Tuesday, September 27, 2005

USC Takes Control in the Second Half

During Pete Carroll's tenure, the Trojans have struggled in conference openers on the road (1-3 coming into the game against Oregon with the lone win at Stanford last year) and Saturday at Autzen was no exception...at least for a half. During the first half, everything went wrong for the Trojans including penalties, turnovers and bad luck. However, with some help from Reggie and Lendale, USC battled back in to the game in the second quarter and flat out dominated in the second half to win 45-13.

Several of us made the trip to Autzen and can attest that it is a very tough place to play. The Trojans faced adversity in a hostile environment and by the end silenced the Ducks. Thanks to Curt and Dennis for getting the group together for the game...definitely worth the trip. Also thanks to Dan Withers for hooking us up at a nice Duck tailgate...always nice to get the local treatment.

Thoughts on the Oregon Game

  • It was clear that Duck fans had been gearing up for the Trojans for months.....largest crowd ever to see a game at Autzen Stadium
  • The Duck crowd was incredibly fired up and loud in the first half, but many Duck fans were too busy celebrating their first haf "victory" and missed the beginning of the third quarter....allowing the Trojans to drive down the field without much noise
  • USC scored 45 straight points in this game (including 35 in the second half), similar to the last game against Oregon (2002 at Autzen) where the Trojans scored 30 straight points in the second half to blow out the Ducks
  • The defense made a statement in this game (in my opinion). SC held the Ducks to 262 total yards (vs 491 average) and really controlled the game from the middle of the second quarter
  • USC only gave up only 1 pass over 20yds...a good sign for next week as ASU likes to throw deep
  • It was nice to see SC put pressure on Clemens (Duck QB)....the Trojans really put some hits on him in the second half....knocking him out for a few series at one point. The defensive line is starting to gel and Frostee Rucker is playing great
  • Keith Rivers made some big plays....showcasing his speed to shut down the option on a few occasions
  • Bing and Ware may have each played their best games as Trojans....at one point Darnell knocked down three passes in a row
  • USC ran the "big nickel" almost exclusively against the Ducks with Josh Pinkard as the 5th DB and Thomas Williams (SLB) coming off the field...Pinkard is a fast rising player who is really impressing the coaches
  • Kevin Ellison (#4 true freshman) made his debut in the big nickel (almost like a dime package) as well...he moved from his safety spot to play a blitzing SLB position
  • Just another day for the USC offense, 593 total yds and 45 pts.....the big difference was 278 yds rushing (6.6yds carry)
  • USC had 10 rushes over 10 yards...that is getting it done!
  • The offensive line is just dominant right now....Leinart has time to throw and Bush and White have holes through which to run. This is the strength of the team
  • Both Bush and White had over 100yds rushing (only second time this has happened) and Reggie finished with 267yds in total offense. Reggie also had a career high 30 touches
  • USC converted 71% of its third downs including a 3rd&20 and a 3rd&18
  • USC was penalized 11 times for 86yds continuing a disturbing trend. Under Pete Carroll the Trojans have been one the least penalized teams in the conference, but this year the penalty bug is certainly creaping in

ASU Preview

  • ESPN College Football GameDay will be in Tempe for the game, only the 4th PAC 10 game that ESPN has visited (USC twice and Oregon once)
  • This will be the 4th time in 13 games that GameDay is at a USC game (Cal, Notre Dame, Orange Bowl are the other 3)
  • ASU is ranked 14th in the current polls and is a very good team...probably better than Oregon
  • ASU is ranked #2 nationally in passing offense, #26 in rushing offense, #6 in scoring offense (47pts per game) and #4 in total offense (592yds game)
  • With this explosive offense, ASU is one of the few teams that could keep up with USC's scoring barrage
  • Unlike Oregon, ASU will throw the ball down field often going for the big play. Keller can run, but prefers to stay in the pocket....no spread option this week
  • Sam Keller is an outstanding QB and has very good WRs led by Derek Hagan and one of the best TEs in the country in Zach Miller
  • The big question mark for ASU is their running game. The Sun Devils ran effectively against Temple (300yds) and Northwestern (290yds), but struggled against LSU (99yds) and Oregon St (95 yds). I think USC will be able to contain the ASU running game, but would not be surprised to see a WR reverse be effective against the fast pursuing Trojans
  • Look for USC to run the "big nickel" package extensively again this week. Pinkard, Ellison and Colin Ashton (#59) should see the field often
  • Defensively, the Sun Devils have struggled a bit, giving up over 400yds in each of their last 3 games and 525yds to Oregon St last week
  • Given USC's success last week, I would look for USC to use the short/mid passing game to set up the run. I think USC will try and control clock to keep the explosive Sun Devil offense off the field
  • USC is ranked 5th nationally in passing offense, 13th in rushing offense, 2nd in scoring offense (59pts/game) and second in total offense (616yds/game)
  • With all the concern about the USC defense, the Trojans are ranked 25th in scoring defense...allowing less than 16pts per game
  • The Trojans are lagging behind previous years in terms of turnovers and turnover margin, lets hope that USC can get back on track in this department vs ASU

While Sun Devil Stadium is not Autzen, make no mistake, this will be a very tough game. Just like every team the Trojans play, the Sun Devils' have had this game circled on the calendar and are are looking for revenge from last year's 45-7 defeat at the Coliseum. Let hope the Trojans can grind out another tough road win before returning to the friendly confines of the Coliseum next week.

Fight On!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Trojans Heading up to Autzen

Now that was a dominant offensive performance. 4 touchdowns in 8 plays, 28 points in less than 2 minutes of possession....those are video game numbers and the Hogs from Arkansas wish it was just a video game. I am not going to spend a lot of time reviewing the 70-17 victory over the Razorbacks, but here are some tidbits.

  • This is the first time USC has scored 70 points since 1970 at Washington St (I think)
  • 736 total yards for the Trojans is unbelievable, but how about 11yds/play, 9 yds/rush and 19 yds/pass...wow!
  • USC averaged over 11yds on first down
  • I was impressed with the interior run defense, particularly Ramsey and Ellis. USC shut down the Arkansas running attack through 3 quarters, allowing only 113 yards and less than 4yds/ carry
  • The injuries to Sartz and Terrell Thomas further deplete a thin defensive unit. Thomas is likely out for the year (have to feel for the kid after fighting back from shoulder surgery) and Sartz is probably out 3 weeks
  • Leinart has led 16 drives this year resulting in 13 touchdowns, 1 interception (should have been PI), 1 missed field goal (due to Dom Byrd's 15 yd penalty) and time expiring at the half....not bad!
  • Arkansas players told the media before the game that USC was "just an average SEC team"....I bet the Hogs are happy to be out of LA and playing Alabama this week
  • I think Arkansas is nowhere near as bad as the USC made them look....they have a solid run game and athletes on defense. I think they win 5 games this year and pull one upset in the SEC (Alabama or Auburn)

Brief Tailgate Review

Very solid effort for the first game of the year...nice turnout, including several Arkansas fans. Looking forward to the trip to Fayettville next year. Watching the Domers and Bruins was great. Thanks to everyone who brought supplies and helped out with cooking and clean-up. We will try and be a bit more organized with regard to food setup and cooking next time. We hope everyone had fun and look forward to seeing people at the next tailgate on Oct 8 vs Arizona (time TBD).

Moving on to the Ducks......

  • USC is 1-4 in their last 5 meeting with the Ducks, but did beat Oregon in Autzen in 2002
  • Hard to believe, but Oregon has never faced Leinart, Bush, White, Smith or Jarrett. This is not your 1998-2001 USC Trojans that the Ducks remember fondly
  • After watching the Fresno St./Oregon game on Tivo, I am very impressed with the Ducks' offense. I think they will move the ball well against the Trojan defense
  • Oregon QB Kellen Clemens runs well out of the spread offense....expect him to carry the ball at least 10 times against USC
  • Clemens also throws very well over the middle of the field with a quick release...somewhat similar to Hawaii
  • Demetrius Williams is the real deal at WR and can cause some problems for the Trojans
  • Basically, the Ducks are loaded at the skill positions on offense and run a real nice scheme. I am not very impressed with their O-line and think USC can pressure the QB in a traditional 5 step drop
  • Defensively, the Ducks look a bit weak...giving up over 500yds to Fresno St
  • I think USC should be able to move the ball well and score points against the Ducks
  • USC may even try to control the ball a bit more to keep Oregon's offense off the field...how is that for contrarian thinking?
  • Haloti Ngata is a monster a DT and has a tendency to blow up screen plays...the Trojans will double team him often and try to avoid him on screens
  • I really like the way the USC offense matches up with Oregon's defense, but I don't feel great about how the Trojan D matches up with the Ducks O
  • Autzen is a very tough place to play so lets hope the Trojans get out of the blocks quick and silence the crowd
  • Several members of the tailgate will be in attendance at Autzen

Let hope the Trojans can grind out another tough road win against a solid in-conference opponent.

Fight On!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Trojans Return to the Coliseum

Conquest. Cardinal and Gold. Fan Fare. Tribute to Troy. The raising of a second straight National Championship banner. I just can't wait to get to the game and experience all the sights and sounds of USC football at the Coliseum!

Before we talk about the game, please email Tim if you are attending the tailgate this week.

Arkansas will be a good test for the Trojans. Don't be lured in by the 31 point spread and the loss to Vanderbilt last week. The Hogs have athletes and lead the nation in rushing with a 383 yd/game average. Last year, the USC defense would have just stuffed this Arkansas team, but without Mike Patterson, Shaun Cody, Lofa Taputu and Matt Grootegood.....USC will be challenged at the point of attack. It will be very interesting to see how Sedrick Ellis and LaJuan Ramsey play this game. Expect to see Fili Moala and Travis Tofi in the game a fair amount at DT as well.

The Hogs will likely use 4 RBs who mix in size, speed and jukes. Peyton Hills is their big back (very similar to Brandon Hancock) while Felix Jones and De'Arrius Howard are speed guys. To complement their running game, Arkansas has a 6'6 receiver (Marcus Monk) who is very athletic and can play. They are inexperienced at the QB position, but have a very solid OL. I am concerned that Arkansas will use the QB draw and option extensively against USC....this could be a problem.

The Hogs have turned the ball over 6 times in 2 games and have been called for 15 penalties. I think Arkansas will be able to run the ball on USC (particularly in the 1st quarter), but hopefully Pete will use his magic to adjust and maybe force some turnovers.

The Hogs seem to have struggled a bit defensively...this is where I hope the Trojans can do some damage. As we all know, the USC offense is extremely dangerous and it should be exciting to see them in the Coliseum again. We might see some more of Lendale this week and I would expect to see Dominique Byrd get some looks on the seam pass.

Tailgate this Week

  • I am guessing that attendance will be 89,000....not quite a sell-out, but certainly tons of people
  • We expect to be set up in the same spot on the corner of Menlo & Leighton (see attached map). We will arrive around noon and be fully set up by 12:30 to watch UCLA/OU
  • There are tons of good games on Saturday (ND/Mich St, UF/Tenn, Oregon/Fresno St, Miami/Clemson....we are looking forward to a mellow day watching football
  • We will be serving burgers and sausages with plenty of beverages

Looking forward to seeing everyone again. Dan Cherrie has the early lead on the All Tailgate Team as he flew to Hawaii to see the Trojans. Lets hope the Trojans can grind out a win against a tough SEC opponent.

Fight On!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

USC Rolls the Rainbows

After a long wait (seemed like forever), Trojan football is back on the field. The Trojans made the long trip to Hawaii and came away with a dominating 63-17 victory. Winning in the Islands is never easy (just ask Alabama and Michigan St.), but USC took care of business and played solid football. The Trojan offense lived up to the hype and looked explosive, versatile and dominant.

I've heard several people (Trojans, Bruins, Domers, media) saying the USC defense is soft because it gave up 377yds passing (and over 400yds total) to Hawaii. Here are my thoughts (not sure anyone cares, but I will give them anyway)

  • Pete Carroll's philosophy is to keep the ball in front of you, avoid the big play and cause turnovers. He will give up yards, but as field gets smaller (opponent in the redzone) it becomes easier to stop the short passing game (see Cal game last year). USC caused 3 turnovers, 2 of which led to touchdowns for the Trojans. Points matter, yards do not. 17 points is a solid effort against the run and shoot
  • Hawaii ran an offense that USC had not seen on film and one for which the Trojans did not gameplan. Hawaii has not run the quarterback draw and qb option in the past....this was a new wrinkle that caught USC by surprise. It took the Trojans a quarter to adjust
  • In 2003, USC played Hawaii at home and gave up more yards passing, more total yards and almost double the points. That USC team went 12-1 and won the national championship. It is tough to judge the USC defense based on the Hawaii game....Arkansas game should be a good test

Notes and Tidbits

  • While the USC offense looked great, it was still very vanilla. The Trojans used little of the playbook and did not show future opponents much of the arsenal. They may even be setting up Bush as more of a decoy for future games. Look for more of Hancock, Kirtman, Byrd and White against Arkansas
  • I expect to see Fred Davis, Patrick Turner and William Buchanon make some big plays this year even though they barely played vs Hawaii
  • The USC offensive line looked awesome...may be the best Trojan offensive line in 25 years. There is good depth behind the starters as Radovich (guard), Rachal (guard) and Williams (tackle) are good enough to start right now

  • LaJuan Ramsey looked fast and active at DT....if Sedrick Ellis can hold his ground at NT, I think the defensive line will be OK
  • The corners looked real solid....very happy to see John Walker on the field and playing well. Rumor is that true frosh Kevin Thomas has the lead to lock down the the 4th corner spot (frosh Will Harris had the inside track prior to an ankle injury)
  • The Hawaii offensive scheme makes it difficult to evaluate the linebacker play....the smashmouth style of Arkansas will be a good test
  • Darnell Bing is likely hurt worse than has been reported. May be out up to 6 weeks. The coaches love Josh Pinkard and have confidence in his ability to step right in. Scott Ware needs to play better
  • Notre Dame looked very impressive vs Pitt. The Irish have a very good OL and a solid offensive scheme. Their defense is still a question mark, but I think the Irish have a chance to beat Michigan and will certainly give the Trojans a challenge in South Bend
  • I am still not completely sold on UCLA....Maurice Drew and Marcedes Lewis are very impressive and the Bruin OL is good. However, their WRs do not appear to be threats and the defense is a major question mark. They will beat Rice this week, but the Owls may run for 200yds on the Bruins
  • I will spend more time on Arkansas next week, but the Hogs will bring a smashmouth running game to the Coliseum, including a mobile quarterback. The passing game is a question mark, but the Hogs do have some good wideouts. It will be a challenging game for the USC defense

Tailgate Update

Full details on the tailgate in the next blog, but we will be set up in the regular spot at 12:30. There are some great games on, so we are looking forward to a relaxing afternnon watching football. ND/Mich St starts at 11:30, UCLA/Oklahoma at 12:30, Fresno St/Oregon at 4pm, Tennessee/Florida at 5pm. We have a new grill and will be cooking up some great food....a variety of adult (and non-adult) beverages will be available. Hope to see you there.

More next week

Fight On!