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.