One kickoff to UCLA's Tab Perry, one big hit by Trojan Jason Leach, one fumble recovery by USC's Grant Mattos, one long pass by SC quarterback supreme Carson Palmer and one tremendous catch by oft maligned Kareem Kelly and this game was on its way to being an absolute blowout and this all took place in the space of less than a minute. It just does not get much sweeter than that.
Going into this game, many on the Trojan Boards expressed deep concern about this game. After all, the Bruins had lost three straight to the Trojans, they had an extra week to prepare, they listened to their old coach Terry Donahue talk about how they would overcome it all, they had the players that mouthed off in an obscene and classless manner on public TV and they had the running back who could not and would not be stopped by the mere mortals who played defense for SC. Well, now that the game is over it is obvious that none of that meant a thing.
When all was said and done, this Trojan team was simply dominant in all aspects of this football game with the possible exception of kickoff returns. The offense was on fire, the defense was attacking and the Trojans let their playing do the talking. Seniors such as Kareem Kelly, Darrell Rideaux, and Troy Polamulu will leave USC without ever having lost to UCLA. That says it all.
As far as the game itself , SC did it all, and they did it very well. On offense, Carson threw no picks and four touchdowns. He was right on the money with his long passes and who knows just how many points SC scores if Big Mike Williams (BMW) could get that final push off his injured thigh. For all the talk about UCLA having these great dbs who could slam the door on the SC receivers, they were toast. Very few outstanding defensive plays were made by the Bruins db's and the Trojan receivers were open all night. Much as I had thought would be the case prior to the game, Kareem came up big today. His touchdown catch was a perfect ending to a perfect play. He was double teamed but timed his jump just right and scored a huge initial touchdown. Ricky Manning, for all his pregame antics was nowhere near Keary Colbert on that long bomb and Colbert made a superb play to score. BMW might not have had much luck with the long ball, and on one miss it appeared to me that he simply could not see the ball in the sun, but he was unreal on that bubble screen. How unbelievable is he on that play? They know it's coming, yet he still gets yard after yard on that simple play. Even when not total healthy, this kid is simply special and one has to wonder just how good he can be as time progresses. On this terrific day, even Trojan tight end Gregg Guenther made a very nice catch to get the first touchdown of his career.
The running game was there for the taking. UCLA had this and that on paper prior to the game. But truth be told, they had not played the truly balanced offensive teams in the league and I suspected that they would not be up to the task. If they could not rattle Carson on the blitz, they had no chance to win. Obviously, this Bruin defense was not even close to getting the job done. SC gained almost 200 yards on the ground and UCLA was helpless against it. The Oline owned the Bruins all day long and the holes were there. Fargas and McCullough both ran efficiently enough, but it was the reverse by Colbert and the terrific touchdown run by Hershel Dennis that caught my eye. I must admit that Dennis has all the moves and he is much quicker and faster than I had anticipated. Although Ebell is a nice runner who got most of the ink this week, the best runner today was Hershel. I have no doubt that should either Justin or Sultan sustain an injury, Hershel will step in and SC does not miss so much as a beat. Man on man, when was the last time that SC could run and pass this well on one team??
What can anyone really say about today's Defensive effort? This team was simply tough. They heard all week how Ebell was this and that, and how the awesome UCLA front line would push them back and how UCLA was going to run. Well, all I can say is that did not happen--simply never happened. Yes, UCLA did get 101 positive rushing yards out the combination of White and Ebell, but neither did it alone. The Bruins net rushing yardage was simply awful--with a net of 40 yards. Of course, the attacking SC defense scacked and hit the various quarterbacks so often that they contributed significant negative yardage to detract from the Bruins positive yards. All told, this UCLA team had one impressive drive all day long against the SC Defense in prime time. Although the Bruins scored two late TD's, those were made against second and third string players and they were not impressive at all. Despite the UCLA's offensive line predictions, they still can't block SC's vaunted D. There is still no evidence at all that the UCLA line can block Nazel or Udeze. In fact, the next great block against BKU by the Bruins Oline will be the first such block to my way of thinking.
UCLA's linebackers got most of the pregame ink. They are fast , attacking, quick and very good. Well, I did not see one guy out there who could make me forget Matt Grootegoed. There was one play in particular when UCLA ran a screen where there were three Oline blockers out in front. On that play Matt G simply slipped in between the three of them and stopped the runner cold in his tracks. Folks, that was one of the best plays I have ever seen and it went unoticed by the announcers. I think he makes so many of those plays that they are almost expected at this time. Fiske gets lots of ink as well, but once again, Freshman Tom Malone was outstanding and he just keeps getting better. How pleasant a thought it is when one realizes that he will be back for three more years.
The coaching in this game by the USC staff was simply perfect. Not one thing came to mind that bothered me. Pete Carroll and his assistants were brilliant in all phases of the game. (with two possible exceptions to be mentioned soon) . The offensive scheme was terrific. Norm Chow must have seen something on tape because we went long time after time and the UCLA dbs are still looking for SC's receivers. The reverse to Colbert was the surprise play of the game. UCLA had no clue on that play and how sweet was it to see Carson leading the blocking all the way down the sideline. Keary wasn't even touched. The bubble screen worked despite the fact that BMW is hurting and that UCLA had to know we were going to run it. Our Staff must have known something. And the defensive schemes were right on the money and outstanding. We brought heat from the get go and UCLA's two frosh qbs had less than no chance. Each must have wondered if the Troans were using 13 guys or something close to that. Yes sir--it was a well coached game. My only two questions are as follow. I just have to mention them for completion sake even though we won in a route. First, why not give the backup qb's a few more meaningful snaps when it was obvious that the game was no longer in doubt? Second, since it seemed like BMW could not extend on the long passes, why not use one of the other healthy receivers on the same patterns? I know that makes it seem like I am never satisfied, but I do think those questions are fair and after taking to several folks, I am not the only guy who had those points on my mind.
So next week is the ND game and once more the Trojans have a huge game. We have not beaten those guys for three years and once again they have a fine team. They will likely be rated very close to USC, either just above or just below. They have a qb who can run and that has been a problem for USC in the recent past. I just hope that Pete Carroll and Norm Chow and the rest of the crew and the players themselves can work their magic one more time. With all the big game this year, can we do it one more time?? Well, we are about to find out and I will say this. If they play their best game and we play our best game, we win. They have a big and talented D as do we, but our Offense is superior and if we are ready to play, we should be able to attack their Defense better than they attack our. Good luck to USC and let's hope we can finish off the regular season in great form.
Mike Williams vs UCLA (AP)