No sense being humble about this game. USC played a very good Oregon State University Football team which had a terrific defense of its own. Unfortunately for the Beavers, the Trojans had a defense and entire team that was even better. This game left no doubt that the 2002 edition of the University of Southern California Trojans are for real and they will very likely be a factor in the Pac-10 Race. The Trojans showed up for a game that I personally considered huge and they demolished a previously undefeated Beaver team. At this time, the Los Angeles Coliseum is simply not a great place for the Beavers to play if their goal is winning the game.
What can one say about a defense that shuts out a team that was averaging over 45 points per game and a team that was scoring in leaps and bounds? The Trojans Dline, nicknamed the eight legged freak by the SC radio announcers, was as dominant as any Dline that comes to my mind over the past many years. One often thinks of Florida State, Miami and Oklahoma when thinking of dominant defensive lines. One had better add the name USC Trojans to that list. These guys are young, fast, aggressive and just plain superb. I have seen enough of that unit to know that few, if any Olines will destroy that unit. Whether it's Mike "Baby Sapp" Patterson, or BKU creating a one man blitz as he did tonight, or Shaun "SC" Cody or the guy who loves to talk, Omar Nazel, this unit is the real deal. And of course, one should never forget the fifth starter, Bernard Riley. Together, they are very good and will be considered a great unit in the future.
I can't help but compliment the special teams for their role in this game as well as the kicking game. How big was Tom Malone's comeback. For the first time all season, the kid did not shank a single kick and he made a really nice play on a muffed snap. Ryan Killeen made 3 of 4 field goals and now we have two kickers. One must take off one's hat to Greig Carlson. In many ways, he has become one of the most valuable Trojans of all. How important is it to have a guy on punt returns who can be counted on to catch the ball and who can make real positive plays time after time. After having a less than stellar performance last week, this group stepped up big time this week and they helped the flow of the game stay in SC's favor. Bravo for a much improved effort.
Last week the receivers, with Mike Williams in particular, had a night to forget. Tonight, against a very physical and dominating D, the receivers, especially Williams and Colbert stepped up in a very impressive way. Mike Williams had two TD catches and that is something else for a true freshman. Colbert made several acrobatic catches and then who can forget the sudden and welcomed appearance of Alex Holmes. Holmes made excellent catches and he got open on a regular basis. It is so nice to see the tight end in there. I hope the trend continues.
The Oline once again played adequately and they did it against a very tough defense. Oregon State will give lots of teams fits, but SC eventually wore them down enough to score some points. My heart was in my throat when I saw Jacob Rogers leave the game only to be replaced by Eric Torres. On the very first play with Torres in there, Carson was sacked. I said, well, let's just not go there. However, to my eye, Torres picked it up and did not allow another sack the entire night. Rogers did come back for a few plays, but he was unable to make a go of it so Torres filled in and I think he did a fairly good job. Our running game was not stellar, but it was persistent and adequate. Both Fargas and Sultan often appeared close to making a long run. There is no denying that more often than would like to see, SC ran right up the middle into a mass of humanity, but we did manage to go off tackle and outside for a couple of good gains and Sultan did get into high gear on a few carries. It was obvious that Chow was going to be stubborn here, and since SC won the game, I won't argue the point.
This game was an interesting matchup for so many reasons. First, it was Carroll against Erickson. Many would like to downplay the story, but SC did want Erickson very much, at least that is what the behind the scenes rumors were. Yet we got Carroll instead and at first, many were not happy about that. Since Carroll has been the headcoach at USC, his Trojan teams have beaten Erickson's Beavers twice with no losses. That is a fact. This was also a game that had to be won by the Trojans. Recent seasons have been marred by long losing streaks and downhill slides. A loss tonight at the Coliseum would have been a perfect setting for the beginning of just such a slide. Yet, the Trojans stepped up and won against another ranked opponent and they did it in a very convincing manner. This game was never in doubt. The vaunted OSU attack could never get untracked. Before the game I posted that we had to catch the ball and put Anderson on his back. Well, SC did just that. Derek Anderson might be a very good quarterback but once again we all got to see what the best defense against a great passing team is now, has always been and will always be: put the quarterback on his back, shake him up and never let him get into a groove. Just ask Mr. Anderson if USC's defense accomplished that or not.
Once again, congratulations to a fired up USC Football team and coaching staff for a terrific performance. We saw two talented tailbacks fight hard for playing time and for their yardage and they showed that SC can run the ball enough to keep the other team off balance. The passing game clicked enough to get some needed scores and the youth on SC is growing up fast, most notably, Mike Williams, William Buchanan and Winston Justice. These guys, along with the likes of Oscar Lua, Dallas Sartz and Justin Wyatt are getting baptism under fire and it will only help as the season progresses. After playing the preseason schedule that SC played, nothing in the future should or will catch these guys by surprise.