What can anyone say other than WOW! The dominating victory by the USC Trojans over the Iowa Hawkeyes was simply an awesome ending to a great football season. It would have been difficult for any Trojan fan to draw a more perfect script. After all, the Pac-10 had done so very poorly in the post season. The big bad strong boys from America's Heartland had been letting anyone who would listen know that they were the more physical team and the guys from SC could not possibly know what they were going up against. The Big 10 plays physical ball week in and week out. Well, now the massacre is over and we all know upfront who outphysicaled who. I believe the statistics in this case say it all. USC 265 yards RUSHING IOWA 119 yards rushing, the team, that is! Once again no runner gained 100 yards against the Trojans.
So when evaluating this game, where does one start and what does one include? Hard to say, but it sure is fun to give it a try. First, hats off to the tremendous USC defense. I don't know how many times I read how physical the Iowa Oline is and how they were going to pound the SC defenders. Well folks, it did not happen that way at all. SC was far too quick and they easily handled the Iowa Oline. In a post game interview, Omar Nazel simply stated that the Iowa Oline is simply not that good. (And BTW, he also invited Lee Corso and his partner Kirk Herbstreit to take this game and stuff it in their pipe and smoke it. Hey, it might not be politically correct to say that, but as a die hard fan, I loved hearing that.) They were not that hard to beat. Well, after this total destruction, far be it from this poster to argue with the excellent Defensive End. Once again Bernard Riley and Mike Patterson clogged up the middle and there was not much room. In fact, if it were not for the incredible scrambling ability of Brad Banks, the Iowa running game would have been totally shut down.
Mike Pollard's speed and quickness were instrumental as was the terrific play of Matt Grootegoed. Of course it should be mentioned that this stellar defensive effort was accomplished without the services of Troy Polamulu. Somehow Troy pulled a hamstring in pregame workouts and to my eye, he only got in for one play. What a shame for Troy, a truly great Trojan. However, once again Jason Leach stepped way up front and played a remarkable game in his own right. I think that speaks volumes for the future of the strong safety position. No matter which recruit SC signs, it will be very difficult to unseat Jason as the leader for that starting spot come next season.
The one position at which SC could hardly afford another injury was the Oline. And as one might guess by now, that is exactly what we saw take place. Eric Torres went down with some type of ankle injury and he never made it back into the game. All game long the irritating ABC announcers were begrudgingly giving credit to the USC offensive line. They simply could not believe that the SC Oline was handling the Iowa Dline and front seven. What they failed to mention was that this was a makeshift USC oline that accomplished this feat. We were using our second string center and third string left guard. That's right folks. The Iowa D was handled by some of SC's reserves and that is a FACT. Special kudos to Norm Katnik and Derrick Graf. Norm has come out of nowhere to be a very steady and talented Oliner and Derrick personifies hard work and dedication. I can only assume that nobody can be prouder than his dad, former SC Oliner, Alan Graf.
Of course, one cannot leave out the obvious battle of the quarterbacks. Well, I have no doubt that Brad Banks is a fine and talented college quarterback. However, Carson Palmer is now a great Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, an honor he once again demonstrated he so richly deserved. He hit 21 out of 31 for 303 yards and could have thrown for many more if SC had not tried to run out the clock later in the game. I will say that although many will point to the blocked field goal late in the first half as a turning point in the game, I personally feel and equally critical play was the tremendous scramble by Carson Palmer from his endzone to the 11 yard line to secure the first critical first down of the second half. That play turned the tide of the game. It also showed that Carson is not only a lights out qb, he is also a very fast and strong athlete. What a great play once again by Carson.
The runners and receivers were once again on fire. Who would have ever guessed that SC would light up the Hawkeyes for some 265 yards rushing. They were able to get outside, go inside , go around and go through the vaunted Iowa Defense. It brought back memories to fans of old. However, one big difference about this version of the Trojan is that they also have an incredible group of recievers. They all came up big again. There was Alex Holmes, Keary Colbert, Kareem Kelly and of course Big Mike Williams. Not to leave anyone out, one should not forget the great runs by Sultan McCullough and the inspiring runs by last years guy--Sunny Byrd. What a night to remember.
If there is one weakness on this team it is obviously the special teams. Come on now folks, how many of the fans were really bummed out after that touchdown return by Iowa to start the game?? How many wondered if the special teams would be our downfall after Kileen missed his first field goal? How many really thought that we might really be in trouble? Of course I don't have the answer, but I can guess that the number was significant. Forunately for the Trojans, they were able to overcome the shortcomings and they did make the other field goal, all the PAT's, and they were able to block a field goal attempt by the Hawkeyes. One gets the feeling that the special teams WILL IMPROVE by next season or else!!
And how about the coaching calls? How can anyone be anything but thrilled with the end results? Yet, am I the only guy who wondered about the "conservative calls, especially in the first half. Did anyone wonder about "up the middle" on 3rd and short only to be followed by a long field goal attempt?? WEll, who cares what we wondered about anyway? In the end, Chow made enough great calls to allow the Trojans to dominate the hulkier but much slower Iowa Football team. In fact, with the exception of Banks, it did not look like Iowa could match SC's speed at any single position. Anyway, my deepest admiration and respect for this coaching staff. The end result says it all. This team went from 6-6 to 11-2 and they did it playing a very tough schedule.
So now what? This season is over and the next season--you know--recruiting-- will shortly resume in full force till LOI day. I have feeling that when all is said and done, this first time ever win in the state of Florida by the USC Trojans will do nothing but enhance SC's status amongst great high school football players. Next season SC will have a chance to show that we are really back and that this was not a one time deal. We do lose a Heisman Trophy winner and a great db and several others, but we return out troops in the trenches. Despite all the rest of the skill guys, qb included, the game is still won and lost in the trenches. With the likes of Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Torres, Matua, , and Justice back on the Oline and Mr Shy, Omar Nazel, Shaun Cody, Mike "baby Sapp" Patterson, and Big Kenechi Udeze returning on the Dline, I don't think anyone in the Pac-10 will be relishing the thought of facing the once again talented USC Trojans.
Way to go Trojans! Right now, SC is back in the upper echelon of College Football.