However, after seeing explosive football for several consecutive weeks, I got very spoiled and I would be surprised if many other SC fans did not suffer a similar fate. Yet upon further review, I absolutely realized that this USC Football team did accomplish a great deal in this victory and the Defense put the clamps on to limit a very potent ASU team to only one touchdown and two field goals. This game also made me realize that if it is this easy to get in a funk as a fan, just imagine how hard it was for the SC guys to stay focused when they could not help but think about the next two weeks. First comes the game against the dreaded Bruins and then comes the regular season finale against the Fighting Irish.
The offense tonight almost seemed boring at times. Initially SC moved the ball almost at will, and then it was if they took the 3rd quarter off. If I did not know better I would have sworn that Chow was regressing and trying to take a page out of the thick playbook that Hackett might have left around. In fact, I am inclined to think that Coach Carroll talked to Chow and the resulting mess was at least in part due to SC losing its rhythm. However, there are also two other contributing factors that simply cannot be overlooked. First and foremost, an injured Mike Williams (the SC receiver, not the ASU runner) was merely a shadow of himself. Even at that, he made a terrific TD catch and he got open long on two nice plays, but his ankle would not support that final burst that he usually has. I could not help but wonder why it was not Kareem going long considering Mike's handicap.
But just think about what I just wrote. We have become so accustomed to BMW (Big Mike Williams) pulling off the amazing, that when he plays like a mere mortal, things don't look quite right. The second important point is that the SC running game was tough tonight. All told they netted something like 203 yards and actually the backs ran for more than that. When the fans are accustomed to seeing the ball in the air more than that, it chanages the expectations and it is easy to forget how great it really is to run the ball with domination.
As USC goes into the UCLA game, the Bruins will have much to ponder. That pass from BMW on the bubble screen is another new wrinkle that defenses will have to prepare to defend. That play could have easily been a touchdown. Alex Holmes is also showing what a stud he is. He rarely , if ever, drops catchable balls and when he gets the ball, he is like a freight train on the move. Greg Guenther also showed good hands when given a shot. The backs out of the backfield caught the ball and ran with it very well and all told, it is easy to see that the O was more productive than I had orginally thought, especially considering that all of the above was accomplished despite being unproductive in the third quarter. Carson was on the money much of the time and one has to think his long passes were thrown off due to Mike Williams' ankle injury. Hopefully, BMW will heal some over the next one to two weeks. He is such an ace it would be unfair to have him at less than his best for the biggest two games of the season to date.
There were a couple of developments on the special teams that also caught my attention. First, the kickoff coverage continues to underwhelm everyone. It amazes me how other teams continually get great yardage time after time against USC's return defenses. The punting game continues to excel as Tom Malone has definitely lived up to his early billings. It was nice to see the accurate field goal kicks and all the extra points were made and we all know that for SC that has not been a given. I couldn't help but notice that our punt return team may have turned an important corner tonight. Greg Carlson has been steady, if not spectacular returning punts. He has hands like glue, but he has not broken a thing. The Trojans made a switch and put in potentially electrifying Justin Wyatt in to field the punt and to my eye, he was only a step away from going all the way. If he can catch adequately, I think Wyatt keeps the job from now till the end of the bowl season and then perhaps for his entire career. This guy has all the moves and he can fly.
The defense really played very well. I was initially wondering why it took so long to blitz, but I guess I always think that way. That ASU quarterback Walters is tall and talented. Whenever he had enough time, he was right on the money. However, when we brought serious heat, we disrupted his game and he threw a few picks and was definitely bothered on a number of occasions. ASU could not run the ball and SC even did well against those tricky reverses. To hold that explosive offense to only 13 points is a major accomplishment. Walter passed for almost 300 yards, but it's the points on the board that count and ASU did not get many.
DeShaun Hill made a superb pick and that definitely helped prevent ASU from picking up bigtime momentum. Champ Simmons also showed some pretty good hands on his. pick. However it was the play of two db's that caught my eye. First, Marcel Allmond is becoming exactly what I thought he would become. He is a top notched college corner and I will be shocked if he is not an honors candidate next season. He is simply too fast, strong, mean and athletic not to succeed in a big way. And then there is Justin Wyatt. I know he bit on the qb fake at the end of the first half which cost SC 7. However, he really stepped it up in the second half and he was in the receivers face time and again and he dished out a couple of big hits. This kid is going to be very difficult to keep out of the starting lineup next year. He is another future honors candidate in the defensive backfield who gets better with time.
So how about the coaching? Well, I was cursing (that is being kind and professional) at the end of the second period and all through the third quarter which is something that I had not been doing in recent weeks. I was not sure if the players were flat, if the coaches were having an off night or if I was simply expecting far too much. The answers are not straightforward and I suspect an element of all three options were present. The play calling was different than it had been, the players seemed to have their collective minds elsewhere for a while (not that anyone could blame them) and I had fallen into the trap of actually expecting good things as if this were another day and time. In retorspect, the end result speaks for itself and SC not only beat a fine ASU team, they did it by 21 points and that just can't be bad. The SC staff actually did a remarkable job to keep these kids focused enough to allow them to play a tough game and to secure the victory. The young players are once against getting good experience, and the veterans are stepping it up. It should not be forgotten that SC is missing four starters from the lineup, two of whom are huge: Shaun Cody and Lenny VanDerMade. Eric Torres played very well and Terrell Suggs got only one sack. How good is that? The Oline protected Carson well and they blocked well enough to allow a 200+ yard game rushing. Yep, I was falling into that spoiled fan syndrome. This is a very very good Trojan team who deserves all the accolades they get.
One last point that needs to be brought up is the job TBS did for television. The folks at the game missed the best defense of Pac-10 Football and most pro-Carson Palmer for Heisman presentation that I have ever seen. This group of announcers has been criticized by many I have spoken to and read, but if one is an SC Homer, one just had to love how this group absolutely praised USC, Carson Palmer, Pete Carroll and the whole Pac-10 repeatedly. It may have turned some off, but being the SC Honk that I am, I loved every minute. All I can say now is Fight On, and let's go and get the Bruins. It sure would be nice to get them for a fourth time in a row. And then there is that little school from South Bend Indiana--you know who they are, right?