Sunday, January 09, 2005

Trojans Dominate to Win National Championship!

What a fantastic way to end an outstanding season! It is difficult to describe how it felt to sit in Pro Player stadium and watch the Trojans dominate the Sooners. It was euphoric, electric, exhilarating (nice alliteration!)....a celebration of everything that is Trojan football.

Needless to say the Trojans played near-perfect football and left no doubt as to who was the best team in college football. It was particularly satisfying after listening to all the experts (Craig James in particular) chirp about the mighty Sooners all month.
Almost everyone picked OU in this game...give props to Lee Corso who consistently picked the Trojans all year.

I don't want to rehash the entire game, but would like to highlight some outstanding performances:

  • The Trojan offensive line played its best game of the year by far. The Trojans rushed for 193yds (6.9yds/carry) and Leinart was sacked only once. Reggie and LenDale combined for 21 carries fans astounding 10yds per carry. I guess the Pac 10 can play smashmouth football
  • The young USC wide receivers really stepped up. Both Dwayne Jarrett (1 TD) and Steve Smith (3 TDs) had over 100yds receiving and Dominique Byrd made one of the best catches I have ever seen

  • The Trojan defense just stuffed Adrian Peterson and the vaunted OU rushing attack, holding Peterson to a very pedestrian 3.3yds per carry and 85 yds (both about half his season average). Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson and Matt Grootegood played outstanding in their final games as USC Trojans. Lofa Taputu continued his solid play, leading the Trojans in tackles with 12. USC finished the season with the nation's #1 ranked rush defense for the second consecutive year
  • Not only did the Trojans stop the run, USC forced 5 turnovers including 3 interceptions. USC finished the season ranked #1 nationally in turnover margin after finishing #2 last year. This is Pete Carroll football....stop the run, don't get beat deep and get the ball. If you ever attend practice you will hear "IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BALL!" constantly and it shows up in the games
  • What can you say about Matt Leinart? This guy just has "it"...poise, confidence, talent and leadership. In two years, Matt is 25-1, has won back-to-back National Championships, won a Heisman Trophy, beat ND and UCLA both years and has thrown 71TD passes vs only 15 interceptions. It is safe to say that Matt is the best quarterback to have worn Cardinal & Gold
  • The Trojans had a great fan turnout in Miami. Thanks to all the fans who made the trip....many of those at the game will agree that it was an experience that will not be forgotten

Notes & tidbits--Looking Back and Looking Ahead

  • This is the first 13 win football team in the history of USC football
  • 2004 marked the first time in Trojan history that USC beat both Notre Dame and UCLA in 3 consecutive seasons
  • USC beat 8 opponents by 30pts or more
  • LenDale White and Reggie Bush were ranked #1 and #2 in the Pac 10 in touchdowns
  • Dwayne Jarrett led the Pac 10 in receiving touchdowns....not bad for a true frosh

  • For all the hype about Aaron Rodgers, Matt Leinart lead the Pac 10 in passing efficiency
  • Reggie Bush led the Pac 10 in all purpose yards
  • And the most unbelievable stat of them all......Matt Grootegood led the Pac 10 in return yards following an interception
  • USC loses more than just great players on defense, the Trojans lose their heart and soul with Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson, Matt Grootegood and Jason Leach

  • There are able replacements, but I think you will see a dropoff in the front 7 next year. If Lofa Taputu leaves for the NFL, the dropoff could be significant
  • The Trojans will rely heavily on Manny Wright to bring his dominating play to the defensive tackle position every game (just ask OU)
  • The secondary should be better next year with Wyatt and Wright back at corner and Bing returning at safety
  • Leinart will likely declare for the NFL draft and Taputu and Malone may do so as well
  • Even with the departure of Matt Leinart, the Trojans will be stacked on offense. The Trojans graduate Alex Holmes, Lee Webb and John Drake, but welcome back former starters Winston Justice, Brandon Hancock and Whitney Lewis. Add Chauncey Washington and a top 5 recruiting class and USC is loaded with offensive talent
  • The Trojan offensive line should be very good and deep next year

Tailgate Review and All Tailgate Team

We had a great year with the tailgate. The Hoovers & Flynns thank everyone for taking part and give special thanks to those who chipped in with food, drink and supplies. I would like to recognize Liz & Andy Hoover and Clare Flynn, as that trio makes the tailgate happen. Now on to the awards...The selection committee is comprised of the Hoovers and Flynns. The selection process is rigorous, disciplined and based on several factors including attendance (pre and post game), effort (including time of arrival and departure), enthusiasm, new ideas and whatever else the Selection Committee wants to consider. There are 15 selections, 5 each on the First, Second and Honorable Mention teams.

First Team

  • Dan Cherrie-Dan attended 10 games (including both East Coast games) and was consistently the first person to arrive at the tailgate to set up. Dan made it to both GameDay broadcasts at the Coliseum and was often the last to leave post-game. Repeat first team selection
  • Matt Cherrie-Matt finished strong with a redeye to Miami for the Orange Bowl. Despite missing the UW tailgate, Matt attended 8 games including VT and OU. Repeat first team selection
  • Curt Himebauch/Jennifer Ignacio-Curt and Jennifer did an outstanding job with food at the tailgates this year and we were thrilled to see them in Miami. The gumbo at ND was tasty!
  • Phil Navarro-For the second consecutive year, Phil slides into the first team. Phil was at every home tailgate and at the Orange Bowl. His claim to fame is the lobster barbecue at the Notre Dame game
  • Aaron Wooler/Melanie Kimball-AT and Melanie rocketed up to first team by attending numerous games (AT was at 10!) this year and bringing a keg to most home tailgates. AT and Melanie are the only people new to the first team....congrats!

Second Team

  • Brendan Grubbs-Brendan is making his first appearance on the All Tailgate Team and he did it while living in New Jersey. Brendan made early appearances at several home games (including an ESPN GameDay appearance vs ND) and took it to another level in Washington,DC against VT
  • Jeff Hermann-Jeff is another first time selection. Jeff attended most home games (including GameDay vs Cal) and spent a week in South Beach for the Orange Bowl. Based on what we saw in Miami, we expect big things from Jeff next year
  • Alton Shader-Yet another first appearance on the team. Alton made several tailgate appearances at the Coliseum, but really distinguished himself in Miami. Alton came out of nowhere this year and could compete for first team next year
  • Dan Sullivan-Dan was an honorable mention performer last year and made the jump to second team. While we would still like to see more consistent attendance, a solid showing in South Beach propelled him to second team
  • Eric Tis-Another promotion from Honorable Mention last year. Spotty attendance, but a commitment to provide interesting drinks (Bailey's and Jaeger @UCLA) is enough to earn second team

Honorable Mention

  • Jim Beaubien/Susan Welsh-Jim and Susan made limited appearances, but when they showed, they did so with fixings for home made Bloody Mary's. Work commitments kept Jim from Miami, but I bet we see him in South Bend
  • Larry & Kathryn Haggquist-The Haggquist's were fantastic hosts as the tailgate caravan stopped in Monterey in route to Palo Alto. In addition, Larry and Kath attended the ND tailgate. A repeat HM selection, we hope the Haggquist's can make a few games next year from Monterey
  • Scott Hodgkins & Family-Scott missed a few games due to soccer game commitments, but did bring some very nice margaritas to the Cal and ND games. More importantly, Scott got me a seat next to Reggie Bush at the USC Awards Banquet in December. We hope to see more of Scott and Ruth next year
  • Denise & Brian Holmes-Denise made appearances at 2 tailgates while Brian made a lone appearance, but they know how to party. Their presence helped provide some enthusiasm to the tailgate and Brian even marched with the band.
  • Derek Patao & Family-Derek missed some tailgates due to soccer commitments, but the Patao's helped make the Stanford roadtrip a huge success. The Patao's are a great addition to the tailgate and we hope to see them more next year.

Congratulations to everyone who made the team this year and for those who didn't, now you know what it takes. Please send me any suggestions for future tailgates or comments on the team and selection process. Any grievances will be brought to the Selection Committee for review. There are a couple of people waiting to break through next year and make the team

  • Marcus Wooler (former 2nd team selection who was travelling for business most of this season...did attend 2 games in the Pacific Northwest)
  • Jennifer Flynn (former 2nd team selection)
  • Kris Galashan (Kris could have been a HM selection this year based on attending 3 games including a road game. However, Kris shows up a bit late to the tailgate and has not made an appearance post game. Next year is his year!)
  • Lawrence and Kristi Snapp (almost a lock for next year)
  • Cordell Sweeney (as long as he is not sprayed with Champagne!)
  • Mark Stegemoeller (former HM selection)

Here is the USC football schedule for next October 15th in South Bend. This is just a fantastic trip for Trojans. Click here for details about the trip....make your flight and hotel reservations early. Flynns and Hoovers already have theirs! Other away games we are considering attending are Oregon, Cal and ASU. That is it for now.....

Fight On!