Well, it took a little longer than some might have liked, but in the end The University of Southern California Football Trojans definitely took care of business against the Stanford Cardinal.. I had a funny feeling that things might start out on the weird side. Living here in TN, I had to watch the game on Direct TV courtesy of the ESPN GamePlan. The game came on at 6PM Central Time on this Pay Per View Site and the only thing that the viewer got to see and hear for much of the initial 15 minutes was that '''strange Leland Stanford Jr. University Marching Band." That says it right there. Who in their right mind ever wants to see or hear that bunch?
From a football perspective , Stanford put up a somewhat surprisingly tough first 15 minutes or so of football, but SC is clearly a superior team and had they wanted to really lay it on the Cardinal, I honestly feel SC could have won by more than 50 points. In the beginning, the SC D played with a what a appeared to be a less than hostile attitude on D. Stanford was running against the SC defense with relative ease and the young Stanford QB Kyle Matter was very efficient. The reality of the situation is that SC probably came out a little rusty after having a bye week and it took the team a few series to acclimate itself to the speed and intensity of a real game. Once the team got going, they really executed and in the second half, the game was literally no contest. As a fan who has no love whatsoever for the Stanford Cardinal it was awesome to finally beat these guys after dropping the last three.
The offense that USC now runs is simply terrific. The opposition has to prepare for more weapons than they can most likely hope to handle. A nice bit of trivia would be to find out when the last time, if ever, that USC put up 40 or more points in three consecutive games. I don't know the answer, but it has not been anytime in the recent past and I am not sure if it ever happened before. The passing game is almost impossible to completely shut down. Carson Palmer has thrown for over 1000 yards with 13 touchdowns and only two picks in his last three games. He is hitting over 60% and that is simply unbelievable. Just when a team sacks him once or twice, the Offense then comes up with some exceptionally effective running plays and the Defense gets discouraged. When Norm Chow came on board he had the big reputation of being an exceptional offensive guru. In the first year, many if not most fans openly challenged the wisdom of Chow's system here in the Pac-10 and there was much grumbling about the lack of productivity. Well, we are now near the end of the second year of this system and this offense is as explosive as any that I have seen this year.
The skilled players on this team are incredibly talented. We have three very very good receivers named, Kelly, Colbert and Williams. The tight end is becoming more and more productive with Alex Holmes and even the backs out of the backfield, most notably MacKenzie get into the action and they can really catch. I doubt there are many defenses that can stop this offense when things are even close to clicking. Add to the receivers a group of runners who can really get it done as well. Justin Fargas is fast and hits the hole very quickly. He is rarely stopped for negative yardage and occasionally he breaks a longer run. Sultan is a break away threat and if he does not do the backfield two step so often, he is incredibly dangerous with that world class speed of his. And then there is the freshman Hershel Dennis. Poor Hershel gets his reps late in the game but only with the blocking of the backup Oline. Yet he still shows great acceleration and one just can't help but know that he is a star waiting for his real chance.
The play of both lines deserves some mention as well. I could not help but notice that for much if not all of the second half, the left guard was Eric Torres, not Lenny VanDermade. I don't know whether or not there was an injury, but I did think the Oline played well. Carson was sacked a few times on all out blitzes but they were made worse by Carson's reluctance to get rid of the ball. I guess that he is just not going to do that at this point in his career and his strong points are now so overwhelming that they overshadow this obvious problem. There were some good holes for the running backs and Carson usually had enough time to accomplish what he set out to do.
In my opinion, a fact that might tend to be overlooked is the stepped up play of the back up Dliners, specifically LaJuan Ramsey. If you watch the terrific play made by Kenechi Udeze when he intercepted the pass, you will notice the incredible rush put on by the DT who was Ramsey. He looked just like Shaun Cody as he blew right by his man and brought serious heat on the quarterback. It should also be noted that he more than held his own earlier in the game. In the first couple of series, it appeared that Bernard and Mike were not on the top of their game. Then it looked like Mike moved back over to NG and Ramsey came in as the DT. I really think that extra quickness he brings to the lineup is a great change of pace and it helps lessen the devastating loss of Shaun Cody. I also could not help but notice the increasingly important role played by Van Brown. On one bull rush he really brought it and nailed the quarterback but good. This added depth is essential and it bodes very very well for the future.
When the SC Football Team destroys a team as it whacked Stanford tonight, there really is very little negative to come out of the game. I don't think the personal foul call against Troy was a good call and the team played relatively error free football. I would love to see a whole game go by where there were no blocking in the back calls on the punts or kickoffs, but hey, I guess nobody can have everything. All told, this team is playing excellent football right now and once they got the rust out, they played very well tonight. Next week ASU comes to town and I just hope the team is ready to play an it focuses on the game at hand. If that happens, then good things are sure to happen.. Congratulations to the Coaching staff for helping this team transition into a very effective team with a fast, athletic defense and with arguably as prolific an offense as any I can remember over the last many many years at USC.