It has been a while since I put on an SC uniform and played a game of football, two years and one day to be precise. I normally don't get excited or frustrated before or during games anymore. My heart doesn't speed up, I don't get nauseaus and I don't sit alone staring at a wall for hours before kickoff. There was something about Notre Dame coming to town, though, and the culmination of both these great programs special football seasons....Carson Palmer for the Heisman Trophy, Troy Polamalu for the Thorpe Award, SC's late season BCS and Rose Bowl run, packed Coliseum, a little inclement weather...all of this had me spinning during pre-game. A very sound Notre Dame squad was forcing Trojan mistakes and capitalizing throughout the first half. I was extremely worried while I stood on the sideline helpless. Looking just as amazing as it has the last two months, this Trojan squad with a late second quarter surge, halftime adjustments, and an unbelievable performance in the third quarter, blew a tough defensive and fundamentally perfect Notre Dame team out of the Pacific Ocean. I can't understand how week to week this Trojan football team blows people out.....blows everyone out. It is the most amazing thing I have seen as far as football goes for the University of Southern California, granted I'm 25 and Tony Rice broke my heart in 1988 but this Trojan squad is crushing everyone and it's a great thing to see. Ultimately, Carson Palmer, Pete Carroll and Norm Chow have done perfectly what they were brought here to do....resurrect a fallen program.
My evening was not without a pathetic victory as after fulfilling my radio obligations at 9:30 and having to be at the Fox studios in the Staples Center for a live show at 10:00 with a suit on, I sprinted 400 yards (stopping once to use my inhaler) to my sport utility vehicle then proceeded to make two illegal left turns, cut across the 110 carpool lane on a seven lane change, ran four red lights and drove the wrong way down Grand Avenue to arrive five minutes early for the show while sweating profusely and screaming for the Trojans. Fight On and everybody gets an "A" this week because I'm embarassed to grade the best football team in the country.
That was the first time I've ever seen a team dump Gatorade on a quarterback (it's not like he's a short yardage tailback or anything).Carson Palmer has set every record in the history of the Pac-10 but the most impressive record was Carson's passes without an interception which was something nobody ever thought he'd do. Carson is playing with an unbelievable amount of confidence now and does deserve to win the Heisman Trophy. It has been a special season for him, his family and all Trojan fans who watch him. Two interceptions barely put a blemish on his performance, when you play with as much confidence as Carson does sometimes every throw looks like the right throw. All is forgiven though because Carson Palmer is the best quarterback this University has ever seen (sorry Paul, Rodney Peete is not better) and I hope he smiles if he wins the Heisman.
Malaefou MacKenzie is the only person who could've made the two plays he made for touchdowns. For a guy who didn't know if he'd be playing football again at this time last year, Malaefou is a great story and somebody who every teammate remembers playing with. His good nature, unbelievable athletic ability and resilience through adversity make him someone for all Trojan fans to watch and root for in the future. After the Oregon game I didn't think Justin Fargas could keep up his wild running style and violent pace. I thought for sure there would be some kind of shoulder injury, concussion or broken jaw. He has proven me wrong, if I had to run like that week after week 20 times per game I would be in an ice bath with a bottle of vodka for six weeks. He had another terrific performance and got to do what he set out to do when he transferred here which was resurrect his career with a great program. Sultan McCullough added a touchdown but it got to the point where Justin Fargas clearly beat him and everyone else out for the starting tailback job. All three of these tailbacks though should have bright futures in the NFL. We were lucky to have each one of them.
I know I've called Mike Williams a freak in the past. I don't know how else to call him a freak, like a Rick James Super Freak or a bearded lady circus freak, but the man is a freak. I thought Reggie Williams was good last season but Mike Williams is head and shoulders above any freshman receiver I've ever seen. Even when he drops balls nobody really worries about it because you know he's gonna catch a touchdown pass a few plays later. Kareem Kelly kept up the amazing streak of catching a ball in every game in his USC football career, there is something to be said for that. Keary Colbert is still my favorite Trojan receiver. He has an uncanny ability to catch the tip of the ball with the palm of his hand, he does this week after week so it's not like a lucky thing when it happens. You need to be relaxed on the field to make a play like that, things are going so fast and everything is crazy all around you but if you're relaxed things can slow down and allow you to do that. Unbelievable body control, a great receiver out of Oxnard...Keary Colbert. Grant Mattos had a couple of great catches along with some stellar special teams play and it was great to see him go out at the Coliseum like that. Alex Holmes has earned enough catches now to gain the national attention for next year which should elevate his career.
The best story on the offensive line this week was Derek Graf coming back by starting the first game of the year and the last game of the year at the Coliseum in his senior season. It was great to watch him, he comes from a great Trojan family. Norm Katnik took one for the team by playing on an injured ankle and he did pretty good against the All-American candidate Cedric Hilliard. Also, here at the end of the regular season Winston Justice needs to be recognized for being the only true freshman starter on the Trojan OL that I can remember since Travis Claridge, and Travis played guard not tackle. Winston far exceeded anybody's expectations and those expectations were pretty high. As a whole the Trojan OL has been solid all year, gaining confidence each week and protecting a great QB and backs.
The Trojan defensive line, with or without Shaun Cody, shows up on film more than any group on this team and that's saying a lot. Bernard Riley played with an unbelievable amount of energy and was getting off the ball faster than I've ever seen him do it. Mike Patterson and Bernard both had their hands full with Irish star center Jeff Faine, who was a great player, but they combined with Udeze and Nazel to shut down ND 1,000 yard rusher Ryan Grant and hold him to 16 yards on 10 carries, totally ridiculous. Udeze has emerged as an All-American candidate for next season and Nazel is a fine performer and psycho.