Forget win one for the Gipper. That mamby-pamby rallying cry lots its punch when the clocks struck midnight and rang us into the 21st Century. With the talent D-1 teams field today, especially the Pac, there's only one way to prepare. You gotta strap it on and go in like it's Bloodsport. Goddamned Rollerball, with one rule to remember... There are no rules.
The battles are over. The early rounds of feeling the opponent out and getting our "fighter's legs" are done. It's fourth and one on the four in the fourth quarter with time running out and we need to score. Our backs are up against the wall. It's time to go to war. This has to be SC's mentality come Saturday, because from this day forward, it's winner take all.
UW's coming to town ravenous for a win. They're going to fight like dogs to get that victory and there's only one way to handle a feral dog... put it down. Go right for the jugular and takes it's life. The Huskies, like a feral animal, are dangerous. They run fast, hit hard, are lead by an honest to goodness rodeo stud and got a coach who's mastered that one rule I mentioned just a moment ago. They mean business.
Cody Pickett, there star qb is rewriting the record books at his university. Anybody who knows the history of that program, realizes that's saying a lot. He's averaging over 380 yards in the air. I know what you're thinking... "Oh, no. Not another one." Yep, here he comes. Another gunslinger. Another hotshot quarterback looking to shoot holes in our one legged secondary. So, how do we do it this time? How does a Trojan defense, all banged up and barely worth squat, stop this aerial assault? They don't. They can't. But guess what... they aren't going to have to - at least not all day long. If they can manage to provide just a few moments of pure blood and guts football, their offense should be able to do the rest. That's right you doomsayers, you heard it here first. SC's offense will win this game. but not in the shootout fashion you might be envisioning. No sir. USC is coming out with the Cavalry. They're going to hit the ground running, play ball control and keep those mangy dogs Cody Pickett, Reggie Williams and Rich Alexis right where they belong - on the sidelines listening to the Trojan Marching Band and watching the game go by.
That's what SC did to Cal last week and should've done to the Cougars. Granted the whole band wasn't up in Pullman and maybe that was part of the problem. Against WSU, SC's coaches got the willies. They saw that the Cougars were able to run the ball a little bit and they panicked. SC went airborne and never looked back - till it was over and the "W" was hanging on the other team's side. You can blame the kicker, but in truth, the Trojans should have never abandon the run. For when they did that, they went away from the team's strength. Not many schools can say they have three, super talented senior runningbacks, plus an outstanding quarterback. SC has both, but tried to win a relay race with just one man. A very tough, but valuable lesson that Carroll and Company seems to have learned fairly well. That next week against Cal, they ran the ball 39 times - the most in almost a decade. With the style of defense SC plays, that running game is the ticket. You can't expect your defense to play the high flying, heavy hitting game SC's does if they are out on the field all day. Nope. The offense has go to control the ball and the clock. They can dink and dunk with short passes, or long handoffs, however you prefer to see it, but they can't strike quick and hope to do it often. If they misfire, they're three and out putting their defense back on the field. Even if they score on those big plays, they put their defense back on the field. When you do this against a ball control team, you pray for lots of success early ala Cal, or you hope to God the other squad doesn't start clicking. For once they do, your only ally is the clock.
The 2002 Huskies exemplify this model. Cody has been excellent. He's putting up huge numbers without a running game. The man's completing 67% of his passes, has 2251 total yards and has thrown 13 TDs with only 4 INTs. And his number one wide receiver Reggie "Big players make big plays" Williams has been lights out, averaging nearly 7 catches a game for a 17.2 per catch average. So where's the problem? They got no ground game.
Remember two years ago when Paul Hackett headed up the Trojan program? SC had a top rated offense that thrived off the deep ball. They'd run once, throw twice and then either score, but more often punt. It looked kinda sexy, but put the Trojan defense back on the field too early and too often. UW's in the same spot now. Both their starting backs have been playing with hammy and ankle problems all year, so they can't run. Then, when they have, they've lost the handle and turned the ball over. Therefore their offense has been totally reliant on Pickett toWilliams for the quick strike. Nice when it works, but very one dimensional.
Even Skippy sees it... "If we can find ourselves in the running game, we can find ourselves in this conference, but we have to do it now!" Yes, the panic button has been pressed by Coach Neuheisel. He's seen how SC has faired against one dimensional teams this year and he knows a loss now will relegate his squad to a second tier bowl. Washington only needs to more wins to be bowl eligible but they must face four top twenty-five teams, including SC, before the season is over. Unfortunately for them, they don't get Stanford this year.
I'm making the Husky team sound weak, horrible. In fact, their offense is more productive than at any other time in the history of their program. With the numbers that have been thrown about you'd think they'd be undefeated, right? No, they're 4-2. I guess that doesn't sound so bad. SC is 4-2 and Trojan fans are feeling pretty good about the direction of the program. The difference is 3 of UW's 4 wins came against San Jose State, Wyoming and Idaho. The fourth victory, which required an eighty yard pass play with under 2 minutes left, was against the sadly depleted Arizona Wildcats. Clarence Farmer, possibly the best tailback in the Pac Ten, was lost to the Cats the week before and without him, Arizona couldn't run the ball. They had no choice but get into passing contest with the Huskies. And when Arizona needed a first down with two minutes remaining, holding onto a 4 point lead, they had no one to hand the ball off to. That was all she wrote. On a routine five yard slant, Reggie "where's my sharpie" Williams broke free, ran 80 yards against a miserable defense and put it in the endzone for the win. 4-2 doesn't look so pretty when you consider the opponents. Neither does their second in the Pac (behind SC) defense.
The Husky front seven has been pretty good, allowing just 85.8 yards on the ground per game. Then again, against who... a weak AZ club, Cal who beat them badly, the three no names and Michigan? None of those squads have the backfields SC does, none. But still, the numbers are respectable from the line and backers. It's the secondary that has them scared to death. UW's dbacks have given up big plays this year. They allowed Arizona to post 443 passing yards and didn't look much prettier against Cal or Michigan. This has go to tempt Norm Chow to go deep, but if he stays the course and establishes the run, along with the little dinks and dunks, it will force Neuheisel to bring his safeties up and keep his linebackers at home. That's when our own version of Mr.Williams, will break their back. That or Alex "The Crusher" Holmes on a skinny post over the middle will be the trick. In either case, ball control is the key. The run must set up the pass and that will prove to be UW's undoing. But it's going to take a warrior's mentality to pull it off. It's going to require battle plans and strategy, a lot more than long bombs. It's going to require consistent coaching. And, it's going to require us, 75 thousand screaming fans to let them know - it's going to be a war and SC isn't taking any prisoners.
It's High Noon and for SC, this is no longer a game. SC- 34 UW- 21