Friday, December 01, 2006


Somewhat of a consensus has emerged among the fans (or bloggers, at least) of the three teams in contention to face Ohio State in the BCS Championship game: Florida, Michigan, and USC.

Orson at EDSBS, which is always an entertaining read, does not concede that USC deserves the spot over Florida, but acknowledges that Florida fans don't have a leg to stand on if they complain about USC getting the nod:

"This is something Florida fans cannot do, since in the anarchic world of college football, the team with the biggest heads on their pikes wins. At the moment, an unbelievably tough Florida team loses this comparison with USC, who laughs at the lolling tongues of the midget skulls of UCF and Western Carolina we’re carrying around in our schedule. If you don’t care about the national picture, fine; yet if the sports bar discussion turns to a Gator claim on a title shot, take the stool you sit on and saw one of the legs off before you begin, since you might as well begin where Jeremy Foley’s [Florida AD] put us schedule-wise."

Brian at mgoblog actually conducts a side-by-side analysis of the three teams' resumes [entire schedules] and argues that USC deserves to make the BCS Championship game over Florida and Michigan:
"Michigan has a narrow advantage in "best win" but after that it's all Trojans until you get to the loss category. They clearly lost to the least intimidating opponent, but unlike their competition they battled back and had a chance to tie at the death. Also, OSU benefited from a panoply of freak plays: a punt return touchdown, USC turnovers, etc. I think the most astounding thing about USC is this: they played one team worse than 5-7. When they rolled on to the field this year, all but one of their opponents was capable of beating them.

"If you really think that Michigan's Notre Dame win was superlative enough to override USC's season of wins against solid opposition and that their Oregon State loss was an unforgivable sin, you can make a case for Michigan. But let's give it up, guys. USC's tiebreaker is Arkansas and Nebraska versus our Vanderbilt, Central Michigan, and Ball State. They took on two above-average BCS teams. We took on the worst team in the SEC and two MAC teams, though one of them happens to be okay this year. Set aside the Michigan fandom and look at the big picture: if USC has this season and does not make the NC game, no one will ever schedule anyone again. It's time to take the bullet."

This all presumes USC will beat UCLA tomorrow, so you can be assured everyone in both fan bases will be pulling hard for UCLA.


L.A. Recruiting Wars

There's more in the balance when USC plays UCLA tomorrow than bragging rights (and a spot in the BCS Championship game for USC). The victor also wins an advantage in the recruiting competition that's in full swing across the region.

Everyone knows a big factor in the dramatic turnaround of the USC football program from 2000-2002 was Pete Carroll's masterful recruiting. His philosophy is to lock up all the best players in southern California and then augment that talent with a handful of the best players from across the country. I always wondered how Carroll was able to immediately dominate recruiting in southern California, almost as if UCLA didn't exist. According to an article by David Wharton in today's L.A. Times, Carroll didn't have to go against UCLA head-to-head in many cases.

The Bruins held the upper hand in the late 1990s as former coach Bob Toledo led them on a 20-game winning streak. But soon after, UCLA appeared to shift its focus to the national scene. "You talked to the City Section coaches and they said they never saw UCLA on campus," said Greg Biggins of

Carroll filled the gap.

All in all, it's an interesting piece about the origins of Carroll's recruiting success, and how Karl Dorrell has tried to emulate Carroll's approach, with some success. Of course, USC has a seemingly insurmountable advantage at this point and figures to maintain that advantage as long as the USC coaches maintain their recruiting intensity.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sweet USC vs. ND 2005 Videos

USC vs. Notre Dame 2005

Episode 5: Darth Poodle (everybody loves the Imperial March!)

Wake up the echoes . . . not so much. Notre Dame did pull out all the stops and almost pulled off the classic upset. More likely, based on the result of this year's game, it seems that Notre Dame merely used up all their mojo for at least the next four years (or did Dr. Evil just steal it).

I'm sure somebody will soon put together something pretty cool from this year's game.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Trojan Envy?

From a Domer? Yes, indeed, and expressed in a public forum, no less. What is the world coming to?

What has to be even more painful (if you're a Notre Dame fan), is the realization that your hoodie-wearing, crew-cutted, robot genius coach with all the Superbowl rings may not be the savior of your storied football program after all. I wonder if anybody in South Bend is having second thoughts about giving Charlie Weis that multi-million dollar 10-year contract extension after his seventh game as a collegiate head coach.

USC to Wear Home Jerseys at the Rose Bowl?

A quote from Pete Carroll's weekly Tuesday press conference:

"I'm going to ask Coach Dorrell next year that they wear their home jerseys at the Coliseum . . . . I am hoping when they come here, they will be able to do that. I asked the Pac-10 about that last year and there are some issues. I think it's silly that there are some issues that we are going to have to forfeit a timeout or something, but I will do it. I think it's worth it. We should continue to enhance the beauty of this matchup."

This would be a return to the tradition of both teams wearing their home jerseys for the rivalry game, as they used to do when the game was played in the Coliseum every year before fUCLA moved their home games to the Rose Bowl. It's unclear from the quote - is Carroll planning to play in the home jerseys this Saturday against fUCLA or does he want to resolve the issues with the Pac-10 or work out an agreement with Coach Dorrell first? Lord knows we could get by without the time out; we practically threw one away last week on that ridiculous coach's challenge of a fourth down spot.

Anyway, I think it would be outstanding if the Trojans came out in their home jerseys this Saturday, like sort of an eff you to fUCLA . . . yeah, we know we have to play this game on your home field, but this is really our house and everyone knows who's king in this city.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Forget all the BCS rankings nonsense. You can't control that shit. The Trojans, however, took care of everything in their control and clinched the Pac-10 title. In doing so, they became the first team in the Pac-10 to win five straight conference championships, and I couldn't be happier. Congratulations!

Michigan is still second in the BCS rankings after losing to Ohio State yesterday. Big deal. I don't think it'll stay that way if USC beats Notre Dame and UCLA. Michigan has finished their regular season. USC has two games left and their computer rankings will only improve if they keep winning. Of course, it would definitely help matters if Arkansas and Nebraska win their conference championships. Like I said above, none of that is worth worrying about. It's out of our control. In the meantime, we'll enjoy our record-setting championship and kick some ass in the Rose Bowl if it comes down to that.

One thing I will guarantee is that you won't see Pete Carroll whining to the media and campaigning to the pollsters à la Mack Brown, Tommy Tuberville, or Charlie Weis.

Exactly Right

Stewart Mandel expresses simply and concisely the best argument against an Ohio State-Michigan rematch:

My point all along . . . is that we don’t really know Ohio State and Michigan are the two best teams. It’s just an opinion. The only way to find out for sure would be to let someone else take a shot at the Buckeyes.

That's right; we already know that Ohio State is better than Michigan. They proved it on the field. It doesn't make sense to make them prove it again. Give the champion of another conference the opportunity in the BCS Championship to prove on the field that Ohio State isn't the best team in the country. At this point, in most deserving order, those teams are as follows:

1. USC (Pac-10 champ), if they beat Notre Dame and UCLA;
2. Arkansas/Florida winner (SEC champ), if that team wins its last regular season game;
3. Louisville (Big East champ), if they win their two remaining games; and
4. West Virginia (Big East champ), if they win their two remaining games (with Rutger's loss, Louisville now holds the tie-breaker for conference champion if both Louisville and West Virginia win out).

Only if none of those teams take care of business should Michigan be sent to the BCS Championship. Sorry, Notre Dame, but if Michigan and ND end up being the two top-ranked one-loss teams, Michigan gets the nod. You can't erase Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I know; the Trojans’ record this season is not perfect and neither is the team. One thing that is perfect about USC football is Pete Carroll’s philosophy about game preparation and the mental foundation of performing consistently at a high level.

I don’t read the transcripts of Carroll’s weekly Tuesday press conferences very often, but several excellent quotes emerged from this week’s conference that provide insight into Carroll’s philosophy and serve as a reminder of how USC has been able to maintain excellence for almost five years now.

USC’s approach to every game is the same:
“I've never even begun to try and pump a game since the first Notre Dame game about it being a special game. I made that mistake in the first year and I knew it was a classic mistake and we haven't done it since and won't do it.”

USC lost that game by 11 points, the only one of Carroll’s 11 losses that was by more than a touchdown.
“Every week, there's something about a game. It's the biggest crowd ever; it's the first time this or that and that's what we've come to expect and that's normal for us in a game. So those factors should not be part of the make up of a game.”

This approach may proscribe the occasional emotion-fuelled victory over a more-talented opponent (which almost got Notre Dame a victory over us last year), but it also helps eliminate the let-downs and poor performances against inferior teams. Hence, beating Stanford 42-0 after the only loss of the year. The key is to establish consistency at an elevated level.

A follow-up question about Carroll’s first game against Notre Dame segued into a great explanation of his philosophy.
“I knew I screwed it up. I knew I blew it. I could tell during the week but I went with it. I just had to learn. It's more fun probably to talk up these kinds of old historic this and that's. And it's fun for everybody but it doesn't serve the preparation of the athletes and the coaches. It doesn't serve you well. You don't need that. We don't need extra incentives. If you understand that every game is a championship game, and you're going to give everything you possibly can in the preparation and in the participation of that game, then when would you ever decide when to, when not to? That's the whole point. It's the same philosophy that goes through everything that we do in football. When are you going to decide that a play is more important than another play; when I need to go full speed or when I need to try my best? So you get out of that mentality – you don't allow for that kind of thinking in any phase. We don't in any phase of our program. We're real hard about any indications of that being displayed by our guys. That's why we try to practice so fast and so hard every single day, every day of the year for six years.”

It’s no surprise then that Carroll was so animated during the instant replay debacle during the Oregon game.
“When the whole instant replay thing happened, if you looked, I think the clock was 13:50 or something left in the game. We were all caught up in the replay thing; we're waiting to see what was going to happen. We were very competitive about not letting them score there. We took them down to fourth down and had a great chance to keep them out of there and not give them a breath of hope and then that whole thing started. It was somewhere in the middle of that, that it clicked in my mind that this is an opportunity that we could lose our edge. If they get this decision, and now it's ten points and there's a whole quarter left to play, that we could really suffer through this, this exchange, momentum and all. And it hit at me and I realized that what I needed to do is I needed to make sure and capture the focus of our players and not let them wander. Sure enough, I walked over and I saw a couple of our red-shirt freshmen offensive linemen kind of sitting on their helmets and they were kind of yucking it up and not really paying attention. And I looked at Dwayne Jarrett and I saw him kind of talking and I realized that I had to capture, I had to attempt to capture what the heck was going on because we might lose the focus and then all of a sudden, this turns into an ESPN game and then they're cheerleading for what the Ducks did at the end of the game as opposed to what we were going to do. So in an effort to try and make sure that we didn't, it was a teachable opportunity as well. That the game isn't over, and that you need to stay focused. I tried to capture them so I was working hard. From the All-American receiver and the quarterback and Ryan Kalil and the oldest guy in Oscar Lua, to the red-shirt freshman, I was trying to send the message of how we need to finish this game and to make sure that if nothing else, they were captured by my craziness down there. What was extraordinary for us in that moment is that the offense went out on the field after they scored, after all the garbage that happened, the offense went out there and went "Bang!" right down the field and scored a touchdown and it was over. We had them. I was fearing that we had the opportunity to lose the momentum over whatever that span was going to be and it was so important to remain competitive throughout that game that whatever it took, I was going to do it. Obviously, whatever it took, took me a little bit too far. But that was a competitors moment right there I thought. I wanted to at least let them know what I was feeling. I was wearing it on my sleeve.”

Methinks he could write a book about this stuff.

On scheduling:
“Go back to the Auburn games and the Virginia Tech game, and the Arkansas game. Those are extraordinary bowl game atmospheres that are perfect for you to start your season off because once you've accomplished that win however you do it, you set yourself in motion to handle whatever is going to come up during the course of the season. I think there's a vast difference between that and playing a team that's from a different division or something. Some teams do, and we understand the philosophy there and it's a great philosophy as well but this has really served us well. There's no time when we ever take a breather in the schedule or look at anybody than the opponent because we know that anybody can beat you. That's about learning how to respect the game and respect the match-ups and respect what can happen that can be outside of your control. That's why playing against teams that are struggling is such an issue to play well because now you've gone over the top, you've lived the philosophy, and you've proven that you understand.”

I love the (unintentional, perhaps, but not likely) little dig at teams that schedule Div. 1-AA opponents, and this response to a question about Florida playing Western Carolina this week.
“We couldn't be playing for a Rose Bowl if we were playing Western Carolina. I think the impact of the Pac-10 championship being this week is perfect timing. It's beautiful and we're looking forward to it.”

There’s much more, including Carroll’s opinion of instant replay (he’s against it in any format), a joke about the meaninglessness of statistics, teasing Jeff Tedford about attention from the NFL, and his take on the importance of coaching vs. players’ talent.

Sorry about the length of this post – just trying to live up to the name of the blog!

Turning Point 2006

Last January, just prior to the Rose Bowl, I posted an entry outlining the turning point games of the 2002 – 2005 seasons. The loss to Oregon State looks like this season’s turning point. A recap:

2002: Having lost in overtime the previous week to WSU, USC trailed Cal 21-3. The Trojans scored 27 consecutive points to win the game 30-28. USC blew out its remaining 7 opponents, including Iowa in the Orange Bowl.
2003: Again coming off an overtime loss, USC was down 17-10 at halftime to ASU. The Trojans scored 27 unanswered points to win 37-17. The team won its remaining eight games by an average of more than 26 points, including a Rose Bowl win over Michigan to win its first national championship since 1978.
2004: It was the Cal game again. With USC leading by six, Cal advanced to first and goal with less than two minutes remaining. The USC defense held, sacking Aaron Rodgers (who set a single-game record for consecutive completions earlier in the game) on second down and forcing three incompletions. The Trojans won their remaining eight games, including a 55-19 shellacking of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
2005: After the Notre Dame game, Leinart finally shrugged off the pressure of maintaining a school-record winning streak and leading the team to an unprecedented third national title and started playing relaxed football again. The team won the remainder of their regular season games handily (except a close one to Fresno State), but lost the BCS Championship game to Texas.

2006 so far: Trailing 33-10 with less than 20 minutes remaining against Oregon State, USC scored the last 21 points of the game and narrowly missed sending the game to overtime when their 2-point conversion attempt failed with seven seconds remaining. Since the loss, USC has beat Stanford 42-0 and Oregon 35-10, thereby outscoring its opponents 98-10 in the last 140 minutes of play. There are two big differences between the Oregon State game and the turning point games of the previous four seasons. First of all, the game ended as a loss. Second, it came a little bit later in the season, but only by a game or two. This is not surprising considering the youth of this year’s team.

Of course, I had the benefit of hindsight last season whereas there are still three games left in the 2006 regular season. However, if recent history is any indication, and the trend that started late in the Oregon State game continues, Trojan fans have much to look forward to for the remainder of the season.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Positive

Pete Carroll: "Four turnovers and a punt return. That's what it takes to beat us."

Frustrating in so many ways

Turnovers: First and foremost, -4 in the turnover battle?! WTF?!! I have no idea when the last time that happened was. It turns out the last time USC committed four turnovers was the last time they lost a regular season game, in 2003 vs. Cal (Cal also had four turnovers in that game). The Trojans absolutely need to fix this problem if they want to win out.

Play-calling: Where’s the offensive creativity? Where’s the urgency? Sarkiffian finally opened it up when they were down 23 with less than 20:00 remaining, and lo and behold, the Trojans almost pulled off the comeback. Is there some reason why they can’t or shouldn’t make those plays starting in the first quarter? What's with the decision to go for a TD on 4th and goal from the 10 instead of kicking the field goal? I don't even want to get started on the call on the final two-point conversion attempt.

Soft pass coverage: If there was one aspect of the Trojans’ play that looked especially lackadaisical, it had to be their zone pass coverage. The Beavers weren’t gaining many yards after the catch, but they didn’t need to, consistently hitting receivers for 15 to 20 yards per catch. It would have been nice to see more tight one-on-one coverage, giving Trojan defenders more chances to break up passes or even, god forbid, intercept a pass or two.

Slow starts: This is a well-established pattern for 2006 that I hoped would be broken last Saturday. Following slow starts in all but the ASU game, the Trojans didn't seem to wake up until late in the third quarter. Even I didn't sleep in that late on Saturdays when I was at USC.

OK - rant over.

It will be interesting to see how the Trojans respond to their first regular-season loss in over three years. Will this be a learning experience from which they bounce back stronger, or will they self-destruct and begin a painful slide to a second-tier bowl game?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What planet ya from, Charlie?

Ooooooo, I liked this. Best quote:

"Hey, care to know what befuddles me, Charlie? How the head coach of Notre Dame, a program which has consistently been overrated and ranked higher than it deserved to be for more than a decade -- and for most of the past century -- has the audacity to complain about polls. I mean … wow! That more than befuddles me."

Be careful, Charlie - remember what happened to the last coach who complained about the BCS standings, Tommy Tuberville (Arkansas 27 - Auburn 10).

HT: Student Body Right.

Update: Stewart Mandel of chimes in with some hard numbers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wild, Wonderful West Virginia

So it says on their license plates. I can't say I disagree, based on limited experience with the state. West Virginia was wild indeed for me and a few friends last weekend:

If you have the means to hit the Gauley River during the fall drawdown, I highly recommend it. It is so choice.

I Miss Norm

Do any other Trojan football fans miss Norm Chow?

I wrote multiple times during the 2005 season that, even though the USC offense continued to put up monster numbers after the departure of Chow as offensive coordinator, it was too early to reach a verdict on whether the Trojan offense would ultimately suffer without Chow.

First, I wrote that with the players returning in 2005 (Bush, Byrd, Jarrett, Leinart, Smith, White, and four past starters on the offensive line), the offense would be extremely prolific no matter who was running the show. My concern was the loss of Chow’s play-calling genius.

Then, I questioned Michael Ventre’s assertion on MSNBC that USC lost nothing offensively when they lost Chow. Finally, I reiterated my feeling that USC was worse off for losing Chow’s play-calling ability and we would have to wait until at least 2006 before passing judgment on the performance of his replacements, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. To repeat a quote from a December 2005 Pat Forde article on (insider):

"Norm had an uncanny ability to call plays," Sarkisian said. "We may not have always known what was coming, but it worked. Especially in big games, he was willing to make calls nobody else would make.

"I think we're a little bit more on the structured side. We know what calls are coming. We know by the play sheet what to call, depending on the situation. The quarterback knows what's being called by the specific situation."

That sounds great from the perspective of an opposing defensive coordinator.

Personally, I think with Norm Chow calling the plays, Lendale White does not get stopped on 4th & 2 to turn the ball over to Texas with just over two minutes remaining in the Rose Bowl, and we are defending national champs; the Trojans do not go four games in a row without scoring 30 points or more in 2006; and USC does not settle for four field goals against Washington.

Yes, I miss Norm.

2006 So Far

The good news is we’re 5 and 0. The bad news is . . . well, I’m not terribly comfortable with the manner in which we got to 5-0.

I felt really good after the Arkansas game. After a slow start, the Trojans took control of the game in the second half and won a decisive victory. The slow start could be chalked up to it being the first game of the season. Now, it just looks like Arkansas hadn’t yet realized their potential.

The defense looked great in the Nebraska game. However, based on more recent indicators, that appears to have been a result of Nebraska’s conservative offensive play-calling rather than inspired defensive play.

The final score of the Arizona game looked decisive, but Arizona’s offense is the worst in the conference, it was close until the fourth quarter, and the Trojans needed Arizona to shoot itself in the foot in order to reach the 20-point plateau.

The close, down-to-the-wire victory in Pullman could be attributed to narrowly escaping a widely-predicted trap game played in a remote hostile environment, but the same script played out one week later, at home, against the other Washington school that won only three games in the previous two seasons.

Where are all the big defensive plays? After +5 turnovers in the season-opening Arkansas game, USC is -1 over the following four games and has lost the turnover battle in the last two games (when was the last time that happened?!). USC has only 7 sacks on the season (5 in the Arizona game) with zero in the last two games.

The Trojans are doing enough to win games and are still undefeated, so I’m not complaining. With luck, the team will settle into a dominating style of play we have come to expect from Pete Carroll-coached Trojan teams. Perhaps they will continue to do just enough to win the rest of their games and remain in contention for a national title throughout the season. More likely, if their play does not begin an upward trend soon, they’ll drop a game or two in the second half of the season, especially with a challenging sequence of Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame in November.

Friday, June 23, 2006

U.S. MNT Gives a Poor Showing

U.S. Exits with a Whimper.

I need more time to digest what I saw the team do at this tournament before commenting.

Friday, May 12, 2006

World Cup Previews

For the most comprehensive and entertaining team-by-team preview of the upcoming World Cup I have come across, check out That's On Point:
The Draw;
Angola; Argentina; Australia; Brazil; Ivory Coast; Costa Rica; Croatia; Czech Republic; Ecuador; England; France; Germany; Ghana; Iran; Italy; Japan; South Korea; Saudi Arabia; Mexico; The Netherlands; Paraguay; Poland; Portugal; Serbia and Montenegro; Switzerland; Sweden; Spain; Togo; Trinidad and Tobago; Tunisia, Ukraine, and USA.

Gunslingers is also posting in-depth previews of each team.

I have some notes I collected four years ago on a system for running a pool not unlike March Madness or the college football bowls, but I'm not sure how much interest there would be in participating among my friends. Most of the people I know will watch as many games as they can regardless of their rooting interest. A pool might add an additional layer of interest for some.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fill in the Blanks

The map below indicates graphically the countries of the world that I have visited (red). It's my aspiration to fill in as much of the white space as possible. The lack of any red in Africa and South America is particularly conspicuous, but there are multiple locations on both continents that I would like to visit as soon as possible.

Create your own visited countries map.

U.S. states I have visited:

create your own visited states map or check out these Google Hacks. I am not counting layovers in airports as visits.

Thanks: HeyDudeWhoa!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Signing Day

According to multiple authorities, USC signed the #1 recruiting class in the country yesterday. Florida and USC were neck-and-neck in the final tally.

The day was not without controversy for USC, as one of the country’s top two wide receiver prospects, Vidal Hazelton, faxed his letter of intent (LOI) to USC without his father’s approval. The LOI is invalid without a legal guardian’s signature. He is said to be considering Penn State. On the other hand, Hazelton’s classmate at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, VA, running back Keiland Williams, has not signed an LOI with LSU and is thought to be strongly considering USC. Regardless of the final outcome of the 2006 recruiting competition, it will be at least a couple years before the relative strength of each school’s class can be determined definitively.

The Trojans ended up securing a commitment from a quarterback, Garrett Green, on the last day, so offensive line is the only position in the class with an apparent deficiency.

This marks the fourth consecutive year that USC’s recruiting class has been listed by many national recruiting publications as the best in the country. Not coincidentally, that is just one year less than the number of years that Pete Carroll has had a full recruiting cycle to build a class. If Stewart Mandel’s statement is true:

“Second-year coaches at rebuilding programs almost always clean up in recruiting. Momentum is rarely higher than when a coach first arrives. The key is keeping it going.

“At schools where the coaches are more deeply entrenched, however, recruiting results are often a telling reflection of the overall state of a program,”

then yesterday’s results are very good news indeed for the USC football program.

Update: Vidal Hazelton signed a LOI with USC on February 23, becoming the 25th member of USC's 2006 recruiting class.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My Thoughts Exactly

by Mr. Two Cents via EDSBS

After winning 34 straight, this is a relatively accurate representation of my, and I assume many other Trojans', gut reaction to losing to Texas in the Rose Bowl. I laughed out loud at this.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Fight On!

My previous post notwithstanding, I’m proud of how the USC players approached the Rose Bowl game and the way they played, especially in the final moments; they truly fought like Trojans! I’m also proud of the Trojans’ reaction to losing the game and their future outlook.

"This is what it's all about, 41-38 in the final game," said Leinart . . . . "You couldn't ask for anything better. This was a great football game. We gave our hearts, they gave their hearts and they came out on top."

"It's been a great run. We've done some special things," Bush said. "I don't think we should be ashamed about anything."

"We played hard," said Trojan senior defensive end Frostee Rucker. "You got to credit Vince Young."

Rucker tried to explain the mistakes, the missed tackles, the failed fourth-and-2 play, the lost opportunities. Rather than continue, he simply said, "The rest is history."

The sometimes combustible White was calm as he recounted the play and the way USC's 34-game winning streak was halted. He seemed at peace with the how the game went down. He knew there was no shame in losing when the other team just rises up and makes a play. "I tried to leave it all out there, man," he said with a smile. "I really did."

"This is really what we wanted," said guard Fred Matua. "We want to be out there and play it to the fullest. We don't play to just stay on top. We play to win, man. We're not about putting the game in our defense's hands. We want to take it from them on our terms. If we go down, we're going down fighting, not just hopin' and wishin'. This is how we play at SC, and any high schooler that wants to play like this, man, come on through. We don't play scared."

Said Pat Ruel, USC's O-line coach, "I'm disgusted because this team has given so much and it came down to this play, but hey, I guess it's time for us to start a new streak. That's all."

With a collective attitude like that, I have no doubt the excellence and dominance of USC football will continue uninterrupted.

Congratulations . . .

to the Texas Longhorns for a great Rose Bowl win and an outstanding season.

Obviously, I'm not completely satisfied with the Trojans' performance. Overall, they played a solid game against the best team they faced this season. Unfortunately, they made several critical mistakes and missed multiple opportunities of the type on which they usually capitalize. In the first half, they missed chances to extend their lead and in the second half, they could have put the game away with a final fourth down conversion.

I can't help myself from mentioning that Texas benefited from some bad calls by the officials. However, by no means did the refs determine the outcome of the game. Texas deserves credit for coming through in the clutch to win a hard fought battle between two elite teams.

This was a very exciting bowl season; indeed, the entire 2005 college football season was one of the most exciting and entertaining seasons I can remember. I can't wait for next year!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Turning Point

The Notre Dame game was the turning point of the season. Each of the past three seasons has had one, after which the team never looked back. In 2002, it was the Cal game. USC lost the previous week in overtime at Wazzu. Trailing Cal by 21-3, USC scored 27 consecutive points to win the game 30-28. USC blew out its remaining 7 opponents, including Iowa in the Orange Bowl.

In 2003, it was the ASU game. USC lost its previous game in three overtimes to Cal (the Trojans’ last loss to date). USC was down 17-10 at halftime. Matt Leinart had been knocked out of the game in the first half with knee and ankle injuries. With Brandon Hance warming up to start the second half, Leinart asked to be put back in. The Trojans scored 27 unanswered points to win 37-17. The team won its remaining eight games by an average of more than 26 points, including a Rose Bowl win over Michigan to win its first national championship since 1978.

In 2004, it was again the Cal game. With USC leading by six, Cal advanced to first and goal with less than two minutes remaining. The Cal QB, Aaron Rodgers, had earlier in the game set the NCAA single-game record for consecutive completions. The USC defense held, sacking Rodgers on second down and forcing three incompletions. The Trojans won their remaining eight games. Only the UCLA game was close, but USC rebounded from that game to destroy Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl.

The Notre Dame game was also a turning point for Leinart. The pressure of maintaining a school-record winning streak and leading the team to an unprecedented third national title was weighing heavily on the fifth-year Heisman-trophy winning QB. He had suffered a concussion and required stitches two weeks prior in a comeback victory over ASU. He had his worst game of the season at Notre Dame, completing only 53% of his passes with two interceptions and zero touchdowns. But, he led the most exciting game-winning drive of the season, including the amazing fourth and nine toss to Dwayne Jarrett from the USC 26 with 1:32 to go. Reading about that play today still gives me shivers.

As Leinart crouched under center, he said he saw a Notre Dame player to his right, "Kind of bluffing, but coming. Whatever. And I'm like, 'OK [shoot], here we go.'"

Kiffin could see that Leinart recognized the coverage.

"He's got it. He's got it!" Kiffin said into the headset.

Sarkisian started mouthing the audible to himself.

Carroll did the same, thinking, It's there, it's there, is he going to? Jarrett, wide to the left, had double vision from a fall earlier in the game, but clearly saw what everyone in the stadium and millions of television viewers saw too.

Leinart had stepped back and was changing his call.

"I was like 'Wow, I'm going to have to make a play.'" Jarrett said. "I just tried to open my eyes as wide as possible."

Leinart turned and pointed right with a closed hand. Then he turned and did the same to the left.

And then Matt Leinart stepped forward to start a play that will forever define him.

After Notre Dame, the pressure lifted from Leinart’s shoulders and he started enjoying playing football again.

There has been some speculation that the pressure of securing his legacy as the greatest college quarterback in history and winning an unprecedented third-consecutive national championship will be too much pressure for Leinart. He let his emotions get the better of him in the UCLA game, the final home game of his career. I don’t see that happening. I expect a performance more like the one following his emotionally-draining experience at Notre Dame, after which he threw for four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a 77% completion rate at Washington.

The Gods of Football

Nothing would please me more this evening than to see the outcome of the Rose Bowl virtually decided in the first quarter, à la this pious post by Orson at EDSBS, who has clearly seen the light of Trojan football, so that I can enjoy the rest of the game in joyful celebration.

Not Nervous

I'm at a loss. I haven't really felt nervous the past month and today is no different. Last year at this time I could hardly contain my anxiety. This is especially strange when contrasted with how I felt before some of this season's regular season games, especially Oregon, Cal, and especially Notre Dame and fUCLA. Like I said, I can't explain it.

I'm wearing the same shirt I wore last year, just in case.