What a day to be a Trojan

What we saw on Saturday didn't just happen overnight and it certainly wasn't an accident. Our football team has been prepared to play the right way and because of that there are a lot of Trojans walking around right now with smiles on their faces.

It was a meaningful game on Saturday in Eugene and this Trojan team passed every test with flying colors as they dominated the Oregon Ducks by a score of 44-33 in front of 56,754 fans at Autzen Stadium.  The game was close at halftime but then the Trojans simply exploded with four touchdowns over the next 15:10 to put the game out of reach at 44-19.  There were so many Trojan stars on this night but a trio of offensive stars stood out on this night when USC gained over 600 yards on offense.  Carson Palmer was amazing with 31 completions in 42 attempts for 448 yards and five touchdowns, Justin Fargas got his first start at tailback and provided an aggressive spark to the run game with 27 carries for 139 yards and a score and then, of course, there was Mike Williams who caught 13 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns with a performance that brought back memories of Keyshawn Johnson in the Cotton Bowl. 


Proud day for Palmer


Autzen Stadium had been a personal house of horrors for Carson Palmer but on Saturday he turned it into his playground with a cold and calculated attack on the heart of the Oregon defense.  Carson was in command of this game from the start with crisp swing passes and good zip on his downfield throws.  He threw again and again at the inexperienced Duck corners until he finally knocked them out with 30 unanswered points in the second half.   There was one pass in the end zone that was intercepted although that can certainly be overlooked on a day when you set a school record for passing yardage and tie Rodney Peete for the most TD passes in one game.  It would be one thing if Carson had put up that kind of effort against a lesser opponent but the fact is it happened on this day in a game that he wanted to win as much as any in his career.  It was also a game he needed to win.  All the numbers and records are nice but nothing means more to Carson right now than leading this team to victories and big road wins have been pretty scarce for this program lately, particularly when it comes to Autzen.  Carson has personally left part of himself on that field with a broken collarbone and a couple broken hearts after wrenching defeats to the Ducks.  When you add it all up this was a fantastic win for a great player, a class young man who has represented this school in good times and bad and who deserved to be the one leading the way on this wonderful day.


Extra Points


Fargas Flying High


Justin Fargas got the opportunity he had been waiting for and his hard running provided a spark to the offense.  Fargas hits the hole so hard and he wasn't going to be denied on a nice TD run in the third quarter.  Congratulations to Justin on a terrific day. 


Wonderful Williams


His numbers on the day were staggering but what is most impressive is how Mike Williams is making it all look so easy.  Thank you Ron Zook for thinking this guy is a tight end. 


Darrell Dominates


Darrell Rideaux had a special moment with his first career interception and he also added two sacks, including a key 14 yard loss at the end of the first half.  Darrell has thrived under the teaching of Carroll and is playing very good football.


Key to the game – 3rd quarter explosion


The Oregon Ducks actually went into halftime with a 19-14 lead and a thought that they had a chance to win this football game.  Unfortunately for them the reality was that the Trojan offense had been the only thing stopping the Trojan offense in the first half with two trips inside the five yard line that resulted in no points.  Carson Palmer and company got right to work at the start of the 3rd with a big play to Kareem Kelly for a score.  The Trojan defense started controlling the line of scrimmage and held the Ducks to one first down in the quarter.  Oregon also punted three times in the third quarter after not punting at all in the first half.  Justin Fargas ran with heart on a nifty TD run and a few minutes later Carson found Mike Williams for yet another score.  The Trojans benefited from an interception by Melvin Simmons and before you knew it the quarter was over with USC outgaining Oregon on offense 274 yards to 18.  Mal MacKenzie added another TD catch quickly into the fourth to basically put the game away but it was the third quarter blowout that put this game in the refrigerator for the Trojans. 


Notes from the sidelines


Justin Fargas said he plans to appeal the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility at the conclusion of this season…..The play of the offensive line was a major factor in this win.  Jacob Rogers showed great heart to play with pain in a big game while Lenny Vandermade was all over the field blocking in open space…..The wide receivers also got into the act with some solid blocking with Grant Mattos and Kareem Kelly setting the tone early…..Doyal Butler got his first extended action of the season and had a big impact with a sack…..The interception by Melvin Simmons was one of the strangest plays you will see…..Ryan Kileen made a huge 48 yard FG in the fourth quarter…..Malaefou MacKenzie proved to be invaluable with a pair of touchdown catches…..Kareem and Keary Colbert combined with Mike Williams to form the most impressive trio of receivers on the field… The USC receivers struck a pose after the game that was similar to the billboard showcasing the Oregon receivers on a billboard in downtown LA....Matt Grootegoed is amazing…..The Trojan coaches will take advantage of the bye week to hit the recruiting trail at high school and junior college games throughout the state…..


Final thoughts


There was a familiar swagger to the way the Trojans played football and it is a style of play that we are starting to see with regularity.  The attitude has changed on this team.  What we saw on Saturday didn't just happen overnight and it certainly wasn't an accident.  Our football team has been prepared to play the right way and because of that there are a lot of Trojans walking around right now with smiles on their faces.  Pete Carroll has shown that he will take a chance and constantly tinker with things in an effort to make it better and he will also reserve the right to move on to something else if it isn't working.  There are so many decisions that are made through the course of a season but one example of taking a risk was the decision to start Justin Fargas over Sultan McCullough.  Carroll told both players earlier in the week that he had a "gut feeling" that it was Fargas' time after Sultan had just put in a career effort against Cal two short weeks ago.  The move paid off on the field in a big way as Justin was a perfect boost of energy that helped propel the Trojan offense to dizzying heights.  Instead of pouting about the switch Sultan was the first one waiting at the sideline after Fargas scored his touchdown run, an act that also showcased the team atmosphere Carroll has developed.  Carroll helped provide the shift after halftime when we returned to a pressuring defense instead of sticking with a game plan designed to thwart an intricate Duck passing scheme that never materialized.  He compensated for the loss of Shaun Cody by installing a speed rush package that includes Doyal Butler and Van Brown and it paid off.  His converted safety Matt Grootegoed was vital in filling the holes and slowing Onterrio Smith. All these moves come from a coach who is looking for any way he can to win, a coach who has a real joy for the game and a competitive spirit that is reflected in his team and the passionate way in which they play.  The Trojans will head into the bye week with all the momentum in the world as we look to get a much needed rest in preparation for a stretch run that could lead to Pasadena on New Year's Day.  It feels real good to be able to say that again.  

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