Petros Report Card - Cal review

Sultan McCullough continued to dispel any notions about him not being a tough and angry running back. No one who is not a tough and well conditioned athlete could run the ball 39 times in a Pac-10 game. The level of punishment involved is unimaginable. Racking up 176 yards Sultan turned in the most impressive workman-like performance of his career

I don't mean to be melodramatic (as I've been often accused by various uncaring women of the greater Los Angeles area) but I had one of those life altering experiences on Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum. It was really an epiphany of sorts, it happened while I was watching USC play its worst quarter of football in Coach Pete Carroll's short tenure at the University. Jeff Tedford looked like the most brilliant offensive coordinator in the history of the Pac-10 (which he very well may be) as the Cal offense distributed the ball and moved up and down the field while the SC defense was more reminiscent of a tired old tap dancer just going through the motions. My despair trickled into the 2nd quarter when Carson Palmer ducked amazingly out of a pass rush and threw way down field to Mike Williams on a long pass completion. Still the jaded cynic, I told my cheering peers on the sideline in the toughest voice I could muster, "It don't matter. They can't win like that." Right then it started to happen, SC ran the ball. Sultan McCullough was the chosen back and they ran him for the rest of the afternoon. 39 carries and a 176 yards later USC protected a battered defense, controlled and possessed the football and came back to win a pivotal game. I stood there ecstatic until Ronnie Lott refused to do an interview with me, tragically destroying my fragile self-esteem. Here are this week's grades, enjoy:

QB (B-)

Two interceptions and a few sacks didn't help Carson for the elusive Heisman Trophy but he did run the offense efficiently down the stretch. Two touchdowns and a couple of unexplainable feats of physical ability solidified his value as a field general and freakish athletic phenomenon. Deferring to a dominant run game, Carson ran the show, dumping off to backs and finding tight end Alex Holmes five times for 65 yards. SC's hopes still rest on his shoulders but fortunately he doesn't have to do everything himself, even if there are times when he looks amazing while trying.

RB (A)

Sultan McCullough continued to dispel any notions about him not being a tough and angry running back. No one who is not a tough and well conditioned athlete could run the ball 39 times in a Pac-10 game. The level of punishment involved is unimaginable. Racking up 176 yards Sultan turned in the most impressive workman-like performance of his career, aside from the fact that he had a 4th quarter fumble which is something that must be corrected. In the absence of Chad Pierson, who is the most trustworthy player at the fullback position, Malaefou MacKenzie took most of his reps at fullback and caught some dumpoff passes. He did a good job but Malaefou can't stay at fullback because the position will wear him out. Fargas played sparingly as there are a lot of really good running backs on this roster and they are really good guys but Saturday belonged to Sultan.

OL (B+)

With the loss of Jacob Rogers in the 2nd quarter the Trojan offensive line could have folded up. They did not as Eric Torres came in and did a great job, especially run blocking. Give a lot of credit to Lenny Vandermade as he is the Trojans best o-lineman with the best taste in music. Lenny makes both spots next to him better because of his consistent play and he is also the only offensive lineman with a recognizable mean streak. Running the ball is the best favor you can do for an offensive line because these men gain confidence by firing out and going forward but they have a tendency to lose it if they are rocking backwards on their heels pass blocking. Winston Justice, undaunted by a tough Long Beach Poly loss to DeLaSalle, continues to improve with every snap and he may become a great one for the program.

WR (B)

It's time to grade the beautiful people (by far a weekly task that I embrace the most) and it's funny that SC's best receiver was the borderline pretty Alex Holmes. Alex found himself out in the open field for the first time since Sherman Oaks High School. A hard charging run game has some very distinct advantages, one of which is an open tight end. I believe Alex is up to the task of carrying the load at tight end for the remainder of the season. Phantom touchdown and all, Kareem Kelly played all right. Though sometimes inconsistent, Kareem's speed force defenses to account for him at all times. Keary Colbert is now making acrobatic plays week in and week out and would be an asset to any team in the country. Finally, Mike Williams no longer looks like one of the best freshman wide receivers in the country, he looks like one of the best receivers in the country period. I can't believe I'm hyping up a freshman receiver, I feel like an accountant from Mission Viejo who drinks chardonnay, but Mike Williams wows us week after week.

DL (B+)

Losing Shaun Cody to what looks like a substantial knee injury is a huge blow for this Trojan football team but having a guy like Bernard Riley who is ready to pick up the slack is a luxury that not many defensive coordinators have. Coach Orgeron's defensive line played their usual high octane game and anchored a once reeling Trojan defense. Omar Nazel played through the pain of a sternum injury and was heroic all afternoon.

LB (B+)

Though still playing out of position, Matt Grootegoed would probably prefer to play in a steel cage with nobody watching. He has emerged as USC's best playmaking linebacker. Groots has been helped by stable in the middle Mike Pollard who has been invaluable in Pete Carrolls defense for going on two years now. Champ Simmons has speed and is a live wire on the weak side. All in all Jeff Tedford distributed the ball and was very creative early in the game putting the Trojans on their heels and building a 21-3 lead. However, he was unable to establish a running game with Oompa Loompa-like running back Joe Igber and the offense looked like a ridiculous novelty as the evening unfolded.

DB (C+)

William Buchanan was picked on the entire afternoon at corner and then at nickel back. Tedford was really able to expose his inexperience early and then very late in the game, William needs more confidence if he is going to survive a rigorous Pac-10 schedule. DeShaun Hill was strong at the free safety spot and Jason Leach, taking advantage of a window of opportunity with Troy Polamalu's absence, made another game changing interception. I'm hoping Marcell Allmond can keep improving and become the physical presence the Trojans need at cornerback. He would be a nice complement to Darrell Rideaux who is SC's healthiest and most dependable defensive player.

Special teams (B)

The kicking game, which has been the bane of most Trojan fans existence, bounced back at the Coliseum which is a good thing because if it didn't people were going to start threatening lives. Ryan Kileen made his extra points and was 3 of 4 on field goals. Good job….talking any more about it freaks me out.

Coaching (A)

21-3 makes it pretty easy for anyone to pack it in. Give the Trojan coaches all the credit for laughing in the face of adversity and keeping everybody's collective head in the game. Pete Carroll is a great motivator and fine head coach, not to mention the fact that Carroll made some timely adjustments to figure out a very confusing Cal offense. Norm Chow was able to recognize the run as his key to victory on Saturday and should be praised and commended. Guys like Tim Davis, Ed Orgeron and Kennedy Pola kept their players in it on the sidelines. Without men like this the Trojans would not have secured a victory.

Compounded by Ronnie Lott belittling me, I always feel a little depressed when the Berkeley Bears roll into town. It reminds me of hitchhiking home from their camp in Modesto in 1995. When it comes right down to it I'm happy to be a Trojan though (I don't even know if Cal has a sideline radio guy). Little Skippy Neuheisel is coming to town next and after Cal beat him at home the NCAA slapped him with a punishment and his Huskies barely beat Arizona so maybe Rick will see his LA homecoming as a safe haven from the storm that is his life right now. Let's all hope the Trojans make it as unpleasant as possible for the coolest, most fashionable UCLA QB/Pac-10 self-righteous coach in the country.

Petros Papadakis is a former USC tailback and the sideline reporter for Trojans football on KMPC-1540. He also hosts the Trojans pregame showand Tuesday night's USC Insider on KMPC-1540. On television, Petros is an analyst for Fox Sports Net's Southern California Sports Report and he's the sideline reporter for Fox Sports Net's "High School Game of the Week." When Petros is not doing television or radio he's waiting tables at his family's Greek restaurant, Papadakis Taverna, in San Pedro. Petros has no free time


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