August 12, 2008

2008: Grading the non-conference schedules


We've created a vicious cycle in college football. Sure we all love the fact that just about every game is on TV nowadays. And because coaches and athletic directors want their teams to look good on TV, so they schedule a lot of limp fish opponents. Because wins beget bowl games. Bowl games begets job security. Job security begets more money. Thus, more money is insured by wins. You spin me right round baby right round, like a record.

No longer do college football teams across the country take chances. Or, well, rarely do they. Have you noticed how boring Septembers have become, except for the occasional Appy State upset of Michigan or Ohio State showdown with Texas?

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January 01, 2008

Rose Bowl: Trojans Dominate in Statement Win

PASADENA, Calif. -- Most people thought the Rose Bowl would be a blowout. Most people were right.

Save a stretch in the third quarter when Illinois' offense woke up, USC dominated the entire game en route to a 49-17 win to secure its second consecutive dominant Rose Bowl win. While USC tied a Rose Bowl record with 49 points and set a record with 633 yards of total offense, the Trojan defense set the tone early in the game.

"I'm so fired up about the way we played against such a terrific offense that plays that scheme of offense," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "They might have given us too much time to prepare."

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Rose Bowl: Booty's USC Career Concludes

PASADENA, Calif. -- With about seven minutes left in the game, John David Booty's career at USC has come to an end. With USC holding a 42-10 lead, Mark Sanchez has taken over at quarterback and Booty ends his college days with his second consecutive Rose Bowl win.

He ends the game completing 25-of-37 passing attempts for 255 yards and three touchdowns. His three scoring throws today give him seven career touchdown passes in the Rose Bowl, surpassing Mark Brunell's old record of five in two games with Washington State.

Rose Bowl: Hits Keep Coming for USC

PASADENA, Calif. -- Now it's just a question of how much USC wants to pad John David Booty's newly acquired Rose Bowl touchdown record. After setting the record with his sixth career Rose Bowl touchdown pass to Fred Davis in the third quarter, Booty added another to start the fourth quarter, this time to David Ausberry.

USC now holds a 42-10 lead and has sent Illinois fans scurrying from the stands.

Rose Bowl: McKnight, USC Back in Charge

PASADENA, Calif. -- Illinois tried to go big to respond to USC's latest touchdown. It didn't work. Juice Williams' first pass of the drive sailed about 30 yards in the air before Cary Harris intercepted it. The Trojans in turn went for the jugular with a quick-strike drive that ended with a Joe McKnight touchdown to give USC a seemingly insurmountable 35-10 lead.

Meanwhile, McKnight has likely sealed up player of the game honors and possibly the full-time starting job at tailback for USC next season. So far he has eight carries for 116 yards and a touchdown, five receptions for 49 yards and has made some big plays in the return game. On a field full of burners, nobody's been able to keep up with McKnight.

Rose Bowl: Heartbreak for Illinois

PASADENA, Calif. -- Just as the Illini were about to roar back into this game, a turnover kept them out of the end zone and completely changed the tone. On the possession after Rashard Mendenhall ran for a 79-yard touchdown, he took a swing pass 55 yards to set up Illinois in scoring position again.

Illinois quarterback Juice Williams connected with Jacob Willis who bolted toward the end zone inside the 10. USC linebacker Kaluka Maiava had other ideas, punching the ball out, where it rolled into the end zone for a USC touchback.

A few plays later Joe McKnight picked up a loose ball on a lateral from John David Booty and ran 65 yards to set up an eventual touchdown pass from John David Booty to Fred Davis. Just when it looked like Illinois would cut the lead to 21-17, the Trojans increased their lead to 28-10. The 14-point swing could very well take the air out of Illinois. How they respond here with about five minutes left in the third quarter could determine the game.

Rose Bowl: Illinois Finds End Zone

PASADENA, Calif. -- Illinois got just what it needed to kick off the second half with a big play from Rashard Mendenhall. The speedy tailback finally found a hole in the USC defense and broke through for a 79-yard touchdown run that equaled the team's total offensive output in the first half.

The Illini fans, who have been plenty loud while their team struggled, erupted and have the Rose Bowl actually feeling like the Rose Bowl as USC leads 21-10.

Rose Bowl: Illini Faithful Stay Strong

PASADENA -- Either Illinois' fans don't realize they're down 21-3 or they're not bothered by it. I've been nothing but impressed by the Illini faithful who were the loudest before the game, steadfast during the USC-dominated first half and have been the most spirited during halftime -- and we're just a few miles away from USC's campus.

If just for their sake, it'd be nice to see their football team play a more competitive second half.

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Rose Bowl: Illinois Breaks Through

PASADENA -- So much for the shutout. Illinois responded to USC's latest touchdown with its best drive of the day to get on the board with 38 seconds left in the first half and cut the deficit to 21-3. The drive stalled and ended in a 28-yard field goal, but it's something positive for the Illini to work with going into halftime.

Rose Bowl: Illinois Livin' on a Prayer

PASADENA, Calif. -- The Illinois band takes an honest approach about things. With Illinois starting at its own 10 for its worst field position of the day, the Illini band rolled out with Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. Very appropriate.

USC's lighting-fast defense again allowed nothing as the Illini were forced to punt again and set up USC near midfield, where it marched 43 yards for a Chauncey Washington touchdown to take a 21-0 lead with about two minutes left in the first half. The question now is whether or not Illinois will be able to score.

Rose Bowl: USC Leaving Door Open

PASADENA, Calif. -- After exploding for the first two touchdowns of the game, USC's offense has stalled since John David Booty's interception. USC scored twice before even facing third down on offense, but hasn't been able to get much going since.

Illinois is seeing the benefits with good field position, but has yet to capitalize. The difference right now is USC's defense, lauded by many as the best in the nation. So far, Illinois has 28 plays on offense for 45 yards.

If the Illini find a way to break a big scoring play, this could get interesting. The way things are going, it may have to come from defense or special teams.

Rose Bowl: Ilini Squander Opportunity

PASADENA, Calif. -- Illinois got exactly what it needed to make this a competitive game when Justin Harrison intercepted John David Booty and returned the ball 45 yards to the USC 20. Illinois picked up a first down near the 10 and looked ready to score, but stalled on three straight plays.

Well, at least they would get on the scoreboard with a chip shot field goal. Or not. Jason Reda missed the 29-yard attempt just when it looked like Illinois was ready to get into the game. USC still leads 14-0 at the end of the first quarter while the Illinois fans search hard for something to cheer about.

Rose Bowl: Tricky Tricky Trojans

PASADENA, Calif. -- USC is pulling out the stops already as a trick play put the Trojans on top of Illinois 14-0 halfway through the first quarter. After a Rey Maualuga interception set USC up in Illinois territory, the USC offense struck quick when John David Booty took the snap and lateraled it back to widout Garrett Green. Green, listed as a WR-QB on the lineup card, showed his quarterbacking prowess with a 34-yard strike to a wide open Desmond Reed for USC's second touchdown of the game.

The scary thing for Ilinois is that it hasn't been able to get anything going on offense. In need of a response to USC's first touchdown, the Illini started to march toward midfield, but Maualuga's interception and 19-yard return set up the easy score for USC.

As I wrote this entry, Illinois went three and out and just punted the ball back to USC. This looks very much like the blowout most people expected.

Rose Bowl: Trojans Take Charge Early

PASADENA, Calif. -- Illinois looked ready to make the first statement of the Rose Bowl when it got off to a good start with a 16-yard run from Rashard Mendehnall on the opening play. But USC forced a punt after three more plays and looked like a team angry not to be playing in the national championship.

Led by precision passing from John David Booty and a lucky bounce on a batted ball that ended up in Joe McKnight's hands, USC needed just 2:12 to march 72 yards and score the game's first touchdown for a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.

The Trojans, an experienced and loose BCS team, proceeded to perform a choreographed dance routine on the sideline as Illinois waited for the ensuing kickoff. It's obviously early, but Illinois would be well-served to respond with a good drive here.

Rose Bowl: Screw Tradition

PASADENA, Calif. -- There are two schools of thought with today's Rose Bowl matchup between USC and Illinois. One believes in tradition and pageantry with Pac-10 and Big Ten loyalists gagging at the thought of an interloper from another conference playing in the grandaddy of them all.

Then there's the progressive point of view that believes the Rose Bowl, being the esteemed event that it is, shouldn't settle for anything but the best show possible. It's a red-state, blue-state thing and an argument that's been hashed over countless times since the BCS announced that No. 7 USC would play a 9-3 Illinois team that backed into a BCS bowl despite a ranking of 13 in the final standings.

Both sides are equally passionate about the Rose Bowl and believe their point of view is the best for the New Year's Day classic. Both sides will stand their ground with the fortitude that fuels political debates on cable network news. Both sides can't be right.

And the wrong side won out this year. I'm a born and bred ACC man with no affiliation with Pac-10 or Big Ten tradition. I want what's best for college football, which is the best possible matchup for the game's premiere bowl.

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December 01, 2007

Trojans Rose Bowl Bound... Again

LOS ANGELES -- Ho-hum. Another Pac-10 championship for USC. Another Rose Bowl appearance. Another BCS game. That's what USC has to be excited about tonight after a dominant defensive performance ends with a 24-7 win over rival UCLA -- a win that avenges last season's upset in Pasadena and sends the Trojans to their sixth straight BCS bowl game.

"There's nothing we like more than winning championships," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "I know everybody talks about all the rest of the stuff. But we don't have control of the other stuff. What we do have control of is the Pac-10."

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Braving the Elements

LOS ANGELES -- I'm going to face the harsh winter winds of Southern California on the field. With less than six minutes remaining, USC holds a 24-7 lead over UCLA and has the ball. I don't see the Bruins doing much from here. I'll check back in with a wrap after the press conference.

What Was He Thinking?

LOS ANGELES -- I haven't seen much UCLA football this year, but I can understand why the Bruins fans want Karl Dorrell out. With USC inside the Bruins five, UCLA came up with a third-down stop, setting USC up for a likely field goal attempt. The officials called USC for a hold on the play, but that should be inconsequential. The result of the play is a fourth down -- you decline the penalty. Anybody that's ever watched a football game knows that, right?

Well evidently not Dorrell. The Bruins accepted the penalty, giving USC another chance on third down. The Trojans made them pay with a touchdown pass from John David Booty to Fred Davis to increase the lead to 24-7 and seemingly put the game out of hand with about 12 minutes remaining.

I don't understand.

Another Turnover -- USC Ball

LOS ANGELES -- On the second play after forcing a turnover, UCLA gave the ball right back to USC when Patrick Cowan threw an interception to set USC up in Bruins territory. In case you're scoring, that's three turnovers in five plays. This game is officially ugly.

USC leads 17-7 at the end of the third quarter.

Blown Opportunity

LOS ANGELES -- Apparently neither team wants to win this game. Given a golden opportunity to cut into the USC lead, UCLA turned the ball over for a third time on first down in Trojan territory. Brandon Breazell fumbled the ball on a busted play, giving the ball right back to the Trojans.

But just as USC looked ready to put the game out of hand, Joe McKnight fumbled the ball in the red zone to give the ball back to the Bruins. Somebody -- anybody, please step up and win this ball game.

So Much for that Idea

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA looked ready to make this a one-possession game. Then fourth-and-19 happened. After opening the third quarter with consecutive first-down plays, the Bruins managed to move backwards on three consecutive plays thanks to two penalties and a sack. Now USC has the ball again and UCLA has squandered a great opportunity to cut into the 17-7 Trojan lead.

Somehow UCLA Still in this Game

LOS ANGELES -- Despite being outgained 243 yards to 101 in the first half, UCLA is hanging with USC going into halftime. The Bruins almost tripled their yardage with a 65-yard drive that ended with a spectacular one-handed touchdown grab in the back of the end zone by Dominique Johnson to cut the USC lead to 17-7.

In fact, this game is looking a lot like the Stanford upset earlier in the season. USC outplayed the overmatched Cardinal in the first half, but couldn't put them away on the scoreboard and Stanford hung around long enough to steal the game in the final minutes.

UCLA gets the ball to start the third quarter. If they can pick up some points, then things should get interesting.

Trojans Pad Lead

LOS ANGELES -- A 46-yard field goal from David Beuhler extended USC's lead to 17-0 with 45 seconds left in the first half.

Meanwhile, UCLA just picked up its second first down of the day in a desperation attempt score before halftime. With time running down, they're trying to keep it a two-possession game, which is about four possessions closer than it should be. One thing's for certain about this game; UCLA coach Karl Dorrell's seat is hotter than its ever been.

UCLA Offensive

LOS ANGELES -- It's been a long time since I've seen a college offense look this bad. With about two minutes left in the first half, UCLA has 36 total yards of offense. It's averaging .5 yards per carry. And amazingly USC only has a 14-0 lead.

The Trojans have racked up 213 yards and 15 first downs, but some uncharacteristic drops from tight end Fred Davis and stalling in the red zone have kept UCLA a Trojan mistake away from getting right back into this game.

Washington Returns, Scores

LOS ANGELES -- After leaving the game with a bruised hip, Chauncey Washington looked just fine in his return to the field, rumbling for a 10-yard touchdown run to give USC a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

So far, USC has 14 first downs while UCLA has 17 total yards of offense. That's not a typo. If the Bruins don't come to life soon, this game could get out of hand.

Another Trojan Down

LOS ANGELES -- It's a good thing USC goes about eight-deep at tailback. After losing Chauncey Washington in the first quarter, Joe McKnight is out with a sprained knee. Stafon Johnson should see a lot of carries as the game continues.

Whistle Stop

LOS ANGELES -- While it's not quite a "Giving Him the Business" moment, the Coliseum crowd and press box just got a good chuckle out the officials.

With about three minutes left in the first quarter, an official stopped the game to instruct one of the 90,000 fans in the seats to "please refrain from blowing your whistle." Evidently somebody's trying to officiate from the stands. As for the game, USC still leads 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Bruins Catch a Break

LOS ANGELES -- With a stagnant offense and USC threatening to score, the Bruins caught a break to keep the game from breaking open early when David Buehler missed a 40-yard field goal to keep the score at 7-0, USC.

So far, the Trojans have had three genuine scoring chances and have just the one touchdown to show for it. If the Bruins could muster any semblance of an offense, they could make this a game.

Chauncey's Out

LOS ANGELES -- Bad news for the Trojans. Bruising back Chauncey Washington just left for the locker room with a bruised hip.

Trojans Strike First

LOS ANGELES -- So much for that good start for UCLA. The Bruins couldn't survive their second turnover of the first quarter as USC quickly turned a UCLA fumble into a touchdown for a 7-0 lead.

Starting at the UCLA 32-yard line, John David Booty needed just two plays to find the end zone thanks to a 27-yard strike to Stanley Havili and a five-yard touchdown run from Joe McKnight.

Up and Down Already in L.A.

LOS ANGELES -- Six minutes in and this game is already a roller-coaster ride. What looked like a great opening defensive stand for UCLA almost turned into USC points before the Bruins came up with another big stop.

Pinned inside their own 20 to start the game, USC went three and out before a lackluster punt that landed near midfield, setting UCLA up with what looked like great field position. That was until Trojan linebacker Thomas Williams forced a fumble setting up USC at midfield.

But the Trojans couldn't do much with the ball again, advancing about 25 yards before UCLA held them up on fourth and short at the 25.

Now the Bruins have the ball and Patrick Cowan is in at quarterback. Regular starter Ben Olson was scheduled to start, but apparently isn't healthy enough. So far, with UCLA playing tough defense and Patrick Cowan leading the offense, this looks a lot like last year's game at the Rose Bowl.

Fashion Faux Pas and a Rose Bowl Berth

LOS ANGELES -- I realized about halfway through my drive from San Diego that I had made a grave fashion decision this morning. Knowing it's going to be cold today (by Southern California standards), I grabbed the first sweater I found in my closet. It just happens to be light blue.

As I walked through the parking lot at the L.A. Coliseum, I was made even more aware of my poor decision by several USC fans who mistook me for a Bruin (which I most certainly am not) and had some not so kind words. It's ok -- I'm pretty thick-skinned.

Despite relatively disappointing seasons for both the Bruins and Trojans, today's atmosphere is as tense as ever as UCLA finds itself once again in the position to play spoiler for USC.

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November 22, 2007

USC regains class of the Pac status

TEMPE, Ariz. - Visiting USC flew by the Sun Devils, 44-24, for the eighth straight meeting between the two teams to retake first place in the Pac-10. All USC needs to do now is beat UCLA on Dec. 1 and for Oregon to lose one of its final two games in order for the Trojans to clinch a trip to the Rose Bowl.

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Drive safely and enjoy the leftovers

TEMPE, Ariz. - An exodus as begun at Sun Devil Stadium. Fans began filing out moments after John David Booty connected with tight end Fred Davis on a 34-yard pass to put USC up 44-17.

Continue reading "Drive safely and enjoy the leftovers" »

USC in control

TEMPE, Ariz. - After 30 minutes of play, USC leads, 27-17. While the game has been relatively close, the Trojans are clearly controlling the game. The USC offense has attacked at will, especially through the air. Quarterback John David Booty has thrown for 227 yards, two touchdowns and snuck a 1-yard score up the middle.
The Trojan defense has been equally dominating, shutting down ASU's rushing attack. Sun Devil running backs Dimitri Nance and Keegan Herring combined have carried the ball 10 times for three yards.
Don't count ASU out yet though. The Sun Devils have trailed six times at halftime this season, coming back to five of the games.

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Back to square one

TEMPE, Ariz. - ASU ties the game 17-17 on a 25-yard field goal from kicker Thomas Weber. ASU has managed to even the game despite rushing for minus-1 yard.

Injuries a plenty
A trio of ASU players left the game with injures. Safety Josh Barrett left early in the game but has returned with a brace on his right knee. Left tackle Brandon Rodd and wide receiver Chris McGaha have both returned to action after walking off the field alongside ASU trainers.

USC starting running back Chauncey Washington is still sitting on the Trojans' training table after getting looked at by USC's personnel.

Anything you can do, I can do better

TEMPE, Ariz. - ASU senior wide receiver Rudy Burgess takes a kickoff 98 yards for touchdown after USC scores on its opening drive. The Trojans' drive started with Ronald Johnson running the kickoff to mid-field.

USC fans have shown up strong in Sun Devil Stadium. Trojan faithful, include a mini version of the USC marching band, dominate six sections. Former USC quaterback and current Arizona Cardinal Matt Leinart has been spotted on the Trojans' sideline.

Marcus Allen and Charles Barkley are also watching from the field.

Calm before the storm

TEMPE, Ariz. - Arizona State and Southern California play every year. Yet, tonight's game is anything but another game. Billed the unofficial Pac-10 title game, the winner will be comfortably seated and and strapped in the conference's bid to the Rose Bowl.

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November 11, 2007

USC-Cal: USC runs Cal aground.

USC kept itself grounded tonight. Literally.

Much like the smackdown of Nebraska I reported on back in September, the Trojans resembled the student body right days in wearing down the Cal Bears in a 24-17 win. For the game, USC ended up with 239 yards on the ground, though it seemed more like 500 yards. The Men of Troy air attack gained just 129 yards.

But 16 of SC's 19 offensive plays in the fourth quarter were running plays, accounting for 82 yards.

Chauncey Washington led the grindhouse offense, churning out an impressive 220 yards on 29 carries.

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November 10, 2007

USC-Cal: Trojans salt away the win, 24-17


USC never gave the ball back to Cal's offense after Terrell Thomas' interception of a Nate Longshore pass at the Trojan 17 with three minutes left. USC improves to 8-2 and 4-2, Cal drops to 6-4 and 3-4.

Game wrap-up coming soon.

USC-Cal: Forsett, Forsett, Forsett, then Cal decides to pass

Cal just started its last drive at its own four-yard line. With a pair of long Justin Forsett runs and a Justin Forsett swing pass, the Bears quickly moved the ball inside the Trojan 40. But curiously, Cal went away from what was working and Nate Longshore just threw another ill-advised pass, resulting in an interception by Terrell Thomas.

Now it's SC ball at its own 17 with just under three minutes remaining. Cal will probably get the ball again, but I'm not banking on Longshore's passing to be able to lead them back. And judging from the groans in the press box here, the Cal people don't believe so either.

USC-Cal: The Trojans go all Woody Hayes on us, now lead 24-17

USC just completed a 97-yard touchdown drive where eight on the 10 plays they ran the ball, grinding it from their own three-yardline out to midfield. Then a 1st and 20 pass to TE Fred Davis put the ball into Bear territory.

In fact, 72 yards of the drive came on terra firma with Stefon Johnson going the final three and giving USC the lead.

A 97-yard drive can be a backbreaker. Let's see how Cal responds.

USC-Cal; Maybe Lavelle Hawkins should have a Heisman campaign

When Cal needed a game-breaker, they went to Lavelle Hawkins on that drive. Hisdiving catch in the back of the end zone just tied this game up at 17 as we go to the 4th quarter now. For the record, Hawkins came into the game with more catches (53) and more yards (681) than DeSean Jackson. Now he's got twice as many touchdown catches (2).

Prior to that, the streamlined Bear wideout lined up at quarterback and got a direct snap, carrying the ball for five yards and a key first down on a 3rd and two.

The third quarter was filled with penalties and a pair of key turnovers, but we go into the last 15 minutes all knotted up. So much for Lee Corso's pick of USC winning in a blowout.

USC-Cal: Rhetorical question: Do you remember DeSean Jackson's Heisman campaign

DeSean Jackson just caught a five-yard pass and it reminded me that he was once the flash-in-the-pan Heisman contender after that brilliant punt return against Tennessee.

Oh he still has that game-breaking ability. In fact, just before halftime he caught that 41-yard bomb to set Cal up for a late score. Though, a sack and fumble later and Cal had to punt.

But Jackson is as quiet as it gets on this Bears team, despite his 55 catches. In the Arizona State game I covered a couple a weeks ago, once again he showed great flash, catching a toe-dragging 21-yard TD. But that has been his only touchdown catch of the season so far. And other than that 77 yard punt return against Tennessee, he's got 9 returns for just 29 yards coming into tonight.

USC-Cal: Remember what I said about turnovers? SC up now 17-10

While there were stunningly no turnovers in the first half, there have already been two in the first five minutes of the second half.

The second one was an interception from the arm of Cal's Nate Longshore at his own 13 yard line. But the defense bowed up and held the Trojans to a field goal.

A minute or so before that, SC tailback Chauncey Washington dropped the pill at the Cal two yard line.

USC-Cal: We've sloshed halfway through this one, SC up 14-10


So far it's still wetter than a steamy summer night on Bourbon Street here in Memorial Stadium on the Berkeley campus, in the shadow of the tree people.

USC - 14
Cal - 10
Mother Nature - Everything else.

When the defenses have been good, they've been really good.

But both offenses have had their moments where they look unstoppable on their touchdown drives, the last of which was USC going 71 yards in nine plays capped by Chauncey Washington's 36-yard run.

That drive put SC ahead by four with just over four minutes remaining in the half.

A 41-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson put Cal back in business right before the half deep in USC territory, but a sack and fumble by Longshore put the Bears out of field goal range. Just another indicator that the defenses are still dictating things tonight.

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USC-Cal: What's the record for number of plays inside the 10 without scoring a touchdown?


The Cal Bears just ran eight plays inside the 10 yard line and only have a 23-yard field goal by Jordan Kay to show for it. It's now 10-7 Cal here in the second quarter.

USC on the other hand, continued to show why they are notoriously undisciplined, getting a fumble recovery at their own two, but having it nulified by an encroachment penalty. This is becoming the USC trademark this year.

USC-Cal: Slipping through one quarter here tied at 7-7


It's ironic that in water polo earlier today, Cal beat USC 10-9.
In water skating out here tonight, it's a 7-7 tie after one quarter.

This field is slippery as hell tonight people.

After one quarter, two things are obvious:
1- Whichever team gets a better grip out here tonight is going to win.
2- Despite the five losses between them, there's still a lot of talent on this field.

Both teams went through the other defense like milk in their touchdown drives. Cal went 73 yard in nine plays to go up 7-0. Then USC went 50 yards n five plays to tie the game.

Justin Forsett went in on a 17-yard run and Spenser Havili caught a 5-yard pass from John David Booty for SC's TD.

Cal total offense:
136 yards
USC total offense:
64 yards

USC-Cal: The Joe Roth "throw-back" unis for Cal

It's 30 minutes before kickoff here in Strawberry Canyon, but the big news is that the Cal Bears came out of the locker room today wearing vintage-1976 throwback uniforms supplied by Nike. They are bright blue jerseys with bright yellow pants, similar in color to USC's pants.

The helmets are also bright yellow and feature a block "C" surrounded by a blue oval. The facemasks are also yellow.

The uniforms are being worn to honor the late Joe Roth, an All American quarterback from the 1975-76 teams.

More on Joe Roth...

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USC-Cal: The Game That Was Supposed To Mean More

Welcome to USC-Cal, the game that was supposed to be a lot bigger than the three-legged dog it has become.

Here in Berkeley, it's cool, rainy and dark. I assume those portable lights are going to help a lot.

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November 04, 2007

Defense Leads Trojans Past Oregon State

LOS ANGELES -- USC wasn't very good on offense tonight. It didn't matter. When your defense logs nine sacks, scoring a bunch of points isn't necessary.

That's exactly what the Trojans did as they dominated Oregon State 24-3 to stay alive in the Pac-10 race.

"We had a terrible week getting yelled at all week," linebacker Keith Rivers said of USC's week of practice coming off a loss to Oregon. "Somebody had to pay for it. Oregon State was the team that had to pay for it."

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November 03, 2007

I'm Calling It: USC Still in Control

LOS ANGELES -- In what may be the most boring second half of football ever played, USC has maintained its 24-3 halftime lead over Oregon State. The clock reads 6:19 in the fourth quarter, so I'm going to head to the field to prep for postgame. If a miraculous comeback occurs between now and the end of the game while I'm away from my computer, I sincerely apologize for not bringing you the action. Don't hold your breath.

Another Big Play for USC Defense

LOS ANGELES -- With about five minutes left in the third quarter, Oregon State finally put together a drive that landed its offense in the red zone. But the Trojans defense stepped up again, forcing the Beavers to go for it on fourth-and-two at the four-yard line. This time the hero was Brian Cushing, who sacked Sean Canfield to force a turnover on downs and further crush the Beavers' hopes of a comeback.

Stats Tell the Story as USC Maintains Control

LOS ANGELES -- Ok. This game has officially become a snoozer as USC maintains its 24-3 lead with about seven minutes left in the third quarter; so I'll give you a breakdown of the pertinent stats.

Continue reading "Stats Tell the Story as USC Maintains Control" »

Trojans D Steps Up Again

LOS ANGELES -- USC just took a 24-3 lead thanks to -- yep, you guessed it -- a big play on defense. Defensive end Kyle Moore brought the heat on Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield, who threw an interception to cornerback Terrell Thomas, who returned the ball to the OSU 14. The USC offense, faced with a short field once again, took advantage as John David Booty threw his second touchdown of the game, this time to Patrick Turner.

USC has the ball again and looks content to go to halftime with the 21-point advantage.

Trojans Raging Against the Machine

LOS ANGELES -- Now this is a new one. I've been known to complain about the USC band's lack of diversity in song choice, which usually consists of alternating between two fight songs with an occasional radio hit thrown in.

But they just busted out Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing in the Name' during the last TV timeout, which totally caught me off guard. It's a pretty unorthodox and violent choice, but maybe it got the USC defense pumped up.

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Booty, Trojans Break Through

LOS ANGELES -- After threatening several times early, USC finally got through the Oregon State red zone for a touchdown. After fumbling to set up an Oregon State field goal, John David Booty battled back to lead a seven-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a one-yard Chauncey Washington touchdown run. The Trojans lead 10-3 and there are still no signs of live from the Oregon State offense.

Booty Sets Up Oregon State Score

LOS ANGELES -- While the USC offense has been lackluster so far, the defense has been great. But even a unit this stingy can't keep Oregon State off the scoreboard when the Beavers get the ball at the USC 17-yard line.

That's exactly what happened when John David Booty fumbled the ball under intense pressure from Oregon State lineman Victor Butler. Booty escaped an initial sack attempt, but started to pass the ball before changing his mind when Butler attacked. He lost the football and Oregon State recovered to set up a 21-yard field goal for a 3-3 tie. As with both their losses, turnovers are proving costly for USC yet again.

USC Gets on Board... Barely

LOS ANGELES -- Faced with a 38-yard field, the Trojans looked primed to break the 0-0 tie with Oregon State late in the first quarter. They did, but it wasn't impressive. They gained nine yards on six plays and had to settle for a David Buehler field goal attempt. This time, his 46-yard kick rang true.

The Trojans are averaging a paltry 3.3 yards per play on 23 plays from scrimmage, including 2.8 yards per rush. Thankfully for USC, the defense is keeping Oregon State from making any consistent progress. USC leads 3-0 after one quarter.

Bend, Don't Break

LOS ANGELES -- On two drives, USC's offense has looked pretty good -- until it starts driving into Oregon State territory. After stalling at the 31 on the first drive, the Trojans came up short on third and 10 at the Beavers 36 on their second drive. A questionable decision to run the ball up the gut led to a two-yard loss and a USC punt.

The Trojans just forced an ensuing three-and-out and start their third drive at the Oregon State 38. If they can't manage to score here, they may be in trouble today.

USC, OSU Both Stall on Opening Drives

LOS ANGELES -- It was an ominous start for USC, which looked ready to take an early lead with a solid drive that set up a first down at the Oregon State 31. But tailback Joe McKnight got crushed in the backfield for a nine-yard loss and USC stalled before David Buehler missed a 48-yard field goal attempt.

Oregon State found disappointment in its first drive too, wasting a 39-yard gain on a James Rodgers rush to the USC 31. The Beavers couldn't do anything from there as Alexis Serna matched Buehler with a 48-yard miss of his own.

Trojans Look to Stay in Pac-10 Race

LOS ANGELES -- After losing to Oregon last week, No. 13 USC returns home today to face Oregon State looking to avoid a third conference loss. With a 3-2 conference record, the Trojans are looking up at 5-0 Arizona State, 4-1 Oregon and 4-2 UCLA, which lost to Arizona earlier today.

With a win, it's an uphill battle. With a loss, USC is pretty much out of the race. The good news for USC: John David Booty is scheduled to return after sitting out three games with a broken finger he suffered in the stunning loss to Stanford. Some USC fans might not agree that his return is actually good news. If he can avoid the turnovers that doomed the Trojans in both their losses, USC should be fine. If not, Oregon State could seal the Trojans' Pac-10 fate.

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October 27, 2007

Cal-ASU: Devils crumbling so far. Cal up 10-0

TEMPE, Az. --

Jordan Kay just punched through a 41-yard field goal to put the Bears up by 10. That drive included a great, acrobatic 44-yard catch to help give the drive a boost.

So far the Devils aren't looking good at all. This resmbles the usual bumbling and stumbling that ASU has gotten off to in most of their games this season. So far this year, Arizona State has been outscored 56-33. The Devils also have yet to pick up a first down, having just gone three-and-out with the help of another penalty. Es no bueno por Diablos.

The drive for Cal:
6 plays
61 yards

Harper finishes it for Ducks

EUGENE, Ore. -- And now it's over. Thank Oregon's Harper, who just grabbed his second pick of the game. Ducks are going to win this one, 24-17. Kid is having the game of his life.

Penalties hurting Trojans

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon just punted, which you might think is bad because now USC gets the ball back with 2:58 to go, but then the Trojans go and get a 15-yard penalty, pushing the ball back to their own 17. I tell ya, penalties are going to be a big difference come the end of this game. If USC loses, I mean. If they win I guess we'll once again blame the Oregon defense for being soft, as is customary if you cover the Pac-10.

Fourth and one on the 26 with 1:34 to go ... McKnight gets a little more than one yard, giving the Trojans a first down.

It's not over yet, folks!

USC not going away

EUGENE, Ore. -- Hmm, well, perhaps this game isn't over yet.

Sanchez has just completed two long passes, the second of which went to Turner, his favorite target and the Trojans have first and 10 on Oregon's 14. 4:44 to go (that's a lot of 4's in a row).

And 19 yards on the touchdown pass to David Ausberry. And USC reminds us why they've been so dominant for so long -- scoring drive was five plays for 85 yards in just 48 SECONDS. PAT was good, so we're Oregon 24, USC 17. Still 4:44 to go.

I'm not rooting for Oregon, but I really hope this doesn't end the way Cal did, with Oregon looking like it was in control before, well, losing control.

PA is everywhere ...

EUGENE, Ore. -- Seems that the press box announcer's voice is EVERYWHERE. I just walked into the bathroom and let me tell you, it's slightly terrifying to be sitting in the stall and then hear, "Stewart! For a 12 yard gain!" boom over you.

First and ten for USC their own 20. Sanchez is taking an awfully long time to talk to his teammates ("OK, um, I'm not having the greatest day but we need to score," is what I'm guessing is being said in the huddle while the Duck defenders jump up and down, imploring the crowd to make more noise.

Sanchez incomplete on his first try, completes a 7-yard pass while avoiding being sacked. Third and three, 7:33 to go. Ho-hum.

Ducks score again

EUGENE, Ore -- As you've probably heard by now, Dixon spent his offseason throwing baseballs instead of footballs. This made a lot of Ducks fans (and Mike Bellotti) mad. But everyone now is saying that it's paid off because he's playing so well.

Well I think Dixon's time on the baseball diamond also helped him get sneakier, because he is so good at making defenders think he's handed the ball off. Dixon kept the ball for an 8 yard gain, then a 2 yard gain and then he gave the ball to Stewart to finish the series in the end zone. Ducks 24, USC 10. 11:39 to go.

Watching USC lose is ... weird.

Whoops again for USC

EUGENE, Ore. -- If I were Pete Carroll, I think I'd put Booty in about now.

Sanchez was just intercepted on second and one by Matt Harper on the Oregon 15 yard line. Harper returned it 27 yards to the 42 and we're already at second and 14 on the 39. Good thing there's only one minute to go in the third. Carroll probably wants to have a chat with everyone about, you know, staying calm, making tackles, not staring at your receiver before you attempt a pass.

On the USC sideline, clipboard coach looks defeated. I can't see tears from here, but he wasn't as fired up as before, instead looking just beyond devastated.

Stewart ends the third quarter with a 15-yard run, giving the Ducks a first down to start the fourth.

Bad place to fumble

EUGENE, Ore. -- Well somebody go high-five Will Tukuafu. He just stripped the Trojans of the ball, forcing a fumble and recovering, so now the Ducks are first and ten on the USC 16. My, that's a good place to be if you want to score. Clipboard coach is going crazy. Pete Carroll also looks pretty ticked.

And Jonathan Stewart scores again. I swear, this is happening right as I type it. Stewart got into the end zone on a 16-yard run. Evensen was good with the PAT, so it's 17-10 Oregon. And now Stewart just became the 13th Duck of all time to rush more than 1,000 yards. Someone high-five him, too.

5:17 to go in the third.

Tied up

EUGENE, Ore. -- Answer: yes. It took three plays and a nice long delay because of a review, but Sanchez connected with Patrick Turner on a 9-yard TD pass. PAT was good and we've got a tie game at 10 all.

Oooooh, I smell trouble. A USC flag-waving guy (I'm not sure of his official title if it's not "male cheerleader") just ran over and waved the flag in front of the UO student section. That's not going to go over well with anyone dressed in green and yellow.

And ... we've got an attendance record, both for Autzen Stadium and the state of the Oregon. And ... the ... winning ... number ... is ... 59,277. That's a lot of people.

10:53 to go in the third.

Still Sanchez at QB

EUGENE, Ore. -- It's a media timeout, so I feel like I should do some work.

Thought we might see John David Booty to start the second, but ti's still Sanchez. He hooked up with a receiver a bit ago for a nice gain, so now it's fourth and five on the Oregon 32.

And Patrick Turner just made a nice snag on the 11 yard line, a gain of 21. First and ten on the Oregon 11 now. USC gonna score?


EUGENE, Ore. -- It's halftime and the Oregon marching band just did a tribute to 007, James Bond. Aren't you sad you missed that?

Quick stats: USC ran 32 plays for 111 total yards, Oregon 42 plays for 224 yards. Dixon leads Duck rushers with 50 yards, Stewart comes in second with 39. Dixon also passed for 133 yards, completing 13-19. Dixon's USC counterpart went 8-13 for 56 passing yards, and running back Chauncey Washington leads the Trojans with 27 yards. The good news for USC is that they have 27 total tackles to Oregon's 14.

Most telling stat might be this: USC has 3 penalties for 40 lost yards. Oregon has no penalties.

Ducks just came back on the field with 3:43 to go in halftime. No sign so far of the Trojans. I wouldn't be surprised if the assistant coach with the clipboard is flipping out in the locker room right now.

Ducks settle for FG, lead 10-3

EUGENE, Ore. -- Well I can tell you that Dennis Dixon was definitely mad about having to settle for a field goal right there. Ducks had it first and 10 on the USC 39 with a minute to go, hooked up with Stewart for a 15-yard pass and then went three plays on the USC 24 trying to score. Dixon threw three times to Williams, though two of the times it didn't really look like he was throwing to anyone. The press box announcer said differently though, and he seems like a trustworthy guy.

Matt Evensen's 41-yard FG was good with 15 seconds left, so Ducks lead 10-3. And that's the first half, ladies and gentlemen. I'll let you know about stats in a bit.

USC's defense stops Ducks

EUGENE, Ore. -- Seems the USC defense had a little chat about Jonathan Stewart and NOT letting him score again for the Ducks. Rey Maualuga and Anthony McCoy stopped him on fourth and one, and the Trojans take over at their own 13. Impressive D by the Trojans, who are proving Mike Bellotti right so far. Washington talked last week about how it's hard to simulate Oregon's offense in practice. I'm just guessing, but I bet it's hard to simulate USC's defense, too.

USC on board

EUGENE, Ore. -- You know, I've always wondered how frustrated coaches get when they have to settle for a field goal. Perhaps we can ask Pete Carroll afterward.

Trojans were on Oregon's 9-yard line but Kevin Garrett put a stop to that, wrapping up McKnight for a loss of 4. Next play Sanchez saw about four defenders coming to sack him and tried to run away and make something happen, but instead he pretty much threw the ball to no one. Trojans go for the FG, now are on the board as Oregon leads 7-3.

Ah, the penalty flag

EUGENE, Ore. -- Poor USC. Just when Joe McKnight breaks out for a 65-yard run up the sideline for a score, the touchdown gets called back because the offensive line was called for holding. Then Sanchez was sacked for a loss of six on the next play. Rough times for the Trojans.

Start of the second, Ducks still lead 6-0, USC's ball on their own 23.

Ducks score

EUGENE, Ore. -- There's been a lot of talk so far this season about Dixon's ability to fake handoffs. If you watch closely on TV you understand how he sells it so perfectly before taking off. He just did that again, running two yards to give Oregon its first score, 6-0. To get to the end zone Stewart broke out for a 15-yard run to put the ball on the USC 11. One thing is for sure -- if Dixon can continue to sell the fake, he is going to give a lot of defenses headaches.

PAT was good, so we're 7-0 with 2:50 to go in the first.

Back and forth

EUGENE, Ore. -- A few weeks ago when I was here for the Cal game it seemed like each team spent A LOT of time on offense; there wasn't so much back and forth. This game is already a different story.

USC didn't score on the fumble recovery and just now Oregon had to punt after pushing the ball downfield in whatt looked like a promising sets of series. Now it's Trojan ball on their own 25.

It is REALLY loud in here. The crowd is doing everything it can to disrupt the USC offense, and they erupt into cheers whenever the D makes a good play. This means up in the press box -- where it's open air -- we have to yell to hear each other. There's a guy on the Oregon sideline that doesn't seem to have a job besides running out a few feet every time the defense makes a stop and swing a towel around his head, whooping. And on the USC sideline, I swear I saw an assistant coach threaten to hit an O-lineman with his clipboard. But I'm really far away, so what do I know.

Sanchez fir few passes have been incomplete and now the Trojans will punt. Again. 7:41 to go.

Not a great start for the Ducks

EUGENE, Ore. -- Uh, this isn't a good sign.

The Ducks just fumbled on the kickoff return. And it was an Oregon player whose helmet caused the fumble according to the press box announcer. Sanchez's first pass from Oregon's 21 was incomplete, but this isn't the best way for the Ducks to start the game.

Good for USC though.

Top Ten Match-up in Eugene

EUGENE, Ore. -- The press box is packed, parking is a nightmare and we've got our first-ever match-up of top ten teams in Autzen Stadium.

Continue reading "Top Ten Match-up in Eugene" »

October 20, 2007

Trojan dominance complete

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame tried to avoid the shutout, but came up short. USC won 38-0 and looked like a BCS contender for the first time in a month. While the team and band celebrate in the corner of the field, the Notre Dame band is playing the Notre Dame Victory March, which sounds a lot more pleading than it does confident these days.

This was a defeat of historic proportions for the Irish...

Continue reading "Trojan dominance complete" »

Rough crowd - what's left of it

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - A Bronx cheer went up from the student section when Armando Allen rushed for a first down a moment ago. It was Notre Dame's first first down of the half.

Hey! Where's everybody going?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame fans have begun streaming for the exit with just under 12 minutes to go and their team trailing 31-0. This is yet one more thing I have never seen before, but Notre Dame hasn't been 1-7 before either. At least not in my lifetime.

Make that 38-0 on a Joe McKnight run off tackle. Now, you'd think the place was on fire.

And the hits just keep on comin'

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The third quarter was yet another disaster for the Irish, starting with the fumble by Thomas and ending with a generous spot by an official that gave USC a first down.

When USC had the ball, they ran it down their throats and threw it over the top. On defense, they delivered hit after hit, especially on Evan Sharpley, who was sacked three times, including one where nose tackle Sedrick Ellis jumped up and landed on Sharpley's shoulder pads.

USC outgained Notre Dame 130-0 in the quarter.

The Trojans seem pretty committed to the ground game right now, so Pete Carroll may have called off the dogs.

Between quarters, a Delta jet flew low, right past the north end of the stadium. It was close enough that we could see what the passengers were eating (peanuts). I don't remember the stadium being in a flight path before.

Smashmouth football in the passing game

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - You might not think a 48-yard touchdown pass qualifies as smashmouth football, but this one did. After two tough runs up the middle, Vidal Hazelton was left uncovered down the left sideline and caught the ball around the 25. He cut back inside, stiff-armed one defender, spun, stiff-armed another defender and dove into the end zone for the score. USC now leads 31-0 with most of nine minutes left in the third quarter.

Hazelton, by the way, is one of two #7s that started for USC today. The other is CB Cary Harris. Did USC retire all their numbers?

Big hittin' early

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The Trojan defense came to hit in the second half. On the first play after the kickoff, they gang-sacked Evan Sharpley, which was the second sack of the day for USC. On the second play, Cary Harris stuck Travis Thomas hard right after he caught the ball, causing a fumble, which USC recovered. Two plays later, it was 24-0.

Which reminds me that I need to make a slight correction to an earlier report. I said USC had two sacks at halftime, but the official stats only show one. One of the plays I assumed was a sack is a rush for negative yards in the stats. On that play, Sharpley dropped back to pass, was flushed from the pocket, scrambled and tackled two yards short of the line of scrimmage. In the pros, that's a sack, but I guess it isn't in college.

More of the same for ND

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - USC drove down for a field goal with 11 seconds left in the half to give the Trojans a 17-0 lead at the break.

Evan Sharpley hasn't been living up to his name in the first half. He was 6-16 for only 41 yards before USC conceded three underneath completions at the end of the half. As those numbers indicate, he hasn't been terribly accurate. He's faced some pretty good pressure, even though the Trojans only have two sacks. He seems to be rushing throws even when he's not under fire, which is not terribly uncommon phenomenon for quarterbacks facing a lot of heat.

Not surprisingly, Notre Dame isn't getting much going on the ground either. The Irish only have 22 yards on 10 carries in the first half. They are playing today without James Aldridge, who hurt his leg last week.

After a rough start, Matt Sanchez has acquitted himself reasonably well for USC. He's 18-32 for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

The Trojan band is on the field. Nobody cares because the Song Girls are out there too.

What's a fair catch?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Tom Zbikowski waved off his teammates on a punt that was going to bounce short, but when it hopped right to him, he grabbed it and took off running. The refs stopped the play though saying he called for fair catch.

I wonder if we got the same refs they had at Connecticut last night. There, a UConn player called for a fair catch, caught the ball and ran it for a touchdown while Louisville's players stood there in shock.

You wouldn't think the fair catch rule would be so difficult to enforce.

Methodical march

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Time for the Trojan band to break out that march. That's what their team just did to the Irish - march down the field. They 79 yards in 10 plays for a 14-0 lead.

Up until this drive, the Notre Dame defense had done a decent job of getting off the field. USC would get a first down or two, but eventually, the drive would stall.

Notre Dame's offense is also doing a good job getting off the field. The Irish only have 51 yards and two first downs with just under 4 minutes left in the half.

-15 yard punt, no return

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame made its own break in the punt game on a play I haven't seen before. David Bruton broke through the middle and, while diving to make the block, actually caught the ball right after it came off the punter's foot. That set the Irish up at the USC 29.

However, because this is Notre Dame, they went three-and-out, giving up a sack along the way, and then their field goal attempt was blocked.

USC has now sacked Sharpley twice and hit him hard a few other times. Still, I've seen worse pressure on ND quarterbacks this year than he is getting today.

Unluck of the Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - A USC punt turned into the first big break of the game when a punt hit Notre Dame's Munir Prince in the back. Vincent Joseph pounced on it at the Irish 6 for USC and one play later, Sanchez hit TE Fred Davis for the score.

USC is having success throwing the ball in the flats and getting the receivers one-on-one with the Irish linebackers and DBs.

A big kick return by freshman Armando Allen has the Irish faithful excited and the offense in Trojan territory.

Trying too hard to get McKnight involved

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - USC's second offensive possession was going great until the Trojans tried a little too hard to get freshman Joe McKnight involved. Three plays had USC in Irish territory, but then they like up McKnight at tailback and gave it to him twice on runs between the tackles, which he kind of shied away from. Notre Dame wasn't fooled at all. He lost three yards on those plays and USC was eventually forced to punt once again.

While USC was on the field, Evan Sharpley was warming up behind the Notre Dame bench, which you don't usually see someone who is already in the game doing unless they're checking for a potential injury.

Another thing you don't usually see is two guys who play a lot wearing the same number. McKnight wears #4 for USC, but so does starting strong safety Kevin Ellison.

USC off to rocky start

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - About the only thing the Trojans offense did right on the first possession was not turn the ball over.

After a good kick return set them up at the 42, a run by Chauncey Washington went nowhere and then Matt Sanchez was forced to call a time out because his formation was wrong.

That was followed by an incompletion, a false start penalty and a 14-yard gain on 3rd and 15.

Sanchez brought them to the line to go for it on fourth down and when USC lined up, Notre Dame was still scrambling to get guys in position. Instead of snapping the ball and falling forward for a first down, Sanchez delayed and by the time he got the ball snapped, Pete Carroll called USC's second timeout from the bench.

Then, they punted.

That's not exactly the kind of start you want on the road against a fired up and undermanned opponent.

Please have your pencils and scorecards handy

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - We've just been given the lineup changes for USC. Baker is out, replaced by freshman Butch Lewis. Also, Brian Cushing will start at LB after missing five games with an ankle injury.

Our pregame ceremony included half a dozen parachutists landing on the field...

Continue reading "Please have your pencils and scorecards handy" »

USC injury update

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - RB Stafon Johnson was out with the team during warmups and participated in the drills. OT Sam Baker was nowhere to be seen.

USC-ND Pregame Thoughts

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - When these teams last met here in South Bend, USC came from behind to beat the Irish 31-28 when Matt Leinart completed a fourth down pass to Dwayne Jarrett for 61 yards, which set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Leinart that is now known as the "Bush Push."

Getting that close to the Trojans now seems like a pipe dream.

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October 13, 2007

USC Survives Close Call With Wildcats

LOS ANGELES -- Last week, USC saw its national title hopes crash and burn against Stanford. This week a realistic shot at the Rose Bowl was on line for much of the game until a Joe McKnight punt return turned things around as the Trojans escaped with a 20-13 win over Arizona.

USC survived spotty quarterback play from backup Mark Sanchez, a solid attack from Arizona signal-caller Willie Tuitama and came up with the big plays when it needed to avoid losing consecutive games at home. Without McKnight, a talented back who had struggled to find a role in the offense, the Trojans would likely be traveling to Notre Dame next week riding a two-game losing streak.

Continue reading "USC Survives Close Call With Wildcats" »

Game Over: Arizona Turns Ball Over on Downs

LOS ANGELES -- Arizona just came up short on fourth and nine, giving USC the ball back with 13 seconds left and setting the Trojans up with a much-needed 20-13 win. I'm going to get some quotes and come back to wrap things up.

Arizona Has Life

LOS ANGELES -- The Wildcats held USC to a field goal on its last drive and the Trojans now hold a 20-13 with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Arizona's defense forced a best-case scenario, giving the offense the ball with a chance to tie.

McKnight Sets Up Likely Trojan Victory

LOS ANGELES -- Once again, Joe McKnight has come to the rescue for USC. With the clock ticking on a drive that started at the Trojans one-yard line, McKnight broke off a 59-yard run to set USC up in Arizona territory. Now USC is threatening inside the Arizona five-yard line with about a minute left on the clock while holding a 17-13 lead.

Arizona's going to need a miracle to pull this one out.

USC Defense Energized

LOS ANGELES -- Since the latest Trojan touchdown, the USC defense has responded in kind, holding Arizona to consecutive unproductive drives as we approach the seven-minute mark in the fourth quarter.

But the Wildcats just got another huge play from freshman punter Keenyn Crier, who has been pinning USC inside its own 10-yard line all day long. His latest effort was one for the books, an 83-yard line drive that sailed over returner Joe McKnight's head and settled on USC's one-yard line. Unbelievable. So far, Crier has averaged 49.2 yards on six punts and has generally kept USC out of any kind of decent field position.

USC still leads 17-13.

USC Grabs Lead, Momentum

LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans couldn't get anything going on offense, so Joe McKnight gave them a boost on special teams. McKnight returned an Arizona punt 45 yards to the Wildcats 25, waking up the dormant USC crowd and giving the offense a short field.

Mark Sanchez took quick advantage finding Fred Davis, who again came up big for USC, with a touchdown pass to take a 17-13 lead with 10:47 remaining in the fourth quarter. It's a whole new ball game now with the pressure suddenly switching back to Arizona.

Arizona Takes Lead into Fourth Quarter

LOS ANGELES -- We're through three quarters at the Coliseum and Arizona is holding onto its 13-10 lead over USC. The story of the game so far is Willie Tuitama's efficiency for Arizona and Mark Sanchez's inability to get anything going for the USC offense.

Whatever has been ailing the USC offense, Sanchez is not the answer as he's completed 10-of-18 passes for 65 yards and two interceptions. It doesn't help that his receivers continue to drop passes, a problem that has plagued USC all season. Ronald Johnson is the biggest culprit so far, dropping two sure first-down passes so far.

Tuitama, meanwhile, continues to make smart decisions and accurate passes and has led the Wildcats to produce just enough offense to stay on top of the Trojans.

Arizona Takes Lead Over USC

LOS ANGELES -- USC needed to make some halftime adjustments. Less than four minutes into the second half, it doesn't look like it made the correct ones.

The offense came out flat, going three and out on its first possession, and the defense still hasn't figured out Willie Tuitama, who led the Wildcats on a 40-yard drive inside the USC 30-yard line. Faced with fourth and two at the USC 28-yard line, Arizona coach Mike Stoops decided to play it safe and kick the field goal instead of trying for the first down. It paid off as Jason Bondzio converted on a career-high 45-yard field goal attempt to give the Wildcats a 13-10 lead early in the second half.

Tuitama, meanwhile, has completed 18-of-23 passes for 182 yards.

Cason Comes Up Big, Sets Up Halftime Tie With Trojans

LOS ANGELES -- Facing second and nine inside their own five, the Trojans decided to go for the big strike with less than two minutes left in the half. It didn't work.

A deep pass down the sideline intended for Fred Davis was well covered by Antoine Cason, who intercepted the pass and set the Arizona offense up in field goal range. The Wildcats stalled, but got enough yardage for Jason Bondzio to hit a chip-shot field goal to tie the game 10-10. With Cason being arguably the best cover corner in the country, Sanchez's decision was clearly a mistake.

It almost got worse when Sanchez threw another interception on the ensuing drive. Fortunately for the Trojans, Arizona cornerback Corey Hall fumbled the ball right back to USC with 47 seconds left in the half. Needless to say, Sanchez didn't throw another pass before halftime and USC went to the locker room reeling and lucky to be in a tie game.

Tuitama Picking Apart USC Defense

LOS ANGELES -- Dink and dump, dink and dump. Arizona's efficient spread attack finally found the end zone with 5:31 left in the second quarter when Willie Tuitama found the end zone on a quarterback keeper from the one-yard line to cut the USC lead to 10-7.

Tuitama has been close to perfect, completing 14-of-15 passes for 134 yards and USC once again looks to be in trouble at home against a seemingly inferior opponent. Halftime adjustments are going to be the difference in the outcome of this game.

Trojans Get Field Goal off Arizona Fumble

LOS ANGELES -- USC had plenty of opportunities to find the end zone after a Nic Grigsby fumble set the Trojans up with the ball in Arizona territory, but ended up with a 27-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead.

After stalling, Pete Carroll decided to go for it on fourth-and-three at the 24 yard line, converting when Sanchez found go-to tight end Fred Davis for a six-yard gain. A personal foul facemask penalty set the Trojans up with yet another first down in the red zone, but they came up short, gaining just 21 yards on a 10-play drive.

Arizona Finding Spots in USC Defense

LOS ANGELES -- Arizona's spread offense is giving USC trouble. Often lining up four or five wide, the Wildcats are playing dink and dunk offense with quarterback Willie Tuitama running it very efficiently.

So far, Tuitama is 10-for-11 for 67 yards. But the early turnover lack of a big play have stalled the Wildcats. While Tuitama has been deadly accurate, his longest pass has gone for just 13 yards. Eventually the short passes will put Arizona in the end zone if USC doesn't make some adjustments on defense.

Chains on the Move

LOS ANGELES -- It looks like all the USC offense needed was one first down to get started. After struggling on their first few plays, Mark Sanchez and the rest of the offense started to find their rhythm when Sanchez hit David Ausburry for a first down at the Trojan 31-yard line.

From there, they ripped of three consecutive first-down plays as a collection of play-action passes and Chauncey Washington runs led the Trojans to the first score of the game. Chauncey Washington's 18-yard touchdown run gives the Trojans a 7-0 lead with 3:41 left in the first quarter. So far, Sanchez is 4-for-5 for 42 yards.

Sanchez Takes First Snap

LOS ANGELES -- USC's defense came up with a big play early when Keith Rivers recovered Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski's fumble, setting up Mark Sanchez and the USC offense near midfield.

But Sanchez's first stint under center didn't go far with a one-yard drive ending with a punt back to Arizona.

New Beginning at USC

LOS ANGELES -- A new era of USC football starts today -- at least for this week. After suffering a broken finger during last week's stunning loss to Stanford, John David Booty is on the bench in favor of highly-touted sophomore backup Mark Sanchez. Sanchez actually challenged Booty for the starting job as a redshirt freshman in 2006 and ends up getting his chance a little bit earlier than expected.

While the USC party line has been to remain loyal to Booty -- that he's only on the bench because of injury -- the Trojans have to hope that Sanchez can provide a much-needed spark in an inconsistent and at times errant passing attack that was the difference in last week's loss.

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October 07, 2007

It's for Real: Stanford Stuns USC

LOS ANGELES -- Before the season, Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh called USC the best team in the history of college football. That's clearly not the case, but Stanford's 24-23 stunner over USC tonight serves as a landmark win in Cardinal lore and one of the biggest upsests in recent college football memory.

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October 06, 2007

Game Over... Stanford Stuns USC

LOS ANGELES -- I don't believe it. John David Booty just threw an interception on fourth down to seal USC's fate as Stanford will end the game with a 24-23 shocker, eliciting boos from the LA Coliseum fans. I'm going down to get interviews and will check back in with all the details. This is hands down the biggest upset I've ever witnessed in college football.

Un Freakin' Believable

LOS ANGELES -- Move over App State-Michigan. There may be a new upset king in town. Stanford just converted its second fourth-down of the drive with a fourth-and-goal from the 10 when Tavita Pritchard hit Mark Bradford to give Stanford a 24-23 lead with 49 seconds left.

USC has the ball at its own 42 yard-line to start its drive. I'll check back in when it's over. This is unreal.

Booty Interception Sets Up Big Ending

LOS ANGELES -- John David Booty just threw an interception on third and 23 with about three minutes remaining to set up Stanford on the USC 45 yard-line trailing, 23-17. This is much more exciting than it should be.

Stanford Takes Points off the Board, Loses Time

LOS ANGELES -- Trailing 23-14 with about seven minutes left, Stanford kicker Derek Belch hit a 45-yard field goal. But USC had jumped off sides to give the Cardinal a first down. Stanford elected to take the first down and drove to the nine-yard line, but couldn't get into the end zone. Belch eventually converted a field goal, but more than a minute ticked off the clock. Still needing a touchdown, that time could have come in handy for the Cardinal. Now they'll have to stop USC now for it to even be relevant. The Trojans lead 23-17 with 5:43 to go.

Yet Another Big Strike for USC

LOS ANGELES -- When he's not turning the ball over or being failed by his receivers, John David Booty is making the big play today. Just when things started to look desperate for USC, Booty came up with another deep ball -- this time to Ronald Johnson.

After feeding the Cardinal defense a steady diet of tailback Chauncey Washington on a drive that started on the 14 yard-line, Booty hit Johnson on a 47-yard bomb to increase the USC lead to 23-14.

But Stanford has the ball again, and its suddenly resurgent offense is driving. The Cardinal look to have come to far to just roll over in the fourth quarter.

Stanford Offense Wakes Up, Cuts USC Lead to Two

LOS ANGELES -- After depending on the defense to get on the board first, Stanford's offense finally woke up to wind down the third quarter. The Cardinal came up with three first-down conversions after starting on their own 25 and Tavita Pritchard hit Mark Bradford on a 37-yard strike to set up first-and-goal at the USC one yard-line.

Anthony Kimble converted to start the fourth quarter and cut the USC lead to 16-14. This crowd is noticeably nervous. And it should be.

Davis Comes up Big Again For USC

LOS ANGELES -- After turning the ball over on three straight possessions, John David Booty finally found some magic and hit Fred Davis for a career-long 63-yard touchdown pass on third and two from the USC 37. After struggling to make big plays for most of the young season, it seems that's all USC can come up with today. The Trojans lead 16-7.

Another Trojan Turnover

LOS Angeles -- USC turned the ball over on a third consecutive possession when John David Booty tried to throw the ball deep near the Stanford 20. The pass never had a chance and cornerback Nick Sanchez, who assisted on the tackle that kept USC out of the end zone on fourth-and-goal in the first half, picked the ball off.

Once again, Stanford couldn't do anything with the ball and turned it right back over when Taylor Mays intercepted Tavita Pritchard deep in USC territory. USC still leads 9-7.

Orange Alert: Cardinal Cut USC Lead to 9-7

LOS ANGELES -- If college football had a threat alert system, USC would be on orange alert approaching red. After ending the first half with a failed fourth-and-goal attempt, the Trojans opened the second half on even worse terms, turning the ball over for a Stanford touchdown.

After a three-and-out from each team to start the half, John David Booty stepped back to pass on third and one from the USC 28. Booty's pass ended up in cornerback Austin Yancey's hands and eventually in the end zone for a Stanford touchdown. To make matters worse, USC turned the ball over again on the next drive when Fred Davis fumbled the ball just past midfield.

Fortunately for the Trojans, their stout defense is shutting Stanford down and the offense has the ball again with about seven minutes left in the third quarter.

Best. Halftime. Ever.

LOS ANGELES -- As usual, the Stanford band brought the pain today and stuck it to USC during the halftime show. Led by their fearless and sometimes sober tree mascot, the Stanford band took the field to spell out UCLA while its announcer gave homage to the only respectable school in Southern California that he could think of. The announcer then went on to insinuate that USC made under-the-table payments to its recruits. Good times.

But USC was prepared with a response.

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Cardinal Come up With Huge Stop

LOS ANGELES -- Holding the ball on the one yard-line with a 9-0 lead and 13 seconds remaining in the first half, USC decided to go for a potential knockout blow. Stanford was having none of it.

Instead of opting for a field goal, Pete Carroll called for the touchdown attempt and gave the ball to Chauncey Washington a yard away from the end zone. Cornerback Nick Sanchez and safety Bo McNally stood him up as he tried to run through the tackles and the Cardinal took over to end the half with a 9-0 lead. So far this hasn't been the confidence-inspiring performance USC was hoping for today.

Turner Comes Through, Trojans take 9-0 Lead

LOS ANGELES -- Patrick Turner did his best to make up for earlier struggles as the Trojans went to the big play again with a 31-yard pass from John David Booty to Turner setting up a one-yard touchdown run for Chauncey Washington. But the struggles continued for USC in special teams as the extra point was blocked to hold the Trojans lead at 9-0.

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Wildlife in the Coliseum

LOS ANGELES -- It's not the distraction that the bugs provided at last night's Indians-Yankees MLB playoff game in Cleveland, but three fearless pigeons have set up camp on the field at the Coliseum. They have yet to interfere too much with play, but they're following the ball and can usually be found within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. On the last punt, they flew up in the middle of Stanford's punt unit and I'd imagine they had freak out the players running through them. I'm keeping an eye on them to see if they play a bigger role.

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Turner Struggles, Davis Shines Early for USC

LOS ANGELES -- USC has taken a 3-0 lead over Stanford at the 6:25 mark of the first quarter, but things don't all look well with the Trojan offense. On the field goal drive, Booty hit tight end Fred Davis for a 56-yard gain that looked to really get the ball rolling. But the offense stalled in the red zone and the rest of the USC passing attack has been off -- primarily with top receiver Patrick Turner.

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Trojans Looking for Big Win Over Stanford

LOS ANGELES -- Awsesome. We just got a flyover and parachute drop into the L.A. Coliseum for today's USC-Stanford game. That's a nice surprise -- the last time I saw a flyover in L.A. was for last year's Notre Dame game. No offense to the Cardinal, but Stanford isn't exactly Notre Dame. Well -- maybe this year Stanford is a tougher matchup.

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September 23, 2007

USC Offense Scary Good

LOS ANGELES -- When the offense isn't running on all cylinders at USC, the grumbling begins. They run the ball too much. They're flat. Where's the flash of the Reggie Bush/Matt Leinart days?

Well -- those days are gone. There is no Reggie Bush on this team. But what became clear in tonight's 47-14 win over Washington State is that this offense has something special that might be just as good. All you have to do is look at the box score to see it.

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September 22, 2007

Okay - I'm calling It

LOS ANGELES - USC backup Mark Sanchez just thew an interception, but I'm pretty confident the turnover won't turn this game around. The Trojans hold a 47-14 lead with 4:37 left, so I'm heading down to the field to get some quotes. I'll check back in with a recap.

Cue Up the Heisman Campaign

LOS ANGELES - If John David Booty ends up as a Heisman finalist, it's going be because of games like tonight. He just threw his fourth touchdown pass and has the Trojans ahead 47-14 early in the fourth quarter. And he's been deadly efficient. He's completed 28-of-35 passes so far for 279 yards. I know Washington State isn't prime-time competition, but that's still a Pac-10 defense his knifing through (no snickers from the SEC peanut gallery).

Lone Bright Spot for Cougars

LOS ANGELES -- Washington State scored again on the arm of Alex Brink, who has shown flashes of resilience in an otherwise forgettable performance for the Cougars. He hit Michael Bumpus on a 20-yard strike for his second touchdown pass of the night to cut the deficit to 34-14.

It didn't take long for USC to respond as the John David Booty-Chauncey Washington-Fred Davis show continued to shine with the Trojans expanding the lead to 40-14 (missed extra point) toward the end of the third quarter. Right now, USC's offense looks like the balanced juggernaut that warrants a No. 1 ranking. The defense looks pretty good as well.

There's Chauncey Washington

LOS ANGELES -- Chauncey Washington has made an appearance. After being used sparingly in the first half, the bruising USC tailback became a starring player to start the third quarter. He ran three times for 38 yards on USC's opening drive, highlighted by a punishing seven-yard touchdown run where he bounced off of three WSU defenders to give the Trojans a 34-7 lead.

Who Else is Sick of the Dave Matthews Promo?

LOS ANGELES -- I don't know if they're doing this in every college stadium, but USC plays the Dave Matthews Band free concert promotion seemingly during every break in play. You know the one I'm talking about. If you're reading this blog you watch enough football on TV to have heard Dave Matthews growl about eight million times.

I get it. Sorority girls love Dave Matthews. The band is from Charlottesville. They have college spirit. Enough already. Grrrr.

New Look Trojans in First Half

LOS ANGELES -- Against Nebraksa, USC proved to the country it could run the ball. Through the first half today, the Trojans are intent on pressing the passing game. So far, John David Booty is 19-of-24 with 191 yards and two touchdowns while USC has run the ball just 14 times for 55 yards.

The Trojans have used the reputation of their running game to the fullest, continually setting up the Washington State defenders with play action as Booty has found receivers all over the field. The success in the passing game has led to a 27-7 halftime lead. We'll see if they slow things down carrying a 20-point lead into the second half.

Trojans Tack on Three More

LOS ANGELES -- USC lost two yards on its latest drive and still managed to score.

Under intense pressure from the entire USC defensive line, Alex Brink dumped an interception into the hands of Kyle Moore, who returned the ball 14 yards to set up the Trojans at the WSU nine-yard line. Three unproductive plays later, David Buehler took the field to kick a field goal and increase USC's lead to 27-7.

Too Early to Nail the Coffin Shut?

LOS ANGELES -- It's still early, but Washington State may have just made the mistake that seals its fate today. Punter Darryl Blunt botched the snap as the Cougars readied to punt, setting up USC with first and 10 at the Washington State 20.

Three plays later, John David Booty, who continues to shred WSU defense, connected with tight end Fred Davis in the end zone for the second time today to give the Trojans a 24-7 lead about halfway through the second quarter. Already, David has a career high six receptions and his first two-touchdown game at USC.

Rainbows, Ponchos and a USC Lead

LOS ANGELES -- The strangest thing happened on the last USC drive. Before the Trojans took the field on offense, the rain started up again. But as the drive progressed, the clouds broke on the USC side of the field with sun shining on east end zone. Meanwhile, rain was still falling on the other half of the field and the fans in the west end zone.

On a good note, the strange weather created a short-lived rainbow shining on downtown L.A. On a sadder note, the USC Song Girls put on rain ponchos to keep dry. Luckily the rain has since stopped and the ponchos are gone.

Continue reading "Rainbows, Ponchos and a USC Lead" »

Cougars' Brink a Pressure Player

LOS ANGELES -- Washington State responded to USC's opening score with a touchdown of its own highlighted by several clutch plays from quarterback Alex Brink to tie the game at 7-7. The Cougars looked defeated at several points in the drive, but Brink came up with clutch plays to convert on third down four times, culminating with a touchdown pass to tight end Jed Collins on third and goal.

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What Running Game?

LOS ANGELES -- Steve Sarkisian knew that Washington State's defense would focus on stopping the run tonight. The USC offensive coordinator took immediate advantage, as John David Booty led a methodical, efficient 83-yard drive that saw just two runs to take a 7-0 lead over Washington State five minutes into the game.

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Pete Carroll Must Control the Weather

LOS ANGELES -- Mother Nature evidently is aware that a football game's about to kick off, as the rain has cleared in Southern California just in time for tonight's USC-Washington State matchup.

For the first time in months, the skies opened up last night, prompting us spoiled Southern Californians to complain about the weather and promptly drive poorly. Alas, the rain wouldn't dare mess with a USC game; I haven't seen a drop in the last hour. There are some menacing clouds over the L.A. skyline, though, so the respite may not last.

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September 16, 2007

USC-Nebraska: USC wins. Neither team shines. But NU fans are left to wonder.

LINCOLN, Neb.- Suffice to say the Bill Callahan era has taken another step back tonight.

Almost every Nebraska fan worth his salt that you ran into this week was saying the same thing: This was the biggest game in Lincoln in years.

Well it didn't turn out to be the biggest. It did possibly turn out to be the most telling.

(Bill Callahan said in the post-game that "he loves this team and where they're at". But does the Corn Nation feel the same way?)

Nebraska got a real close view at what big time college football looked like. The kind of big time college football that they used to set the example for. USC came into Memorial Stadium and played a smashmouth brand that even a Nebraska fan could look at longingly and admit they miss. SC had some late hiccups, but won convincingly 49-31.

Continue reading "USC-Nebraska: USC wins. Neither team shines. But NU fans are left to wonder." »

September 15, 2007

USC-Nebraska: What would a USC game be without a picture of the Song Girls?

LINCOLN, Neb.- USC continues to dominate this game, this time increasing its lead to 49-17 on a 6-yard touchdown run by Allen Bradford with just under seven minutes left.

Because it's always requisite viewing at any USC game, here's a quick picture of the Song Girls.

Going down on to the field to go get some post-game quotes. I'm pretty sure I know what Pete Carroll will say, so I'll go get some from Bill Callahan in the Husker presser.

USC-Nebraska: NU finally gets more points. Still needs miracle.

LINCOLN, Neb.- It's been a while, but the Huskers finally dent the scoreboard again with a one-yard dive by Marlon Lucky to close the gap to USC 42 - Nebraska 17.

It had been since the 1:03 mark of the first quarter since NU had reached paydirt. Now, with most of the student section already making for the exits, USC needs to merely run basic plays and take good care of the ball to salt this one away.

Any three-and-outs or turnovers in their own territory by the Men of Troy and I'll have to go back to saying that the Cornhuskers still have a chance in this one.

USC-Nebraska: Yawn, I shoulda offered to cover the Ky-L'ville game

LINCOLN, Neb.- USC has just shut down Nebraska here in the third quarter and will probably score again and again (as long as they stay on the ground) and build on its 42-10 lead.

Meanwhile, CBSSportsline's Dennis Dodd and ESPN's Ivan Maisel both had that wild finish of the Kentucky-Louisville game on their laptops. Only question I had about that game, isn't Louisville supposed to play "wide as the widest and deep as the deepest" in that type of situation? That's what we were always told in our initial football practices of the season. How did that UK receiver get behind the defense? Aweful.

Then again, my high school team played better defense that this Louisville team.

USC-Nebraska: Forget "Neb-Colorado of '01" this is turning into "USC-Arizona State of '05"

LINCOLN, Neb.- Sam Keller just threw his second pick in as many drives and USC made it pay with a one-yard touchdown run by Chauncey Washington. The Trojans are now up 35-10.

As you all probably have heard ad nauseum this week, Keller threw five interceptions in that '05 game in Tempe, which made a 21-3 halftime lead melt into a 38-28 Trojan win.

We're only at the 9:14 point of the third quarter, so there's still time for NU to make it interesting. But they have to play - dare I say - error free from here on out.

USC-Nebraska: Okay, this is NOT what Nebraska needed

LINCOLN, Neb.- I told anybody who would bother to listen that if Nebraska got an early turnover in either half, it would make for a tight game and give them a chance.

Well, the second half starting with a tip-and-interception by USC was a dagger to the heart of the Huskers. SC just went five plays and 33 yards to go up 28-10 at the 11:29 mark of the third quarter.

Booty went to a wide-open Anthony McCoy for the two-yard touchdown pass.

This does two things, puts Nebraska well behind the 8-ball and pins USC's ears back on defense.

USC-Nebraska: Two cool things I'd like to point out


1- Just like when I was a kid going to these Nebraska games, the stadium staff always does a good job of updating scores from around the country. Back then they announced scores on a constant basis over the stadium P.A. Nowadays they do it by having a constant running scoreboard updates at the bottom of the JumboTron. Strong work Memorial Stadium peeps.

2- At halftime, the local TV station did a "halftime weather update" on the video board. It is now 54 degrees and the drive home conditions called for a chance of sprinkles. As the Grand Island native next to me pointed out, "This is the Midwest, things could change weather-wise in a hurry."

USC-Nebraska: Halftime Ruminations

USC takes a 21-10 lead into the locker room at the mid-point of the game.

So far, we've seen two games, the one before Vincent Joseph got hurt and the one after USC finally decided to play some smashmouth football, ala the Charles White days.

Continue reading "USC-Nebraska: Halftime Ruminations" »

USC-Nebraska: "Like Colorado in 2001"

Is there a reason why USC even bothers to use its passing game?

The Trojans just went nine plays and 73 yards in 3:52 to go up 21-10.

Booty threw on first down three times during the drive, but the big chunk of yardage came on simple dive plays and trap plays. Stafon Johnson went right up the gut for the final yards and paydirt.

Shoulda heard the frustrated gasps that many of the press members let out on repeated USC running plays during that drive. One of them even blurted out "Like Colorado in 2001" after the touchdown run.

USC-Nebraska: Trojans move ahead 14-10. But what about Booty's Heisman campaign?


SC moves the ball 45 yards in five plays and goes up by four over Nebraska with 6:50 remaining in the half. The drive culminated on a 2-yard TD run by Stanley Havili.

Only problem is... all five plays were on the ground. Just like their first scoring drive, most (or in this case, all) of the yards came on the ground. Will John David Booty win a Heisman trophy with the student-body-right being the main weapon?

USC looked much better on that drive. But their defense is still looking leaky.

USC-Nebraska: Even the NU students are first class fans

LINCOLN, Neb. - After a long delay due to the injury and stretchered removal of USC's Vincent Joseph, I thought it was interesting that the students in Nebraska student section were standing and clapping as well as the rest of the stadium.

I guess they start the "best fans in the nation" early up here.

USC-Nebraska: NU moves ahead 10-7. USC still undisciplined


Let me say this, USC is getting good pressure on NU's Sam Keller, but the short, sharp passing game is riddling the Trojan D so far.

There's also the fact that USC is playing in its typical undisciplined manner - as has marked the Pete Carroll era.

- A disconcerning call on a field goal game NU a first down at the 2.
- A late hit on Keller gave the Huskers and extra 15 yards on this last drive.
- A near-disaster on fielding a punt inside the 10-yard line nearly put NU at the SC five.

This is not a good sign for Trojan fans. The fans are getting into the game more and more and other than those two long runs, the Husker defense has the right to think those were just flukes.

But a "whaddya doin'" look goes to Bill Callahan and company for moving deep into USC territory by mixing it up, then running Marlon Lucky three straight playes to stall the drive.

USC-Nebraska: Larry the Cable Guy/Will Farrell make JumboTron

Between the 1st and 2nd quarter, the video screen that is bigger than most Santa Monica house lots showed some Larry the Cable Guy and Will Farrell clips.

(Here's Larry the Husker Fan)

(Here's an even blurrier pic of Will on Talladega Nights)

Surprisingly, the loudest cheer from the crowd might've come from the clip of Farrell doing his "Need more Cowbell" clip on Saturday Night Live.

USC-Nebraska: What is "disconcerning?"

This game turning into a Big East scorefest for one.

NU just went on a 10 play, 52-yard drive to make this a 7-7 game with a minute left in the 1st quarter on a one-yard dive by Cody Glenn.

After setting up for a field goal and getting flagged for something the ref called "disconcerning" the Huskers punched the ball into the end zone two plays later

Guess that means the SC defense was imitating the "hut-hut" of the offense. And let me say, although I'm back up in the whisper-quiet press box, the stadium sounds a bit louder now. That will obviously help NU if they stick around in this game.

USC-Nebraska: Desmond Reed is right and the stadium ain't as loud as I thought it'd be.


After the Trojans swiftly drove down the field, USC reserve tailback stood up on the bench and turned to the fans in the West stands and yelled, "We don't care WHO'S house this is!"

(Okay, so I snapped this picture just after he turned back around. Damn. Sorry.)

Reed was right. SC goes 96 yards in four plays. In other words, went through the Blackshirt defense like freakin' milk. SC up 7-0.

Surprisingly, after spending the first two drives down on the field level, I found that the crowd wasn't as loud as I thought it would be. The frenzied fans of the NU-Texas game last year were much louder. Maybe the driving snowstorm helped.

USC-Nebraska: Tailgate report

LINCOLN, Neb. - Tailgates are fun. And alcohol seems to help bring out the true feelings in fans.

Just got back from a Nebraska tailgate just outside the stadium and a giant USC tailgate.

Think these fans picture here are pumped? Like something out of a KISS concert, the students waiting here at the gates of the student section were chanting "Open the F#@%in' doors!" wanting to race to their seats in the stadium two hours before gametime. Yeah, I think they're keyed up.

More about the tailgates, read on...

Continue reading "USC-Nebraska: Tailgate report" »

USC-Nebraska: Three hours before Cornhusker Armegeddon


It's still three hours before kickoff and the Nebraska band is out practicing to a smattering of people in the stands.


This is the look of things from the press box right now, but imagine how wild this place will be with the endless amounts of red slapdashed all over the stadium. Last year's NU-Texas game was supposed to be the loudest this stadium has been since the 1978 Oklahoma game, so we'll see if it gets louder tonight.

Continue reading "USC-Nebraska: Three hours before Cornhusker Armegeddon" »

September 14, 2007

USC-Nebraska: The day before preview

LINCOLN, Neb. - This is a battle to see who hits the alarm clock first.

Both teams seem to be sleeping. Nebraska didn't light up the sky with its three-point escape at Wake Forest. And USC plodded its way through the Idaho game with its eyes seemingly at half-mast.

Both teams need a Red Bull. A Rock Star. And a couple of Jolt Colas.

Continue reading "USC-Nebraska: The day before preview" »

September 02, 2007

Trojans Win Big -- Sort Of

LOS ANGELES -- A reporter asked quarterback John David Booty what it felt like to win by four touchdowns when USC was expected to win by six. That pretty much sums up the night as top-ranked USC pulled off a dominant but not quite satisfying 38-10 victory over Idaho on Saturday night.

Continue reading "Trojans Win Big -- Sort Of" »

Booty's Done

In the official sign that this game is truly over (not that it's been in doubt), Michael McDonald has taken over for John David Booty as USC's quarterback. Booty kicked off his Heisman campaign with a solid, but not spectacular performance. Here's his final unofficial stat line:

12-of-32 for 206 yards; 3 touchdowns; 1 interception

Meanwhile, USC still leads 38-3 with about six minutes to go. With the outcome squarely in hand, I'm going to head to the field to get some interviews. But don't worry; Gametracker's not going anywhere.

McKnight Not Helping His Case

After spending much of the game on the bench behind Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable, USC tailback Joe McKnight just fumbled inside the Trojans' 20-yard line. For a guy fighting tooth and nail for playing time, that's not going to help his case.

So Much for that Sellout Streak

USC's expected sellout season came to an end early. For the first time in 10 home games, tonight's crowd of 90,917 fell short of a sellout. Evidently enough hype doesn't exist to get Trojans' fans that excited about a matchup with Idaho. As far as the game goes, USC is on cruise control and holds a 38-3 lead. The Idaho team that looked respectable in the first half has been absent in the third quarter.

That's Not Going to Cut It

I don't know what was worse on the last set of plays -- Idaho's turnover, or USC's inability to do anything with it.

Backed up near his own end zone, Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle committed a cardinal sin. With no Trojan within three yards, he cocked his hand to throw the football, but the ball didn't cooperate. He fumbled the ball behind him, where Kyle Moore picked it up to set up USC at the Idaho nine-yard line.

Continue reading "That's Not Going to Cut It" »

USC Looks Good, Not Great

By the time USC scored its third touchdown on its third drive and laid a couple of beatdowns on Idaho ball carriers on defense, it looked like the Trojans were ready to break the game wide open. But after watching the rest of the first half and looking at the halftime stats, this clearly isn't the performance I was expecting from the much-hyped Trojans.

Continue reading "USC Looks Good, Not Great" »

September 01, 2007

Vandals Break Through

This time Tino Amancio would not be denied. With 22 seconds left in the half, the Idaho kicker got the Vandals on board with a 30-yard field goal to cut the USC lead to 21-3. The score was set up courtesy of a 41-yard Idaho drive highlighted by a 29-yard pass from Nathan Enderle to Eddie Williams, setting Idaho up at the USC 7. They couldn't break the end zone, but did answer my question of whether or not they would even show up on the scoreboard.

Idaho Denied

With the second quarter winding down, the Vandals did manage to break into the red zone. But they came up short on third-and-nine from the 19; and to make matters worse, Clay Matthews blocked Tino Amancio's 36-yard field goal attempt to keep Idaho off the scoreboard. While the outclassed Vandals aren't going down without a fight, they find themselves in a 21-0 hole against USC with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.

Cushing in Locker Room, USC on a Roll

Categorize this under the last news that USC fans want to hear. Star linebacker Brian Cushing went to the locker room, presumably to have his ankle checked on. I'll update as soon as we hear any news.

Everything else is going the Trojans' way, though.

Continue reading "Cushing in Locker Room, USC on a Roll" »

Trojans Strike Quick, Vandals Moving the Ball

USC didn't take long to find the end zone, mounting a 10-play, 80-yard drive on its first possession; and it shared the wealth along the way.

C.J. Gable, the official starter at game time, got the bulk of the yardage with 44 yards on three carries, including a 33-yarder on the first play from scrimmage. But Stafon Johnson got the goal-line love with a four-yard touchdown to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead six minutes into the game.

Continue reading "Trojans Strike Quick, Vandals Moving the Ball" »

USC-Idaho: Let the Hype Begin... Errr, Continue

LOS ANGELES -- I showed up to the L.A.Coliseum a couple of hours early today to keep tabs on Cal-Tennessee from the press box and I've got to say; I'm shocked that Tennessee Coach Philip Fulmer let his punter kick the ball in the same time zone as DeSean Jackson. Alas, I'm not here to write about the Vols and Golden Bears, but to see if the much-hyped USC machine is all it's cracked up to be against a highly overmatched Idaho team.

My guess is yes, it is.

Continue reading "USC-Idaho: Let the Hype Begin... Errr, Continue" »


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