First of all, let me preface this entire article by saying there will be an all-inclusive "A" grade for the Trojans this week…even the kickoff team. Saturday's anticipated rivalry game involved all the public humiliation of a bad episode of "Blind Date" for our archrivals. To quote Morrissey, the cult singer of the 80's and early 90's, "Losing in front of your home crowd, you wish the ground would open up and take you down." This was the general sentiment I got from watching the UCLA Bruins trudge out of their home football stadium Saturday afternoon after they were the recipient of the biggest pimp-slapping the USC vs UCLA rivalry has seen since the 30's…talk about the Great Depression. Most of the Bruins could not take their eyes of the ground they wish would consume them. They were a young team, not a bad team, but they were embarrassed by the hottest team in college football today. Matt Stevens, whose Bruin Rose Bowl jersey I had to don shamefully all week, was quoted as saying the freshman Bruin quarterbacks were tough and ready for the game. If Matt's definition of tough and ready is a screaming fawn in the headlights of an oncoming USC juggernaut then I guess they were prepared. Tyler Ebell was quoted in post game interviews saying without turnovers he could have dominated the game individually. Once again, the youth and classless nature of the Bruins reared its ugly dyed-blonde head. I wonder if little Tyler would still make those impetuous statements if Kenechi Udeze was standing over him in the UCLA locker room like he was all day on the field. I'll cut my gloating short for the sake of decorum and say that the Trojans, more deservedly than ever, are the champions of this fair city of Los Angeles and it is a great feeling for all of us. Give every bit of the credit to the leaders of our unbelievably efficient and dominating football team; Pete Carroll and field generals Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu. Here are this week's grades:
With a 22-yard play capped off by a fearless leap to the goal line,
Because Phil Snow stacked the box to stop the run and trusted his two world-beating cornerbacks, the USC run game was not as prevalent as I thought it would be going into the football game. Not that Justin Fargas didn't run every bit as hard as he has the past month. He keeps coming into the line of scrimmage like a runaway freight train and I'm shocked that he's been able to stay relatively healthy throughout. Running like that is not something that comes naturally and you must not be socially or emotionally well adjusted to do so. Fargas is a phenomenon the way he attacks the line of scrimmage. This doesn't mean that I'm not unhappy with some of the unpatient cuts that he makes, this is a bad habit he has due to his aggressive run style but I guess it's OK because he's still hammering the nail pretty hard. Despite a long run last week Sultan McCullough was kind of a non-factor in this game, still making sideways cuts and dancing around. We still need Sultan to get some confidence going into these last two ballgames of ours. The return of Chad Pierson means that Fargas has a true fullback to run behind and he's starting to get back into game shape and giving some very physical blocks while doing so. Pierson is a great player and I hope he finishes off his career with a couple big games to propel him to the next level. Malaefou MacKenzie did what he does pretty much every week which is deliver touchdown catches and clutch plays. His altruistic nature speaks volumes and really tells the tale of an unselfish, united Trojan football team this season. Hershel Dennis reached the end zone for the first time in college and what a time to do it. The smile on his face was a precious thing to see after he scored his 38 yard touchdown run. I think I even saw tears in Hershel's eyes and that is the type of emotion that this years team plays with.
Kareem Kelly delivered his best performance as a Trojan at a time when it really counted. Some of us have lukewarm feelings about Kareem and his career at USC but you can't fault his effort on Saturday and his ability to overlook a sometimes checkered past as a receiver. Mike Williams was fine with his ankle but he looked every bit of the freshman and not the freak we have seen the past few months by dropping a few balls, fumbling once and not really playing the aggressive style of football the Trojan offense was attacking with all afternoon. This is to be understood because when a freshman walks on the field at the Rose Bowl and its packed and you don't understand what the rivalry is because you're from Plant, Florida you may have a tendency to become just a bit freaked out (look at Drew Olson and Matt Moore). Let's hope that Mike has a grasp on what these rivalry games mean after Saturday. Keary Colbert is the best receiver on the Trojan football team. He's got the best hands, he runs the best routes, he's got the best attitude, he's a great person to be around. One TD catch and one TD run deservedly puts Keary in the limelight as the Trojan heart and soul outside the hash
What else can be said about the resilience of the Trojan offensive line? I thought after losing Lenny Vandermade they would drop off in production in both protection and in the run game. There has been a little drop off in the overall nastiness and anger that Lenny brought to his football game. Eric Torres, though, with his experience and poise has done a great job filling in. Losing Norm Katnik to an ankle sprain in a meaningless part of the fourth quarter was the only real blemish on what otherwise was a perfect day for Trojan fans. Norm is one player the Trojans cannot afford to lose though Derek Graf has started a game this year and as a senior he should be OK to fill in. We can all pray and hope that we don't have to worry about it though and Norm recovers quickly. He's never sprained an ankle before so maybe he doesn't know what the pain should feel like. I don't think Norm, from a great Trojan family and a great Trojan in his own right, will miss this game for the world. Winston Justice, though he almost signed with UCLA, didn't seem to happy with his Bruin opponents as he was scrapping and pushing guys all over the field. I'm sure he slept well Saturday night knowing he made the right choice.
Kenechi Udeze and Omar Nazel are two solid defensive ends. They're also two very different players and people. Kenechi is quiet, reserved and physically intimidating man child. Omar is by far one of the most hilarious and craziest people that I have ever met. When they meet in the backfield, usually at an opposing quarterbacks chest or back, it's a great thing to see. Omar's play through injuries and personal adversity has been nothing short of amazing. Bernard Riley is doing great against the run, his ability to take up two and three blockers at a time with his big round body has been a real blessing and plus late in the season for the Trojans. Though Mike Patterson does not make as many plays defensively as he did with Shaun Cody in the line-up, he still plays with a big motor and attacks play in and play out. The UCLA offensive line, which was their most highly touted group coming into the season led by Mike Saffer and Bryce Bohlander, didn't look bad against the SC d-line but they just didn't have any help from anyone else on their football team.
Once again with amazing defensive plays, sure tackling and all-around heroism, Matt Grootegoed continues to play like a man possessed. Melvin Simmons has become a very opportunistic football player by recovering fumbles, batting down passes and harassing opposing quarterbacks. In the middle Mike Pollard was an integral part of shutting down what was supposed to be a vaunted UCLA run game. Tyler Ebell is a good back and will plague many Pac-10 teams for years to come if he can stay healthy. I don't think he was prepared for the onslaught of rage that comes with facing the Trojan defense as a runner. The Trojan linebackers played both running backs the way they should be played, eliminating vertical run lanes for Ebell and getting maximum penetration on White to prevent him from getting his shoulders straight and heading upfield.
Is it just me or is Marcell Allmond going to be one of the best corners in the Pac-10 heading into next year? I can't believe a guy who came in as a receiver could make a position change and flourish so quickly. I don't think people understand the kind of athletic ability and confidence it takes to make that kind of switch…unbelievable. Troy Polamalu still has some trouble making plays laterally on his ankle but even when he misses tackles, as we saw on a screen to Ebell, he makes up for it with something spectacular by causing a fumble .5 seconds later. Without
Special teams (A)
Tom Malone is no longer a freshman punter, he kicks the hell out of the ball and it's great to see. He also stands back there with poise, he gets rid of the ball and works his steps in progression perfectly. This is a far cry from the young and hesitant guy we saw in
For the first time in his coaching career Pete Carroll was carried off the field on the shoulders of his football players, a special moment for all of us to see. It's weird that a wacky guy who is more excitable than Richard Simmons could win over some of our stodgy and stiff alumni. His enthusiasm is so infectious, it has affected not only this football team but the attention of the entire football viewing country. This team comes out with a superior game plan and attitude week in and week out. See if you can say that about anybody else in the country. Norm Chow's aggressiveness against highly touted cornerbacks using double moves and quick hitting hitch routes has been the difference in a few of the Trojan football games this year. I guess he is a brilliant offensive coordinator, we're lucky to have him.
It is time now to put this thorough ass whupping of the Bruins on the shelf and look on to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. This years Trojans have a tangible chance to be the first USC team to beat UCLA and Notre Dame back to back in since 1978 and I really believe they can complete the best Trojan season in recent memory with a meaningful victory to send off this embattled and heroic senior class. The Notre Dame rivalry for players is truly the antithesis of the heated UCLA intercity match-up. The game against the Irish is steeped much more in tradition and pride than the UCLA game which is more trash talk and attempts at decapitation. I was always amazed at the absence of dirty play and cursing when we played Notre Dame at home or away. This coming game is a chance for USC's players to compete in college football's greatest and most unique rivalry. It's going to be another fine week of football with enough gloating for us all. Fight On. Petros.
Petros Papadakis is a former USC tailback and the sideline reporter for Trojans football on KMPC-1540. He also hosts the Trojans pregame show and Tuesday night's USC Insider on KMPC-1540. On television, Petros is an analyst for Fox Sports Net's Southern California Sports Report and he's the sideline reporter for Fox Sports Net's "High School Game of the Week." When Petros is not doing television or radio he's waiting tables at his family's Greek restaurant, Papadakis Taverna, in San Pedro. Petros has no free time.