What a great way to start the season. It's obvious that there are many very knowledgeable folks who read this board, so rather than try to over analyze all the technical aspects, I intend to give more personal opinions of what I feel are key points. This was a game SC simply had to have, and they not only got it, they got it in much the way teams some of the older folks remember SC teams getting it in the past--they won the lines of scrimmage. To be honest I was really sweating it in the first half, but in the second half, the University of Southern California won the battle in the trenches, and in my opinion, both the Oline and the Dline did their jobs.
This USC team figured out a way to overcome adversity, at least on this night. First, the Trojans were missing their first team RG, their starting tailback, their starting fullback, and during various parts of the game, they were also missing their first string OLB's on both sides and their starting corner. Yet even though depth has been an issue, the team had enough to beat a very tough Auburn squad from the SEC. Second, the team managed to overcome so excess mistakes. SC was heavily penalized and it was the face mask penalty and the personal fouls that really helped keep Auburn drives alive. However, to be fair, when one looks at the call against Mike Pollard, it really looked like the Auburn receiver was keeping the ball in play as he tip toed along the sideline.
I really want to comment on the running game. Even though SC did not go for lots of yards, they did run enough to help keep the Tigers on their heels. Auburn is still trying to figure out what to do with the tailback coming out of the backfield. I had no problem with the running efforts though I did wonder why we tried to test their linebackers by running outside so much. We actually ran pretty well between the tackles and right up the gut. Many people felt the left side of the Oline was the strongest, yet to my recollection SC actually ran pretty well over the right side, both with Graf and with Matua playing Right Guard. The final drive of the game was really satisfying in that our team was stronger than theirs and SC simply ran the ball right down their throats. I will be surprised if there are many teams that run the ball against that team better than SC ran today. I am anxious to see what our running game does when Justin Fargas returns!
I am positive some will disagree, but even though there were two holding calls, I was very impressed with the Oline. I thought they more than held their own against a very physical D line and set of linebackers that Auburn brings to play. This shows what positives that Coaches Davis, Uperesa and Carlisle have brought to the table. It also shows that there is no substitute for experience and age on the Oline. The kids that got trounced as sophomores are now starting to assert themselves and this unit will improve. It was nice to see Graf and Matua play with neither one showing themselves to be huge liabilites. When Wilson heals up, even better things are in store.
Carson played very well. I think the first pick was a great Defensive play and the second pick looked like somebody held up Mike Williams, at least on TV. For the most part, he looked much more mature and he did not panic and cost us lost of yards. He was accurate and looked like he is finally comfortable with the Offense. And speaking of the offense, hats off to Norm Chow. This is the second year and what a difference that makes. His calls made sense and it looked like he called plays that had a real chance of working. After watching a rusty Mal MacKenzie play what might be his best football game as a Trojan, it is now painfully evident just why Chow was so depressed when he lost Foo last year. MacKenzie brings an element to the game that makes USC very difficult to defend. As he gets in better game shape, a healthy MM will cause defensive coordinators fits--take that to the bank.
Over the years, esepcially on the message boards, Kareem Kelly has taken his share of abuse. Despite a questionable decision on a punt return and a big fumble near the goaline, I think he has taken a step up and he played very very well overall. He made a huge catch and run on that last drive and he got creamed but did not give the ball up. He is much tougher than I had thought. Even when he gave the ball up, the defender put a hit right on the ball and most people would have had trouble holding on to that ball. And please don't forget what a tough play he made on that first touch down catch.
What can I say about the Defense? I was plenty worried after the first half, and I was not impressed with the linebackers at all. I was not sure if our speed could match their physical style and their size. Well, call this fan one happy guy at this time. When the team came out in the second half, it was USC like USC of old. The D was swarming and the Dline slanted and dominated their Offensive Line. Take nothing away from their awesome tailback. Carnell "Cadillac" Williams--he might be as fine as any SC faces all season long. However, even without him having cramps, the D line SC brought to the game in the second was just too tough for the Auburn Tigers. I hope everyone reads that and smiles. When is the last time SC was seemingly too tough for any quality opponent? It was just a terrific sight to see.
As I stated earlier, the purpose of this post is not to fully analyze anything. There are many points that the readers can figure out better than I. Instead, I simply love to take this opportunity to give one perspective. One game does not make a season. It's hard to say things have really changed, but it does look like things just might be going in the right direction. The Trojans looked tougher as the game progressed, the kids played reasonably well, and we were not outcoached. The Trojans won a game they had to win and they did it with authority. They got stronger as thegame wore on. To an old fan such as myself, that brings a smile to my face. This was a step in the right direction. Now, let's hope the team continues to improve and just maybe, the team will take a step back to that upper echelon where I personally figure USC belongs.