Petros Report Card - Oregon review

Carson played the game of his life and is having his best year. A small note to USC's future opponents this season, make sure your secondary is ready because if that is your weakness and you've been exposed in the past you will be exposed more and embarrassed. Just ask Rick Neuheisel and Mike Belotti.

Being new to the world of broadcasting (and also relatively new to the world of waking up before 1:00pm) there are certain truths and general axioms about USC football and the Pac 10 as a whole that I try to cling to for the purpose of lending some continuity to my on-air comments and scrambled mind.  One of these truths was that a team must play a mistake-free football game to beat what has become the feared Ducks of Oregon at Autzen Stadium.  This is why, after seeing the Trojans miss two scoring opportunities in the first half, I was looking forward to trying to avoid eye contact with other depressed Trojans on the team charter back to Los Angeles.  However, as the second half developed I quickly realized Pete Carroll's guys had a whole lot left in their tank while Mike Belotti's squad began to slide backward down the hill to join Rick Neuheisel as members of the All-Mediocre coaching team.  It should also be noted that though their team was demoralized by the Trojans the Oregon program is possessor of the most desirable group of cheerleading vixens in the history of football.  Their marketing blitzes on American cities, which included a billboard on our own beloved Figueroa Hotel, might go over better if they replace the likenesses of players with images of these lovely young Ducklings.  Aside from drooling at a group of women who probably despise me I had the pleasure to bear witness to the changing of the guard in the Pac-10 power struggle.  The Trojans have taken back what was rightfully theirs which is the respect that comes with being the most dangerous and solid football program in the conference. 

 

QB (A)

 

Carson Palmer, as his usual annoyingly humble self told me on the plane ride home, "I didn't do that much, I mean I just stood there and threw the ball".  The second part of that statement is resoundingly true, Carson did just stand there and throw…..for 448 yards (a new school record) while leading his team to victory.  As the 2002 season unfolds Carson is rewriting the story of his time at the university.  Exorcising some old demons in a stadium that has not been nice to Carson, and in turn the Trojans for the last few years, he thoroughly entrenched himself as not only the best physical specimen at the QB position in the history of the school but also a great senior leader for this Trojan team. Carson played the game of his life and is having his best year.  A small note to USC's future opponents this season, make sure your secondary is ready because if that is your weakness and you've been exposed in the past you will be exposed more and embarrassed.  Just ask Rick Neuheisel and Mike Belotti. 

 

RB (A)

 

Justin Fargas was given his first start by the Trojan coaching staff and he responded by turning in a physical and attacking performance by grinding out 139 yards on 27 carries.  I was surprised Sultan McCullough was nowhere to be seen until midway through the third quarter but I think this happened because Fargas' violent pounding of the line of scrimmage literally took over the ballgame.  If it was a one yard gain or a fifteen yard gain linebackers were getting up slowly after tackling Justin Fargas, as punishing with the run is exactly what a tailback must do against 8 and 9 man fronts.  Fargas made some impatient cuts and seems to gravitate toward tacklers instead of away from them but he still played a great and tough ballgame.  If the Trojans can get both Fargas and McCullough going at the same time it would be a rushing force with a dramatic and potent change-up ability.  Sultan's reaction to keep his emotions in the game even though he didn't play until late proves that Pola has these guys together but I do want to see Sultan in the game more. Malaefou MacKenzie had another solid and unselfish performance at fullback and was still able to showcase his ability catching the ball with six catches for 44 yards and two touchdowns.  McCullough, Fargas and MacKenzie are three very talented senior running backs with the best RB coach in the country behind them in Kennedy Pola.  This group should be the steadying force for the Trojans as they strive toward a great season and perhaps a Rose Bowl berth.

 

WR (A)

 

The Oregon secondary was embarrassed and shamed by the talented wide receiving corps of the Trojans.  Norm Chow showcased quick hitting bubble screens and hitch patterns to hook Oregon's corners up and then double move sideline fades as the afternoon developed.  SC's wideouts could do no wrong as every play left a huge gash in the Duck defense.  Bonafide freak Mike Williams exploded for 226 dazzling yards and is beginning to look like an All-American.  Much like Keyshawn Johnson in the Cotton Bowl of 1995, Mike Williams may have had his breakout game nationally.  Kareem Kelly had an impressive outing looking healthy and athletic with six catches for 94 yards.  Finally, Keary Colbert added the best catch of the day and another three grabs for 77 yards.  It's hard to imagine any secondary (let alone a struggling Oregon defensive backfield) stopping any of these three Trojan pass catchers.  Alex Holmes ran an undisciplined route that caused an early interception near the goal line that turned out to be a non-factor. Down the stretch of the season the Trojan tight ends need to get back on the same page with Norm Chow and be a little more consistent although with 400 yards from the wide receivers who's complaining, not me.

 

OL (A)

 

Everybody gets an A on the Trojan offense for Saturday.  Tim Davis' group showed more nastiness than usual by throwing themselves into the Oregon 8 and 9 man fronts play in and play out.  They protected Carson well and had very few mistakes throughout a special afternoon for the Trojan offense.   Jacob Rogers came back way early from a sprained knee to give the left side its usual dominant swagger.  Lenny Vandermade looked athletic at times pulling out on pitch plays and Winston Justice gets quicker off the ball each and every week. The Trojan offensive line has developed into a solid group with good depth and they will need all their guys, including Eric Torres, down the stretch.

 

DL (B)

 

The Trojans defensive line played pretty much how they always play.  They showed some new faces to Trojan fans, one particular was Doyal Butler who was very active when he played and even racked up his first career sack.  This was a milestone for Doyal who has played on both sides of the ball for the Trojans and been a good team influence transferring in from Purdue in 2000.  Van Brown saw some more time for Ed Orgeron's guys but is probably going to need to become more physical to be an every down guy for the Trojans.  Kenechi Udeze did not have the dominant performance he had the week before but look for him to explode against Stanford.

 

LB (B+)

 

Controlling Onterrio Smith is not an easy task for any defense at any level, he was a strong runner who was fast and aggressive and very, very confident.  In the second half, however, Matt Grootegoed got to his legs to stop what was becoming a Trojan killing performance by Smith.  Matt may not be a natural linebacker but as a football player he makes plays on the defense comparable in value to the plays made by Troy Polamalu.  It seems that Matt's leg finally feels all the way back and his workmanlike attitude anchors the very active Trojan front seven.  With Mike Pollard and Oscar Lua both going down with injuries the Trojans had the be creative with their linebacking corps as Dallas Sartz, Bobby Otani and even Polamalu in spots were all mugged up on the line of scrimmage and played relatively consistent.  Melvin Simmons, who has had some trouble in the pass game this season, was able to corral an unlikely interception away from talented Oregon TE George Wrightster.  Atta boy Melvin.

 

DB (B+)

 

Although Pete Carroll admitted the Trojans may have been a little overprepared in the first half, meaning that they overadjusted to many of Oregon's formations and routes, they got back to playing their style of football and controlled what was a very balanced Oregon offense.  For the first time in a while the USC secondary was every bit as trustworthy as they controlled three very good wide receivers in Howry, Parker and Willis.  Darrell Rideaux, who has been nothing short of spectacular all season, was finally rewarded with his first career interception as a Trojan.  Marcell Allmond is now nestling in to a starting role at cornerback, if the Trojans did not have this luxury we may have ended up like Oregon or Washington with secondaries that are the laughingstock of the entire country.  Troy Polamalu has not seemed to recover fully from a re-aggravation of a sprained ankle last week versus the Huskies.  He will get a much needed rest during the bye week and should return to 100% against Stanford.    

 

Special teams (B-)

 

Aaah, the kicking game. Ryan Kileen still kicks the ball too low, it's like there is a target on the centers ass.  He did also have a few impressive kicks and looks to be gaining confidence and is playing to make field goals instead of trying not to miss them.  As per usual the Trojan kickoff coverage team was battered by Oregon's return game but they did not let it beat them.  Look for Kennedy Pola to shore up some of these holes in the special teams.

 

Coaching (A+++)

 

Aside from a draw call on third and one near the goal line which made my skin crawl, Norm Chow called a brilliant game on offense.  He toyed with the Oregon secondary and kept everybody honest with a punishing run game.  Chow has finally seemed to have gotten through to his quarterback and I believe he's getting every bit of talent that he can from our most talented player in Carson Palmer.  Pete Carroll was able to show all Trojan fans, and the rest of the country, that he knows how to coach in a big Pac-10 match-up.  His team was prepared near perfectly and showed without a doubt they were ready to play.  There were many moments, especially in the first half, when Carroll could have panicked and made some serious coaching errors.  He did not, though, because he believed in his game plan and his players.  He was rewarded with his biggest victory as Trojan head football coach.  Congratulations to the entire USC coaching staff, they had the better team Saturday in Autzen Stadium.

 

As the leisurely mentality of the bye week settles upon my brain like a morning mist I feel relieved of my many duties as irrelevant talking head for the various LA sports teams.  A high school game between Charter Oak and Los Altos is the only thing that stands between me and my grandparents country club condominium in Palm Desert, CA where the geriatric community can see me letting off steam in my usual style of desert living….golf cart driving, Campari sipping and trying to stuff myself into my grandfathers wardrobe of the 1960's which still fills the closet.   As the Trojans reach the homestretch of the season I will be refreshed with the desert in my toenails.  God bless and Fight On. 

 

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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