Some pundits and analysts have been critical of John David Booty. Perhaps we should step back and see the forest for the trees. This is 2007 and to date, Booty has not shown the mistakes he exhibited last year.
In 2006, Booty had a number of batted passes each game. Not so this year. Also in 2006 he would get rattled and erratic under pressure. He was under tremendous pressure in Husky Stadium, with two new offensive linemen, a raucous home crowd and less than ideal weather. Yet he came out victorious.
The last knock on Booty last year was that he stared down his receivers. Pretty reasonable when one considered his receivers were Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. Everyone knew he would go to Jarrett first and Smith would be his next receiver. Studying Booty in the pocket this year, one can't help but see he goes through all of his reads before committing the throw.
Finally, Booty has just not been rattled this year. Even in Husky Stadium, he was a pillar of strength, leading a teetering offense against a fired up opponent.
Sitting at home with a beer in hand or a double cappuccino grande, one cannot even come close to understanding the environment and adverse elements of the game in Seattle. Yes, the Trojans played horribly, even shot themselves in the foot a few times. But don't undervalue playing against a very good opponent, in a tough venue, with a very good coach. Ty Willingham has yet to reach his peak. And he's not far off.
The Trojans were fortunate to leave Husky Stadium with a victory. After a game filled with oddities it was easy to be "Sleepless in Seattle." There were strange occurrences in this game worthy of a second look.
161 Yards on 16 Penalties
Can any team amass 161 yards in penalties? In one game? By themselves?
The obvious question is how badly did the Trojans play to commit 16 penalties? Not to question officiating, but what was up with the officiating? In particular, the pass interference call on the 15-yard line when the ball sailed into the endzone, one might question if the ball was catchable. On another play, while being held, Thomas Williams was cited for a personal foul. Both players could have been called for a penalty.
The Trojans also had a fumble and two interceptions. Yes, it was a messy game of execution for the Trojans, but they did appear to get some help.
Stats - Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
USC out-rushed Washington 224-100 yards. They also out-passed UW 136-90. The total yard difference was 460-190. Possession time was 34:51 to 25:09, Trojans. USC punted less than the Huskies. The Trojans average yards per play-6.1 yards, Huskies-3.1 yards.
So with all these numbers, the Trojans should have run away with this one. Instead, USC walks away with a very close victory.
The difference maker in the statistics category? Penalties. USC's 16 penalties for 161 yards, versus Washington's 9 for 64 yards. The timing of the penalties also hurt the Trojans. Each time USC was close to putting a nail to the coffin, a penalty was miraculously assessed. On one drive in particular, the Huskies were saved from critical 4th downs several times by penalty calls on third down. This drive led to a Husky touchdown and kept the game from turning into a rout.
In defense of the Huskies, they played a great game. Husky Stadium was deafening and the fans stayed to the end.
Coach Carroll's mantra, "Its All About the Ball," needs work. The Trojans turnover margin has suffered over the last year. In last night's contest, the turnover margin was 3-1. Sorely lacking in the 2007 version of the Trojans are the "take-aways."
Defensive end Kyle Moore has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Men of Troy, but the rest of the team needs to step up to the plate and create turnovers. Thomas Williams did get interception Saturday night, but that was the only take-away for USC.
Pete Carroll needs to reemphasize or retrain the team, "It's All About the Ball."
One question remains to be answered from this near disaster. Will this game give the team confidence knowing they can pull out tight wins, or is this an indication of the team weaknesses?
On a night when so many of the top teams fell around the country, the Trojans are fortunate to come away with a victory when they were less than at there best. There is much to learn from this game-it was full of Pete Carroll "teaching moments."