The UCLA Bruins thought last year was a fluke. The USC Trojans went out on Saturday and proved that it wasn't. On a glorious fall afternoon in what was supposed to be a tightly contested rivalry game the Trojans put on a dominating display of football while rolling to a 52-21 victory over the Bruins in front of 91,084 at the Rose Bowl. It was the second straight year that USC has humbled the boys from Westwood but at least in this game the Bruins can say that they scored.
They thought they had a chance. The Bruins whipped themselves into a frenzy last week trying to convince themselves they could still play with the Trojans. The blank stares on their faces after the game showed they had no answers for what happened and that may be the best news for USC fans right now. They had every reason to be riding an emotional high while looking for revenge in front of a partisan home crowd. They crowed about their improved defense, their powerful mouse of a runner. Pete Carroll and the Trojans listened to it all and when it came time to play the game we took the field and absolutely shut them down. We came out ready to play and we pounced. We found what was working and poured it on with a cool efficiency. They took their best shot at establishing some momentum early and we didn't flinch. Instead, we cut their heart out. This Trojan team didn't merely go out and defeat the Bruins, they went out and sent a clear message to the college football world and recruits everywhere that there is only one football program in Los Angeles right now. This game was about creating separation. It's one thing to beat a rival but quite another to take them out of a game two years in a row. The last time it happened in this crosstown rivalry was 1929-30 so that gives an idea of how rare it is. Marv Goux used to talk about the importance of demoralizing an opponent and that is exactly what Carroll and the Trojans have done to UCLA by out-executing them in all facets of the game. We were more talented, we were more physical, we were faster, we were smarter and we have better coaching. Boy, do we have better coaching. When you add it all up it brings a warm glow to those who have gone through the ups and downs of dealing with the Bruins. Let them try to pop off now, what in the world can they possibly say? Smoke and mirrors don't work very well when going up against fundamental football.
Notes from the sidelines
The KO coverage teams have been a concern in the past but in this game we saw several big hits, including one on the opening kickoff which set the tone for the game. Jason Leach came down on the first play to knock the ball free from Tab Perry, the fumble was recovered by Grant Mattos and on the next play Carson hit Kareem Kelly for a touchown. Mike Ross also had a solid hit and then Oscar Lua had perhaps the best pop of the day on a collision near the SC sideline. After that play the TV cameras caught a huge smile on the face of Nick Holt, likely at the thought of coaching Lua for the next three years……Marcell Allmond looked just like a wide receiver on his first career interception. He also played another physical game with his tackling…..Tom Malone was steady and once again was able to change the field possession battle with some of his booming kicks…..DeShaun Hill did a terrific job on a blitz when he got his arms tangled with the quarterback and forced a fumble which was recovered by Melvin Simmons……Kareem Kelly had a big showing in a big game and no play was bigger than the first when he did an excellent job of going up and getting the ball against Ricky Manning. Big play receivers make a play in a situation like that and it gave such a huge lift to the team….Matt Grootegoed foiled one screen pass when he beat the blocks of three Bruin players. Groots just has an instinct for this game that cannot be taught…..Norm Katnik left the game with an ankle injury and was replaced by Derek Graf who cleared the hole for Dennis on his TD run. No word yet on if Katnik will be healthy for ND…..Though the Rose Bowl berth won't be decided for another two weeks, the WSU loss to the Washington Huskies means that USC has clinched at least a share of the conference title…..RECRUITING NEWS…..Another week, another big time verbal for the Trojans….LB Thomas Williams, who came into the season ranked as the #1 LB on the West Coast, announced this week that he will be a Trojan. Williams (6-2, 220) from Vacaville HS first wowed the USC coaches at a camp last spring and they made a favorable impression by calling on the opening day of the May evaluation period. Thomas has terrific 4.6 speed and can play either in the middle or at WLB. He chose USC over Nebraska, ND. He is impressed with the way Carroll uses his defensive players and said he is honored to be a Trojan…..An unbelievable collection of top prep talent is expected at the USC vs Notre Dame game on Saturday. The Trojan coaches will invite many of the top area players and will also be hosting several recruits on official visits including CB's Donte Whitner and Darius Hiley (Ohio) and QB Chris Leak (North Carolina)
Key to the Game – Coaching
One thing became crystal clear in this game, Bob Toledo is no match for Pete Carroll. The last two USC vs UCLA games have seen an obvious trend, much to the delight of Trojan fans, and there is no reason to see things drastically changing as long as the new Bruin AD allows Toledo to coach his team. The teams mirror the personalities of the head coach and Carroll has Toledo on the run. Trick plays that may have worked in the past no longer stand a chance against Carroll and his amazing defense. Toledo now knows that this USC defense will make adjustments throughout the game and that critical substitution errors will be capitalized on and taken advantage of. Trojan fans need to understand that we are seeing a defensive mind that is on a whole other level than anything we have seen before. The different combinations and schemes that the Trojan defense brings to a game plan is enough to drive any opposing coach crazy and it's obvious that Toledo doesn't have a clue yet how to figure it out. The Trojan offensive coaches got into the act by noticing a weakness in the Bruin secondary, a vulnerability to the double move deep pass. Instead of relying on the short pass which had been the bread and butter all year Norm Chow went deep early and often with more than enough success. Carson Palmer has made the comment that he is envious of the freshmen at USC because of what lies ahead under Coach Carroll and that is a huge statement indeed. The players know what kind of coaching they are getting right now and on Saturday against the Bruins and Toledo they saw how good they have it.
Keary Colbert provided a pair of huge touchdowns, one on a 51 yard reception from Carson on a nice catch and run while the other came on a well-designed reverse as Colbert went untouched into the end zone behind a caravan of blockers led by Carson Palmer.
It seemed like everybody got into the act for the Trojan d-line. Kenechi Udeze had a pair of sacks, Mike Patterson recovered a fumble inside the 20 yard line which led to a Trojan score, Omar Nazel was all over the field and Bernard Riley can walk off the field with the knowledge that he never lost to the Bruins. Ebell had rushed for over 100 yards in 6 straight games but was held to just 56 as the USC defense has still yet to allow a 100 yard rushing game this season.
We've seen glimpses but late in the game USC fans got their first real look at the explosive potential of freshman Hershel Dennis on his 38 yard TD run. Hershel led the Trojans in rushing for this game, thanks largely to the scoring run as he burst through the line and won the sprint to the end zone.
It couldn't have set up any better for Carson Palmer. Much has been made about the ups and downs Carson has seen over the past few years but those days seem so long ago. The past weeks have seen a rise in the Trojan program and along the way Carson has taken his game to a level which rivals that of any player in the country. When his meteoric rise first began earlier this year and the talk of a Heisman watch creeped in there were many longtime Carson watchers who wished all the commotion would just go away. After all he had been through it was more than enough to watch him enjoy the good play without any of the added pressures of post-season honors and the like. All of a sudden the numbers and victories started to mount and before too long the whispers grew much louder and could no longer be ignored. The one person who didn't seem to make a fuss about it was Carson as he was living in the moment and just soaking it all in. No player deserves the team success more than Carson and he would never take the spotlight away from the team and place it upon himself. The two rivalry games with UCLA and Notre Dame would provide plenty of opportunity for Carson to let his play do the talking and on Saturday against the Bruins he wasted little time in announcing his candidacy for the award. The first play of the day was a strike to Kareem, TOUCHDOWN, a few plays later was another strike to Colbert, TOUCHDOWN, then as if that wasn't enough he took a page straight from the John Elway playbook and launched himself on a dive toward the end zone that will be replayed numerous times on the nightly highlight shows. He didn't score on the play, a trivial fact considering Justin Fargas rammed the ball in on the next play for a TOUCHDOWN, but the symbolic effort to give of yourself speaks volumes about Carson Palmer. Elway was the savvy veteran and his dive was seen as the pinnacle of his desire to win. Trojan fans don't need to be convinced of anything when it comes to Carson but it was the type of play that will raise eyebrows for many who aren't as familiar with his work. It's ironic that in the ultimate act of sacrificing his body for the team he may have also thrust himself as an individual to the front of the Heisman race. His conference job is done, the Trojans can do no worse than tie for the title but must wait two weeks to find out if they will return to the Rose Bowl. For Carson and the team, however, there is still one more opportunity on the horizon. What's left is a stage as big as it gets in college football, the top ten ranked Trojans against the top ten ranked Irish. The Coliseum will be packed and a national television audience will be watching. What an incredible opportunity for Carson to finish off a dream season for his team and possibly garner a little hardware for himself. Good luck Carson and we hope you enjoy the moment.