Trojans chop down the Tree

This game had very little to do with the Cardinal to be honest, they were the other team on the field but once the Trojans were able to get into a rhythm on both sides of the ball there was very little they were going to do to stop us.

The USC Trojans went up to the Bay Area and put on an impressive performance against the Stanford Cardinal with a 49-17 victory in front of 44,950 fans in Palo Alto.  It was the fourth straight win for the Trojans this year and they did it in familiar fashion with a high powered passing attack and a stifling defense that completely shut down the Cardinal after some brief early success.  Carson Palmer continued to make a case for post-season honors by completing 22 of 32 passes for 317 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.  Keary Colbert had a pair of touchdown catches and Mike Williams added one as USC led 21-10 at halftime before pulling away with 21 unanswered points over the next 15:04.  Troy Polamalu led the defense with 13 tackles (7 solo), one sack and two TFL.  The victory kept the Trojans in contention for a Rose Bowl berth although Washington State needs only one more win to clinch that spot. 

 

Senior Leaders

 

When the Trojans unveiled their new uniforms this past off-season they chose seniors Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu to model the new jerseys in a photo shoot at the Coliseum.  It seemed fitting for these two to be the symbolic leaders of a new direction for the program because they represent the offensive and defensive identity of this team as we enter the dawn of a new era with USC Trojan football.  The uniforms are not the only retro style featured this season as this team has returned to playing good old fashioned football with a killer mentality designed to beat an opponent into the ground and nobody reflects that attitude more than this pair.  It is ironic, of course, that Palmer and Polamalu would be representative of this spirit considering the fact that off the field they are two of the most mild mannered young men you could ever hope to meet but don't be deceived by that quiet nature once they step onto the field.   Palmer is the Golden Boy at quarterback who has taken more than his fair share of abuse over the years from critics who waited for him to rise to their standards.  It has been an interesting ride, to say the least, but Carson has always taken the high road and said all the right things until we have now arrived to the point where his weekly shattering of records and mounting victories can simply speak for themselves.  There isn't a quarterback in the country who is playing better football right now, maybe Brett Favre is in the same ballpark, and the thought of a red-hot Carson Palmer down the stretch is enough to make any Trojan fan smile.  The return of the real Troy Polamalu last Saturday is another pleasant thought as we look forward to the remaining games, we all know Troy isn't 100% with his sore ankle but the wild-man effort we saw against Stanford is the type of performance we have come to expect from the man with the flowing dreadlocks.  It was good to see him all over the field being aggressive even if he was called for a silly personal foul call on a hit against Teyo Johnson that should be perfectly legal in the game of tackle football.  Things are going well right now for the Trojans and there is a lot of credit to go around but no two players are more important that Palmer and Polamalu, the captains, the senior leaders, and it will be up to them to guide us home in coming weeks. 

 

Extra Points

 

Top Freshman

Mike Williams caught eight passes in this game to give him 58 for the season, a new freshman record for the Pac-10 that breaks the mark set last year by Reggie Williams of Washington.  The Husky receiver was hailed by many as the vanguard of the new WR yet our Williams has already broken his record and still has three games left in the season.  Very impressive, Mike. 

 

Groots Gets It

His instinct and football savvy are part of what makes Matt Grootegoed a terrific football player.  On top of that his tackling skills are second to none and he just always seems to be in the right place at the right time, especially in this game as he had three of the USC season-high seven sacks.  Carroll has said he will leave Matt at linebacker next year rather than move him to safety after Polamalu leaves. 

 

Marvelous Mal

He may not be the vocal point of the offense but Malaefou MacKenzie continues to make big plays at key times.  Mal had a terrific one handed grab on a wheel route pass from Carson and then followed that up with a long gain on a toss sweep (nice to see that play again) before scoring on a short TD run on the drive at the end of the third quarter which put the game away.

 

Key to the Game – Consistency

 

It was a game the Trojans were supposed to win, no question about it.  The Stanford Cardinal are reeling right now but USC was coming off a bye week and you never know what kind of impact that will have for a team that is on a roll.  Fortunately, the Trojan coaches did a terrific job of keeping the team focused and prepared so that they came in and took care of business by demoralizing Stanford on the way to a huge victory.  This game had very little to do with the Cardinal to be honest, they were the other team on the field but once the Trojans were able to get into a rhythm on both sides of the ball there was very little they were going to do to stop us.  The Trojans have now established an identity, a sense of what we are trying to accomplish and the ability to enforce that identity will be what determines how far this program is able to go.  Based upon the last three weeks it looks pretty good.  For three games in a row the Trojan offense has put up over 40 points, an impressive stat that doesn't come along too often.  Our offense has done a great job of being patient and taking what the defense gives us.  We have shown a pattern of making excellent halftime adjustments, for both offense and defense, and then using the third quarter to separate from the opponent. For the season USC has outscored opponents 74-17 in the third quarter, in this game we outgained Stanford 160 yards to six in that period.  Consistency, it is what all teams strive for and Pete Carroll said it was important as a coach for his team to show that kind of consistency coming out of a bye week against a team they are supposed to beat.

 

Notes From The Sidelines

 

Carson Palmer set a new USC record for career TD passes with 61, 13 of which have come in the last three weeks.  Rob Johnson held the previous mark at 58...Lee Webb did a great job of sacrificing his body by leaping into the wedge on the opening kickoff…..Kenechi Udeze had a terrific interception after Stanford QB Kyle Matter had completed his first 15 passes on the day.  His 16th attempt was hurried thanks to great pressure from LaJuan Ramsey and Udeze showed good concentration to bring the ball in…..Tom Malone came into the game leading the conference in punting and he continued to kick well with some high punts that allowed for the coverage teams to get downfield.  What a weapon he is going to be in the coming years…..We need to improve our kickoff coverage…..Alex Holmes has improved his speed to the point where he was utilized on the type of deep routes that Kori Dickerson ran so well last season.  Alex went over the middle early on a nice gain and then on his touchdown pass he got a head of steam up and nobody was going to deny him the end zone….. Marcell Allmond has performed admirably as a starter and deserves praise for the job he has done to shore up the corner position opposite Darrell Rideaux…..It was good to see so many young players get into the game.  Matt Cassel had a completion to Dominique Byrd, although it would've been great to see Matt get a few more attempts, Hershel Dennis ran well, Van Brown got pressure on the QB, Dallas Sartz had a deflection, Justin Wyatt recovered a fumble and Ramsey has become a regular part of the DT rotation….RECRUITING NEWS……The Trojans picked up a verbal commitment from the top middle linebacker on their wish list when Drean Rucker (6-1, 230) from Canyon Springs HS gave a verbal commit last week.  Rucker has 4.6 speed and is a very physical player who can run from sideline to sideline and is extremely intense on the field.  Drean had an impressive performance at the Nike Camp where he set himself apart as the most dominant LB on the day…  Drean chose USC over Oklahoma (father played there) and Oregon…..RB verbal Chauncey Washington missed four games this season due to an injury but it looks like he is back to full strength after rushing for 225 yards and five touchdowns in a victory last week…..

 

Quote of the Day

 

"I'll tell you, we've got a good system going right now and I'm happy, our guys understand what we're trying to accomplish, we practice real hard and we're consistent.  That's the key to what's going on, we're consistent in the way we're preparing.  That's why this type of game is important to a coach because we play a team that's struggling and we go out and get em.  That's what should happen if you're ready, if you're prepared and if you respect the game and all.  I'm really pleased because it was so important for me to get that point across to our players. I don't want to be an up and down program, I want to be consistently moving ahead by winning the games you're supposed to win and then winning the big games and that's when you put together a real style about your program." - Pete Carroll

 

Final Thoughts

 

It feels so good to be sitting here with the USC Trojans in the Top Ten and the coming weeks featuring a Homecoming shootout with the Sun Devils, the annual get together with the baby blue boys from Westwood (who quietly have put together a little run of their own) and then the regular season finale with Notre Dame, a game which will once again receive major attention on a national level.  It feels good to have the season mean something in November.  When outsiders try to heckle Trojan fans by claiming that we want to live in the past this is exactly the type of feeling we have been looking to recapture.  How nice does it feel these days to read the media write-ups of the game on a Sunday morning?  To walk into a stadium with a swagger and know that you are going to win that football game?  How good is it to look at the teams ranked ahead of us in the polls and to know that you would gladly take on any team from that list and feel without a doubt that the Trojans would have a chance to win the game?  How long has it been since we could really say that?  These are heady times for USC football right now and what makes it such a unique feeling is the sense that we are in on the start of something really special.  There is a difference between a football team and a football program and we are seeing Pete Carroll and his staff put together a football program.  Not only that but they are doing it the right way.  There are no underlying hints of scandal, no handicapped parking issues.  Our players work hard, they respect the game, they represent the university well and on top of all that they are whipping some serious butt on the football field.  It's a great time to be a Trojan.


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