There were so many different aspects about this game that are worth mentioning that it is really hard to know where to start. I guess the Defense is as good a place as any. Going into the Washington State game, the SC Defense had been superb, but it had yet to face the really tough passing teams that could also run. The Cougars gained over 500 yards and in my opinion, they really cast some doubt as to just how good this D really is. Then Cal came out and demolished the SC defense, and that was with Sean Cody still playing. Before SC could adjust, the Bears had put up 21 points. After that things turned around. SC started to bring some heat and they got a turnover and Boler was not getting quite as much time. Cal was not having much luck running the ball other than on one fine reverse play. Ironically, although the pass rush probably suffers with Riley playing instead of Shaun Cody, I really believe that the inside defense against the rush becomes even tougher since Bernard is somewhat of an imovable guy clogging up the middle.
Many might disagree, but to my eye, one of the keys in turning the D around in this game was the substitution of Marcel Allmond for William Buchanon. It seemed like that gave the D a little bit more of an attitude and more experience and though it may have been a coincidence, that move was big time. I also have nothing but praise for Jason Leach. For the second week in a row he got a pick and though nobody is likely to replace Troy, Leach is one fine strong safety and it will be hard to beat him for that position for the next couple of years. I also thought that this may have been Matt Grootegoed's best game.He had something like 11 tackles and he recovered that victory insuring onside kick. He may be smaller than many would like to see at OLB, but he was where the action was tonight and he played a better than any other linebacker.
USC scored 30 points tonight and won the game. There were 51 runnig plays and 39 pass attempts, with 478 total yards. I don't think even the biggest critics in the world could come down too hard on Coach Chow's game plan this time. Well, that might be true, but one cannot help but be very disappointed with the fact that SC had three long drives in the second half that drove deep into Cal territory and came up with a total of 6 points. With the utter domination that SC displayed in the second half, they should have wonthis game by better than two touchdowns. If any readers wonder if I am ever satisfied, the answer is you bet I have and I am glad we got it. However, to deny that our redzone Offense was inefficient would be to omit the truth. In the end, this game was far too close for comfort and it will undoubtedly cost us future games if SC cannot punch it in more effectively once the team gets inside the 20 yard line. I will admit that if there was ever a game that confused me as to just what should be called, this was the game. Sometimes I wanted to pass but the run worked. Then I wanted to run, but Chow called some pass play that was effective in converting for the first down or something similar. In that respect, I readily admit that this game was just tough to figure.
I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the family rooms of the SC fans as they were watching the game early on and Carson had two picks and then he missed about 8 in a row. I simply won't believe that the arm chair guys, yours truly included, weren't wondering quite seriously if it was not time to give somebody else a chance. Yet, in the end, Carson had two TD passes and he scrambled away from heat on a number of occasions to make big plays. He passed for over 250 yards and actually got better and better as the game wore on. I actually wanted to see him get a bootleg call down by the goal, but who knows what goes on when making calls. I also had to realize that Sultan was the man for most of the night and it usually makes sense to give the best runner the ball. He carried the ball 39 times for 176 yards and fumble, he made up for it with a very nice run over the left side and he almost took it to the house. I also guess the armchair qbs, once again, myself included, are pointing out rather smuggly that we have been calling for Sultan to be the man for weeks now. He seemingly has earned that shot and he needs lots of carries to get into that groove which he usuallyfinds. It was nice to see SC dominate the time of possession and it was the success we had running the ball that allowed us to do just that.
So now, one comes to the miserable topic of injuries. How many games will Rogers and Cody likely miss? Will Troy be ready to play next week? Can the replacements do the job? First, with Rogers, it sure looked like the same knee that has been bothering him for much of this season and who knows how long it will take to heal? I have to say that the O line looked at least as effective with Eric Torres as it did with Rogers in the first part of the game. Whether or not that will continue and whether or not Jacob returns soon is not yet known. We have little Oline depth left and with any other injuires, SC will have to hope some as of now unproven talent can step up. If Sean's knee is hurt badly, then Riley will see lots of minutes. I can't help but wonder if Ramsey will than see some minutes. A team has to substitute, so where SC's will come from is anyone's guess. It is so strange that before training camp, the positions of db, DL and OL were those mentioned as the very positions where we could not have anyone go down. As fate would have it, those are the very spots where SC has lost Arbet, Nunn, Rogers and now Cody. ARGH! Yet despite that, the D is still playing well and limiting this Cal team to 304 total yards is quite an accomplishment. For those who may have seen Miami play FSU, you know that good Offenses simply can't be totally stopped. I personally feel that SC's D was about as dominant in the second half against a very potent Offense as anyone could possibly have hoped.
It would probably be unfair not to mention the receivers in this game. Alex Holmes is stepping up in a big way and he is showing just what good hands he has and what a load he is to bring down. Although he is not the quickest guy on the team , he is one of the most effective receivers. He puts fear into those little db's who simply can't bring him down without help. Mike Williams is his usual self. He is proving to be a real go to go and his future is bright indeed. Keary Colbert is very reliable and then there is Kareem. Tonight he made one of his best plays in recent memory and it involved heart, quick thinking and attitude more than skill in catching the ball. Instant replay clearly showed that his touchdown catch was not catch at all. Yet his determined effort obviously faked out the ref and the result was 6points and a swing in momentum for SC. We all know bad calls are part of the game and haven't we been on the receiving end of such disasters more than our fair share in recent years. As the old saying goes, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
So, now what? Next week is Washington and one can always hope that we get as many guys back as possible, but my honest guess is we might get Troy back and that's it. Hopefully I am wrong. As for the Offensive and Defensive game plans, once again we are facing a potent offense. I hope we are up to the task. It will be interesting to see if Allmond gets the start and it will be interesting to see if LuJuan Ramsey has to see PT. Hopefully, if we are too close to punt, but it would be a long field goal, we will go for the first down, because we have had our share of trouble with long field goals this year. I have to say that the D won the adjustment battle and so did the Offense. I would love more points, but the object is to score at least one more point than the opposition and so long as that is the result, it's ok with me.