make no mistake about, Trojan coach Pete Carroll is well aware of his team's shortcomings, although he can turn any negative into a positive in a heartbeat.

The Not So Obvious – After the game, Carroll smiled and told an ABC audience, "We've got to get out of our own way. We made it so hard on ourselves. Well, we're going to be good at close games."

The Obvious – The Trojans opened the week as 20–point favorites to defeat the Sun Devils but won by just seven points.

The Not So Obvious – Here how the Arizona Republic previewed and predicted Saturday's game. "There's nothing to warrant giving ASU (3-2, 0-2) any chance other than to possibly cover a 19-point spread. No. 3 USC (5-0, 3-0) is vulnerable, but the Sun Devils are far more fragile offensively than the transitioning Trojans. USC has to see this as a chance to build its poll standing and computer rating before the first Bowl Championship Series rankings come out on Sunday. USC 38, ASU 21."

The Obvious – Many fans enjoy the ride up to the Coliseum listening to the pregame show on 710 ESPN.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to the game, WeAreSC's DVD correspondent Darrell Rideaux predicted a score of 28-14. Soothsayer Rideaux said, "I don't think this offense can score more than 28 points."

The Obvious – Junior Chauncey Washington, who made his first start of his career and finished with a career-high 108 yards rushing on 22 carries, scoring on a two-yard run with 4:29 remaining to crown a 14-play drive that gobbled up nearly seven minutes.

The Not So Obvious - Gaining 64 yards on 10 carries on the winning 74-yard touchdown drive, CW gave the Trojan play-callers a 911 call to perhaps reconsider the offensive personality of this team. It's clear this offense may be a perception of equal pass and run when the final stats are released, but the Trojans' current offense philosophy is like a good looking woman with no personality. Are the Men of Troy finesse or are they brute strength? Perhaps Washington's John McKay style tailback performance will give Pete Carroll and his offensive cerebrals pause to consider a more emphasized tailback attack. The ghost of Justin Fargas was reported hovering above the Coliseum moonlight.

The Obvious – Athletic director Mike Garrett is the Trojans' first Heisman Trophy winner.

The Not So Obvious – Don't think for a moment this former star running back from yesteryear doesn't have an opinion on the current state of Trojan offensive philosophy. After the game, Iron Mike exclusively told the Times' Gary Klein, " I knew he (Chauncey Washington) would have a breakout game if they gave him the ball." Folks, do you really need a literal translation?

The Obvious – The Trojans rushed for 159 yards against the Sun Devils defense.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday, the Trojan rushing game was averaging 163.8 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – There were a number of animated Trojan offensive linemen who showed some big emotion when the Trojans elected to win the game on the ground.

The Not So Obvious – Tackle Sam Baker and center Ryan Kalil were two of the more vocal cheerleaders of the ground attack. Both played for high school teams, Tustin and Anaheim Servite, which feature punishing ground assaults. It's really not a case of the Trojan offensive line not being "man enough." It's a case of being committed to the run and making Pat Ruel's front five the ultimate aggressors. The pass blocking, most the most part, has been very good, but so much of it creates a less aggressive attitude when the rushing game is needed.

The ObviousChauncey Washington is the latest in a long line of outstanding physical Trojan tailbacks.

The Not So Obvious – How appropriate that Anthony Davis and Charles White were in attendance on Saturday, doing their usual autograph signing stint next to the Trojan Walk. Besides signing various pictures of the two greats in action, Davis has a new attractive pillow with a photo of his famous kickoff return against Notre Dame and autograph embroidered.

The Obvious – There is no more crowd favorite or emotional Trojan player than junior linebacker Thomas "Hitman" Williams.

The Not So Obvious – How serious and perhaps desperate were the Trojan to get the ball into the end zone in final frantic minutes? The much talked about brainstorming of Williams to fullback came as a mild shock as Thomas was Chauncey Washington's lead blocker, helping derail ASU defensive lineman Kyle Caldwell, on CW's fateful two-yard touchdown decider. Thomas was a once-upon-a-time fullback at Vacaville High, where, as a junior, he ran for 378 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Regular observers to practice were trying to recall when they last saw Thomas even practice at fullback.

The Obvious – Saturday night's win was the Trojans' 30th in a row at the Coliseum, 27th straight Pac-10 victory, 38th consecutive regular-season win, and an amazing 51 of 53 overall dating back to the 2002 season.

The Not So Obvious – And it wouldn't have happened if Pete Carroll hadn't decided to pull the plug on the less than inspiring passing extravaganza, putting the Trojans' fate in the hands of one Chauncey "The Bull" Washington. It figures that Washington will start the rest of the way, providing he stays healthy. Of course, there is also the little matter of offensive philosophy and putting greater emphasis on the rushing attack, and wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall at this week's offensive coaches' meetings?

The Obvious – There are a number of books now on the market such as "Game Day" and "Fight On" concerning Trojan football subjects and streaks ranging from the Pete Carroll era to the history of USC football.

The Not So Obvious – It might not be Barnes and Noble, but there was a stand set up for the selling of the latest Trojan literary pieces in the quad of the peristyle end. Author and media personality Barry LeBrock was signing copies of his new book, "The Trojan Ten: The 10 Thrilling Victories That Changed the Course of USC Football History."

The Obvious – Depending on your point of view and what team you cover, columnists for both the Los Angeles Times and the Arizona Republic seemed to be in agreement that the Trojans are fortunate to be 6-0.

The No So Obvious Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic wrote "The Trojans deserve a No. 3 national ranking as much as Dirk Koetter deserves a lifetime contract, but with a 6-0 record, they merit respect" while the Times' Bill Plaschke offered "With consecutive November games against Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame, if they don't improve, the bye will be followed with a bye-bye."

The Obvious – ASU's last Pac-10 win in the state of California was at USC in 1999, a streak of now 14 losses with 12 of those under Dirk Koetter.

The Not So Obvious – And nobody contributed more to the streak than Koetter, whose brain cramp to punt late in the game was as head scratching as some of the Trojans offensive play-calling. It was obvious that Dirk must not having been thinking soundly as a youngster in the stands turned to his dad and said, "Why would he punt with the new clock rules?"

The Obvious – Junior John David Booty completed 12 of 25 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns

The Not So Obvious – With a fumble and touchdown interception, it's very clear that this was truly Booty's worst game as a Trojan signal-caller. Forget about last week's questionable performance, which John David got a free pass here. No pass play may have shown the mindset of John David than the weak and off target pass intended for fullback Jody Adewale, which feel short and away in the telling moments of the game. If it was a basketball game, you could draw the example of a shooter barely hitting the rim during the pressurized moments of crunch time. That pass to Adewale may have been the warning light to Pete Carroll and staff about the mental status of their junior quarterback, especially as the boo birds couldn't understand why go to the air when the running game was as hot as Mama Juanita's taco sauce.

The Obvious – The Trojans scored 28 points and had 307 yards in total offense against the Sun Devils on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday, the Trojan offense was averaging 30.4 points per game and 413.4 yards in total offense, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – In past years, the Trojans have been known for their superlative second half adjustments.

The Not So Obvious – It certainly looks and feels different, but, folks, don't blame everything on the coaching staff, although they reset the strategy. Last weekend you could argue Washington's successful opening second half onsides kick was either a lack of coaching and/or player awareness, but this week's second half first-series opener was entirely the Booty fumble. The Trojans always defer to the second half when they win the opening coin toss. With the current lack of opening second half offensive luck, will Carroll reverse his decision-making and go on offense on the opening kickoff? Don't count on it.

The Obvious – The Sun Devils passed for 124 yards against the Trojans' defense on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday, the Trojan pass defense was allowing 193.8 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious - ASU's Rudy Carpenter completed 12 of 21 passes for 124 yards and one touchdown, and rushed for 49 yards on eight carries.

The Not So Obvious – In what may deserve future consideration, the Trojans actually went to a four-man front in ASU's final push of the game to put additional stress on Carpenter, who seemed to have earlier found some of his lost confidence. The Trojans went with a front four of Kyle Moore and Lawrence Jackson at the ends and Sedrick Ellis and Fili Moala at the tackles.

The Obvious – After the game, ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter said that although the Trojans, Oregon, and California do a lot of the same things, he felt that Oregon and Cal were the better teams at this point.

The Not So Obvious -Prior to the game, Carpenter, a local product from Westlake High, said, "Everybody is beatable, But the thing about USC is that everyone that plays them treats it like it's their Super Bowl or national championship. That's tough. Until they get beat, you have to say they are the best team in the conference."

The Obvious – The killer ASU pass of the day was not the usual vertical attack presented by the Sun Devils, but a late first half third-and-21 screen to tailback Ryan Torain, who took it to the Trojans' 1-yard line.

The Not So Obvious – Perhaps no play drew the ire afterwards from Pete Carroll than the completion of this little baby. Carroll must have been thinking to himself that he never saw this when his linebackers were two guys named Tatupu and Grootegoed.

The Obvious – The Trojans sacked Rudy Carpenter twice times on Saturday evening, once by Sedrick Ellis and once by safety Kevin Ellison.

The Not So Obvious – For the curious, Carpenter was sacked six times by Oregon and five times by Cal.

The Obvious - Junior Trojan tight end Fred Davis did not have a pass reception on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – At halftime, former Trojan All-America tight end Charles "The Tree" Young, who was the starter on the fabled 1972 Trojans, was honored for his induction into the Trojan Athletic Hall of Fame. Before the game, "The Tree," who now lives in Seattle, told the O/NSO, "I got the nickname, "The Tree," because I was not only tall (6-5), but any ball thrown my way disappeared into the branches. I wouldn't have got this hall of fame honor without my teammates, great players who will never be honored like me. Can you imagine I get this honor averaging just 1.6 catches per game?"

The ObviousMatt Leinart was unable to attend the Trojan Hall of Fame halftime ceremonies, but another inductee, defensive back Mark Carrier, was in attendance.

The Not So Obvious – Carrier was an ASU defensive back coach not too long ago before taking a job in the NFL. A number of absent Hall of Fame inductees were either shown on the video board or were represented by a family member or friends. Of all the inductees present or absent, Leinart received the loudest ovation.

The Obvious – Much as been made about the Trojans inability to create turnovers or missed opportunities on defense.

The Not So Obvious – Some of it is due to the players wearing the cardinal and gold. In the first quarter, DB Terrell Thomas dropped a sure interception on a pass intended for ASU tight end Zack Miller.

The Obvious – One area of fan enjoyment has been the complaints that scores from across the country are shown enough on the video board.

The Not So Obvious – The Coliseum video board had a run down of the weekly AP Top 25 and had Auburn listed as No. 2 in the country. Ah, weren't the Florida Gators No. 2 up until yesterday? Perhaps we had a little electronic burnout since Auburn was defeated by Arkansas the previous Saturday?

The Obvious – Considering their record, a fine number of Arizona State fans and band members attended the game and were placed, as usual, in the upper level of Tunnel 1 area above the Reggie Bush Heisman banners.

The Not So Obvious – Before the game, a number of ASU fans parked in a USC parking structure across the 110 Freeway and seemed a bit confused on how to get to the Coliseum from that point. Carrying a case of Coors Lite, an ASU fan turned to the driver of a stadium shuttle bus and asked, "Where is this bus going?" Obviously not familiar with the parking structure shuttle to the Coliseum, a number of Trojan fans good-naturedly remarked, "ASU go home." However, when the fans noticed the Coors Lite case, they amended their declaration and said, "Hey, common on aboard."

The Obvious – On the Trojans' first possession on Saturday, freshman running back Allen Bradford was on the receiving end of a John David Booty 17-yard touchdown pass.

The Not So Obvious – This was a play that we watched in its development during practice this past week. Bradford was also given another opportunity later in the game, but a penalty wiped out a nice gain. It figures that with the bye week, some running plays will be installed for Allen and that blocking will just come with time. The good news is the kid is on the field and, boy, didn't that touchdown reception look good. The best is yet to come.

The Obvious – On Saturday, the Trojans were penalized six times for 61yards.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday, the Trojans were averaging 55.8 penalty yards per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference. The Sun Devils just killed themselves during the final moments with some absolutely self-destructing flags (12 for 97 yds.)

The Obvious – The Sun Devils held the Trojans to 3-for-12 on third down conversions.

The Not So Obvious – This is generally what you get when you continue to throw on first down, miss, and end up second-and-long.

The Obvious – The cover of Saturday's game program featured junior defensive end Lawrence Jackson and junior nose tackle Sedrick Ellis.

The Not So Obvious – Both Jackson and Ellis finished with five tackles each.

The Obvious – Depending on the time and score, Coliseum fans can be quite fickle with their emotions.

The Not So Obvious – Believe the old O/NSO, if it wasn't for a Coliseum crowd that played a big part of being the 12 man, the Trojans could have been a football obituary in Sunday's papers. There didn't seem to be many lulls, but when Trojan fans had a false sense of 21-0 security in the second quarter, out came one of the better Coliseum "waves" we have seen in recent years. As a point of emphasis, even beach balls made their appearance.

The Obvious – The Trojans allowed the Sun Devils 21 points and 245 yards in total defense against the Sun Devils.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday, the Trojan defense was allowing 13.8 points per game and 289.8 yards per game in total defense, second in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Sun Devils rushed for 121 yards against the Trojans on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday, the Trojan defense was allowing 96.0 yards rushing per game, second in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Sun Devils' hearald JC transfer Ryan Torain, whose nickname is "The Train," rushed for 57 yards on 20 carries.

The Not So Obvious – Holding Torain to a 2.8 average will bring smiles to defensive coordinator Nick Holt. In comparison, Torain rushed for 191 yards against then-No. 21 California on Sept. 23 and followed up with 113 against then-No. 14 Oregon the following week.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense against the rush was led by linebacker Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga with eight tackles each.

The Not So Obvious – Did you notice that Trojan linebacker Clay Mathews Jr., son of you= know-who and brother of WeAreSC recruiting guru Brian, got some playing time on Saturday? Well Junior might not have had a tackle, but that big photo on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Times sports section sure makes up for any statistical injustices.

The Obvious – On Saturday, the Trojans passed for 148 yards against the Sun Devil defense.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to Saturday, the Trojan passing attack was averaging 249.6 -yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Sun Devil pass defense was ranked fourth in the conference prior to Saturday's game.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans are still in search of hitting the deep ball, but not because they haven't tried. Freshman Trevon Patterson gave it a go but was double-teamed and couldn't get to the ball. Another time John David Booty missed on a deep ball to Steve Smith on a third-and-1 on the ASU 31-yard line, which raised some Monday morning quarterback eyebrows.

The Obvious – All-America receiver Dwayne Jarrett had a 14-yard scoring receiver in the second quarter to establish himself as the Pac-10's all-time touchdown catcher.

The Not So ObviousSteve Smith was instrumental in Jarrett's 14-yard scoring reception when he "picked off" Dwayne's defender and confused his own defender at the same time, allowing Jarrett to circle free down the ASU sideline all alone.

The Obvious – Many Trojan tailgating fans relax before the game relaxing and watching games on portable televisions.

The Not So Obvious – One fan was relaxing on what appeared to be a bed and had a cardinal and gold blanket. Not only was the Trojan fan looking like he was as comfortable as a big lead against the Stanford Cardinal, but he was also quite at peace watching the tube and remarking, "UCLA is getting their butts kicked."

The Obvious – The Trojans lost sophomore defensive back Kevin Thomas with a non-contact broken left foot.

The Not So Obvious – My stars and stripes forever. With Josh Pinkard done for the year and Thomas looking like he will be put on the same shelf, the Trojan injury list is starting to look like it could form it's own all-star team, so help me Brandon Hancock and Jeff Byers.

The Obvious – ABC televised Saturday's game to the Western part of the country.

The Not So Obvious – At the end of the telecast, announcers Mark Jones and David Norrie were discussing the merits of Chauncey Washington, who wears No. 23. Unfortunately, ABC was showing freshman DB Vincent Joseph, the former Long Beach Poly stud, who also wears No. 23 for the Men of Troy. Who goofed? I've got to know!

The Obvious – One of the most famous plays in Trojan lore is the legendary 28-pitch, the toss sweep made famous by John McKay's powerhouse teams.

The Not So Obvious – Don't look now, but the Trojans ran the sweep more in this game than in memory and all with good results. Freshman tailback C.J. Gable has received the benefits of "student body sweep" since the beginning of the season when he scored the Trojans first 2006 touchdown at Arkansas. Saturday night, C.J., who had a Trojan tailback high 5.2 average, scored again on a 2-yard scoring sweep in the first quarter.

The Obvious – Few will ever forget the heroics of former Trojan quarterback John Fox, who will be ever linked to his performance against the UCLA Bruins in 1999.

The Not So Obvious – Fox was scheduled as part of an autograph trio for the ESPN autograph stage along with former All-America offensive guard Roy Foster and defensive lineman Clint Hampton.

The Obvious – The Trojan Walk featured a rather jovial group of cardinal and gold players, who hugged and kissed the babies like politicians.

The Not So Obvious – One tradition of the Trojan Walk has been to invite an area high school band to play all the traditional Trojan tunes. This week's "celebrity" band was Antelope Valley's Knight High School, named after Pete Knight, former test pilot and California State Senator.

The Obvious – The base price of a ticket on Saturday was $40.

The Not So Obvious – There were a number of tickets available below base price around the Martin Luther King Blvd. side of the Coliseum. One $40 ticket went immediately for $25 without much hassle. As one Trojan fan found out this weekend, if you lose your ticket before admission, you can have it replaced at a designated Will Call booth for the cost of the ticket plus a $25 service charge.

The ObviousAnd finally, the Trojans' home game winning is safe for the month of October as the Men of Troy have a bye next weekend followed by a two-game road stand, beginning with a return to the Pacific Northwest on Oct. 28 at Oregon State.

The Not So Obvious – While the 2006 Trojans have accomplished their goal of 6-0 at the "semester break," nobody will argue the biggest challenges are on the horizon. However, there is one thing that both the Trojan players and their legion of fans would agree, the bye week is a welcome visitor and if anything, this season has kept the interest of all concerned in more ways than one. Now about that Oregon State 27-17 upset Washington in Seattle. Nah, let's give it rest and appreciate the bye week.

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