The Obvious - With their bowl destinations on the line and Arizona State starting to breathe life at the close of the third quarter, USC tailback Justin Fargas turned a near Trojan narcoleptic second half performance into his own private alarm clock by rushing the Trojans to a 34-17 sense-of-urgency Homecoming victory over Arizona State before a mostly relieved 73,923 fans and a national television audience.
The Not So Obvious - For the career of some of these star-crossed senior Trojan players, this Homecoming game and its importance was not lost in its meaning, especially for Fargas, in particular, who said after the game, " This Homcoming was for the seniors. It was probably my last Homecoming game."
The Obvious - Justin Fargas' work ethic and attacking style has brought back memories of Garrett, Simpson, Davis, Allen, and White, all who attacked the hole way the way Fargas has been displaying during his apparent brief, but memorable Trojan career.
The Not So Obvious - It is that old time style of Trojan back that ASU coach Koetter revealed, " That guy (Fargas) hits the hole as hard as anybody we've seen all year." Added Sun Devil safety Jason Shivers on Fargas' style, " I kind of like it because it gave me some real competition. They schemed things well for him."
The Obvious - Fargas, who rushed for 125 yards on 36 carries and one touchdown against ASU, knows the Trojan tailback legacy and has publicly said he wants to immulate the great Trojan running backs of the yesteryear.
The Not So Obvious - Late Saturday night Fargas commented, "I feel anytime I line up is an honor. I come prepared to give it my all and leave it all on the field. I cherish it everytime they give me the ball."
The Obvious - While newly-appointed backup tailback Sultan McCullough is providing a wonderful change of pace as illustrated by his electrifing explosion of 59 yards on Saturday, it is quite apparent that offensive coordinator Norm Chow sees Fargas as "the truth" the rest of the way against UCLA, Notre Dame, and beyond.
The Not So Obvious - Chow couldn't have been more direct about the differences between Fargas and McCullough when he said Saturday, "He (Fargas) is exactly what we needed in this offense. When you have opportunities to run, you can't be hesitating and dancing back and forth", an "obvious" reference to McCullough's running style.
The Obvious - It was a spirited day for Homecoming as well the return of many heralded and not so heralded star of Trojan lore. All around campus and the Coliseum, it was fun to check out the name tags and place the face with the game.
The Not So Obvious - There have been many headliner running backs at USC, but some of the least known would have been stars at other schools. Certainly one of those was standing on the hill at the Trojan Football Alumni Tent remember fullback Manfred Moore out San Fernando High, who was a special piece of the teams of 1971-73. While the Sam Cunninghams of that era deserved the praise, Moore represented the player that fit the role and was as much a part of the national championships as anybody.
The Obvious - The Trojan secondary, especially the play of Marcell Allmond and Darrell Rideaux, played an outstanding game save for a a blown converage by Justin Wyatt that resulted in a Shaun McDonald 24-yard touchdown reception.
The Not So Obvious - Thanks to some deadly corner blitzes by Allmond and Rideaux and a highlight interception in the end zone by DeShaun Hill, the Trojans' defense again turned the opponents' running back into its reception leader, as ASU tailback Mike Williams had more catches than star receiver Shaun McDonald (5 to 4).
The Obvious - Once again Pete Carroll demonstrated why he is one of the premier defensive strategists at any level of football by confusing Sun Devil quarterback Andrew Walter into three lethal turnovers.
The Not So Obvious - Said Sun Devil star receiver Shaun McDonald, " They (USC) obviously have good coaching, and they forced a lot of questionable throws.They (USC defense) are a real good defense. Real fast. They had a pretty good scheme for us."
The Obvious - ASU quarterback Walter showed some real arm strength throughout the game, and it seemed at times to have the Trojans on their heals. However, Carroll and company constantly turned the USC defense into a conundrum for the young Sun Devil quarterback.
The Not So Obvious - Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter saw the level of weakness in his signal-caller against the Trojans by saying, "He (Walter) played very frustrated. We knew they'd mix coverages. He got frustrated and made some decisions that he shouldn't have made. He didn't make the decisions he's used to making."
The Obvious - He and his son stood proudly at the back end of the end zone as the Trojans went through their lengthy warmups. He has aged some,wore sunglasses, and the long, blond hair is neither blond nor abundent.
The Not So Obvious -Yet, this special past Trojan quarterback, who some feel has lost his loyalty, was giving the "Fight On" sign with his hand in the air as the Spirit of Troy began the music ritual that this legend did some during warmup some 27 years ago. Forget about the talk that he doesn't know his roots, Pat Haden stayed on the field as long as he could to suck in the emotion and excitement of this year's nationally ranked Trojans. He was recognized by coach Carroll, who immediately ran over and put his arm on Haden's shoulder and the two smiled and made conversation.
The Obvious - Even though he caught the opening touchdown for the Trojans, it was quite apparent that freshman prodigy receiver Mike Williams was a step slow Saturday, especially when he tried to haul in some well-thrown deep shots by Carson Palmer.
The Not So Obvious - When UCLA looks at the film of the Trojans' game against the Sun Devils, Williams' left-handed "double-pass" to Kerry Colbert will bring chills down Bruin defenders in the film sessions. Had the pass been placed on Colbert's inside instead of the sidelines, it would have gone to "The House". Chow was definitely sending the Bruins a calling card message.
The Obvious - With replacement guard Eric Torres playing a strong game, one of the impressive moments for the Trojans' offensive line was the fact that they opened up holes for SC backs to the tune of 201 yards, especially considering the loss of Lenny Vandermade.
The Not So Obvious - The offensive line, which had a marvelous day rushing as 201 yards would indicate, had the attention of the fans before the game as one fan in particular was yelling out to every lineman that "This is your day". The teen fan, dressed in cardinal and gold, made a point of getting the attention of line coach Tim Davis, who more than once turned to the fan and gave a "thumbs up" signal and nodded his head.
The Obvious - The play of the offensive line was highlighted by the stoppage of Sun Devil defensive end Terrell Suggs, the NCAA record-holder for sacks, who had a less than stellar performance.
The Not So Obvious - The Trojans had a big advantage against Suggs in Pete Carroll who knows something about defense. Carroll revealed, " The best way to eliminate a pass rusher is to run the football, and that was what we were able to do."
The Obvious - The Trojans did their best to agitate Suggs as they did with quarterback Walter, his counterpart on offense. Credit tackle Jacob Rogers for holding his own against Suggs.
The Not So Obvious - ASU's defensive coordinator felt that Suggs got "frustrated" by the Trojans' scheme. When the Trojans did pass the ball, Carson Palmer did a lot of three-step drops and Suggs had little time to promote pressure. Suggs, however, said, "I wasn't frustrated. I just didn't get to him."
The Obvious - Two of USC's walking wounded looked fine on the sidelines before the game. Guard Lenny Vandermade's arm was in a sling, but he carried a smile on his face, and defensive tackle Shaun Cody walked as though he could have put on a uniform and played.
The Not So Obvious - When asked by a fan before the game how he felt, Cody replied, "I feel great". Shaun was sporting a new, short haircut and walked the sidelines with strength, enthusiasm, and very little sign of a limp.
The Obvious - The sidelines before the game was a convention of who's who of Trojan past football practitioners and dignitaries.
The Not So Obvious - Shaking hands on the sidelines and exchanging smiles as the Trojans went through their pre-game drills was former USC linebacker great Marlin McKeever and former Trojan coach Mike Giddings, a mentor during the McKay era. New Orange County all-time wins holder, coach John Barnes of Los Alamitos, was seen pacing the sidelines with some of his players.
The Obvious - Tailback Justin Fargas ran with reckless abandon, and on his three-yard touchdown run he got help from center Norm Katnick and guard Zack Wilson, who continues to impress after very slow start due to injury.
The Not So Obvious - The key return of big fullback Chad Pierson who had two crushing blocks - one during Fargas' touchdown run and another for a crucial first down. Pierson's size and strength in leading Fargas could become a definite factor in the Trojans' remaining games.
The Obvious - Something definitely went haywire during the later portion of the game when the Trojans had the lead and needed to burn the clock. Again, the Trojans continued to throw deep, and incomplete passes stopped the clock making it a longer game than necessary, thus allowing the Sun Devils more time to get back into the game.
The Not So Obvious - A couple of times this season, Trojan fans have questioned the clock management late in a game. However, this time Norm Chow deservedly didn't have to take the heat as Pete Carroll took responsibility for changing the direction of the offense. He apologized that he had was the one who asked Chow to throw deep.
The Obvious - With the Arizona State victory, USC has climbed to No. 7 in the country and fans in the Southland have recaptured the Trojan spirit, except for LA Times columnist T.J. Simers, who "trashed" the Trojans in reference to Saturday's attendance count. Simers spent almost his entire column ripping everything from the numbers of fans to Carson Palmer's Heisman bid.
The Not So Obvious - Jim Murray, Allan Malamud, John Hall, Ross Newhan, Mal Florence, Bob Oates and the list goes on and on of legendary Times' writers and columnists. While Simers attempts to denigrate USC athletics and football in particular, HE will be measured by the standards set by the Jim Murrays and John Halls much like all Trojan teams are measured by their heralded history.
The Obvious - There was a very intimidating mugshot of Trojan All-American safety Troy Polamalu on the cover of the Homecoming game program sold at the Coliseum.
The Not So Obvious - While Polamalu is still not at top speed, he still has the attention of all who enter his domain. During the third quarter and needing a crucial first down, ASU quarterback Walter sent a very catchable pass down the middle to wide receiver Skyler Fulton, who instead of following the ball into his arms, looked up to see where No.43 was coming. Well, No. 43 was coming right at Fulton, who proceeded to drop the ball in anticipation of getting a Palamalu greeting. Can you say, "Footsteps?"
The Obvious - One of the best booths at Homecoming was the one where you climbed onto a stage and had a picture taken at eye level in front of Tommy Trojan.
The Not So Obvious - Trojan tailback legends Anthony Davis and Charles White were signing glossy Sports Illustrated covers of their big Trojan moments, and Frank Gifford was recognized during the game for being the Honorary Chairman of Homecoming.
The Obvious - Sometimes there is more excitement after a Trojan game when the recruits in attendance come into a wild Trojan celebration in the Coliseum lockerroom. Prior to the game, Trojan commit linebacker Robert Lewis of Montclair Prep was roaming the sidelines along with big Littleton, Colorado Chatfield High running back Lendale White.
The Not So Obvious - In the matter of two days, the Trojans received word that former Poly All-American safety Darnell Bing had passed his SAT and would enroll in the spring and Corona two-way stud lineman Matt Spanos had given a verbal during the post-game celebration. They say things come in threes, and it was also revealed for the public that pre-season Inglewood All-America defensive end Lawrence Jackson finally revealed his silent verbal to the Trojans to a public announcement, apparently keeping silent for the past six weeks.
The Obvious - One of the recruits that USC lost early was quarterback Kyle Wright, who chose Miami over the once-leading Trojans.
The Not So Obvious - One of the things that Wright said after giving his verbal to Miami was he was going to take an active roll and try and recruit other seniors to join him. Well, he now has some competition as Lawrence Jackson said after the Arizona State game that he knows a lot of Trojan recruits, and he is going to actively contact them and encourage them to join him at Troy.
The Obvious - With a plane-driven banner flying over the Coliseum promoting Carson Palmer's Heisman. Palmer did not have an eye-popping game, but he did have a very efficient game throwing for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
The Not So Obvious - In the big picture, Palmer had no interceptions and the Trojan team had zero turnovers, the mark of a good team. In fact, the zero turnovers were done against an Arizona State club that had forced 33 coming into Saturday's game.
The Obvious - TBS interviewed Carson Palmer's parents, and his father seemed to want to inform the national audience that his son was more interested in team accomplishments than in personal awards such as the Heisman.
The Not So Obvious - Being the last game of the TBS Pac-10 converage, TBS seemed to go out of its way to help promote the resurrection of Trojan football under Pete Carroll and the Heisman bid of Palmer. It certainly didn't hurt that the game was shown twice on TBS during Saturday evening.
The Obvious - The crowd was the largest at the Coliseum for a game that wasn't UCLA or Notre Dame since 1988.
The Not So Obvious - Considering that ASU was coming off a two-game losing effort, the Sun Devils had a fine turnout of fans along with a very spirited pep band. The only negative was they brought ASU "Thundersticks" with them and to be honest, those things can get on your nerves after awhile.
The Obvious - When Norm Chow was hired, Trojan fans worried that their beloved running attack would go by the way of the BYU passing lore. Saturday the Trojans ran for 201 yards and passed for 233 yards.
The Not So Obvious - While not always consistent, but certainly balanced between pass and run, Norm Chow has kept his word about being balanced and is winning over the Trojan faithful. If you doubt what Chow, a former all-conference offensive lineman at Utah, has delievered, ASU coach Koetter commented after the game, "Give USC credit. They're one of the most balanced team in the Pac-10 and can both run and pass the ball."
The Obvious - The Trojans have now won their fifth cnsective game and seventh in a row at the Coliseum. So now the Trojans are No.7 in the United States and have finished their regular season so can begin the "real" season - UCLA and Notre Dame.
The Not So Obvious - The Trojans are now a team of streaks, but there is one streak they would like to renew and that is beating UCLA and Notre Dame back-to-back. Can the Trojans sweep for the first time since some of you were born? We're about to find out.