Monday, September 25, 2006

Cougars Look for Revenge

Another good win for the Trojans on the road. Arizona played tough and certainly made it difficult for USC...I think facing adversity on the road is a good thing for USC at this point in the season. Trojan fans are spoiled with memories of blowing everybody out of the game before halftime...not going to happen this year. This was a solid win on the road against a team that had been preparing for USC all summer. No pictures this week...several of my internet sources have blocked access and we did not take any pics on the trip...sorry!

It was great seeing everyone in Tucson...very good turnout by the Trojans. Kudos to Dennis, Curt, Andy and Liz, Jim Beaubien, Dan Cherrie, Michael and Kimberly (sorry if I missed some folks) for the solid effort. Here are some quick hits on the AZ game and other tidbits of interest:

  • USC held Arizona to 8 first downs, -16 yards rushing, 154 total yards and 3 points. The Wildcats never drove the ball inside the USC 25 yard line....that is playing defense!
  • I just cannot say enough about the play of Rey Maulauga...the guy played one of the best games I have seen from a college linebacker. He pressured the quarterback, outran blocks to make plays sideline to sideline and absolutely destroyed blockers in the hole. Sky is the limit for Rey
  • Fili Moala and Chris Barrett continue to impress. Not only are they holding the interior DL together, they are disruptive and playmakers. Nice to see kids step up when their number is called. This experience will be invaluable when Sedrick Ellis returns
  • I can go on and on about just about everyone on the defense...suffice it to say that this unit is playing some outstanding football and opposing coaches are starting to take notice. How about that hit from Kevin you think WRs watching tape on that are looking forward to running the post?
  • Emmanuel Moody has clearly separated himself from the other RBs and has earned the the bulk of the carries. He played great against the Wildcats and has nice numbers on the year (7.0 yds/carry). However, he does tend to swing the ball out from his body and I do worry about ball security with him...I know the coaches are all over this
  • I think Booty has played extremely well in the first 3 games. Much better than Leinart in his first 3. Booty makes good decisions and is very accurate. He does not have the touch on the deep ball (see my comment last week) and that hurts him with passes like the one to Fred Davis down the seam
  • The coaches know what they have and are playing conservative to get the W. It can be frustrating as fans, but the coaches knew that Nebraska and Arizona were not going to threaten without the help of turnovers. They played it safe and won both games...not as exciting as previous years, but just as effective. The Trojans will start to open it up...may or may not be this week
  • The OL has been a bit of disappointment so far. Not a big problem, but I expected this unit to be more dominant. I hope it continues to gel...this will be the key to improved play and consistency on offense
  • I am still stunned that the Bruins lost to Washington after going up 16-0. The Bruins will crush Stanford this week, but have a very big game against AZ next week. If the Bruins are 3-2 going into ND the week of 10/21, it could get ugly in Westwood
  • It will be interesting to see if Arizona can regroup from this loss. We have seen several teams completely sell out to beat the Trojans and then come out flat for several weeks after the loss (see Fresno St last year)
  • Arizona QB Willie Tuitama left the game with a sprained ankle in the 4th quarter...if he is healthy and Stoops can keep the Cats motivated, I like AZ in a very close game
  • Huge game between ASU and Oregon this week. If Oregon beats ASU in Tempe, the Sun Devils may go into a tailspin. Looking forward to seeing that game

Washington St. Preview

  • The Cougs are 3-1 with a loss at Auburn (40-14) and wins against Idaho (1-3), Baylor (1-3) and Stanford (0-4). The two wins by Idaho and Baylor were against 1-AA Idaho St. and Northwestern St.
  • WSU has some very good players including Mkristo Bruce (national leader in sacks), Jason Hill (one of the best WR in America) and Michael Bumpus (former SC recruit who is an outstanding WR and PR)
  • The Cougs are always tough up in Pullman so the Trojans cannot look past this game. It may be tough to avoid as the Trojans have just absolutely rolled the Cougs the last 3 years with a combined score of 140-41
  • WSU is ranked 18th nationally in total offense (428yds with nice balance between run/pass) and 31st in scoring offense (31 pts per game)
  • However, a more careful analysis shows that Idaho and Stanford have 2 of the 3 worst defenses in college football (literally!). Stanford is ranked 119 (last) in total defense and Idaho is ranked 116 (3rd from last). Against Auburn and Baylor, WSU averaged 305 yds and 15.5 pts
  • The Cougs are going to be without 2 starting OL against the Trojans. Given the play of the Trojan DL and LB in the first 3 games...this matchup could be trouble for WSU
  • However, Alex Brink is a somewhat mobile QB and will throw often on the run/roll out. Look for this by design as the Coug coaching staff tries to buy Brink time and diminish the pressure on their patchwork OL
  • Don't be surprised if/when Gary Rodgers enters the game at QB...he is a big strong-armed kid and the fan favorite...the Cougs have a bit of a QB controversey on their hands
  • WSU has a group of solid backs led by #35 DeMaundray Woolridge, #1 Derrell Hutsona and #31 Dwight Tardy. Woolridge is a power back between the tackles while Hutsona is a speed back with nice him out of the backfield. Woolridge leads the team in yards, but is battling a thigh bruise...the Trojans will likely see all 3 on Saturday
  • I don't think WSU can run on USC consistently, so I expect them to turn to their passing game. Hill and Bumpus are outstanding WRs and Boyd is solid TE. The Cougs can do some damage in the passing game. I think we will see very similar defensive alignments from USC on defense this week as we did against the Cats....front 7 trying to handle the run with the 2 safeties playing back to protect against the big play
  • The Cougs have turned the ball over 9 times in 4 games, so this could be a factor in the game. Look for the Cougs to test the Trojan secondary down field...the big question is whether Carroll will send pressure or rush 4. When the Trojans sent pressure against Arizona the results were favorable...look for a few new blitz packages
  • Defensively, WSU is ranked 47th it total defense (#80 against the pass, #34 against the run) and 46th in scoring defense (19pts/game)
  • Auburn torched the Cougs for 40pts and 484 yds, but WSU pretty much shut down Baylor, Idaho and Stanford
  • The defense plays an aggressive style....taking risks to force turnovers and tackles for loss. Bruce has been dominant this will be interesting to see how the Trojans handle Bruce and the WSU DL after doing a nice job against Nebraska's solid front 4
  • The LBs are fine...solid, but nothing special. Same with the corners....Frampton is a very good safety.
  • Given the Trojans performance in the passing game and the injury to Jarrett (I think he plays), I think the Cougs will stack the line and dare Booty to beat them. This could get very interesting....I think Booty and the WR (and FRED DAVIS) will be up to the challenge. It could also set the scenario for some big runs, if the RBs can get into the secondary
  • It is easy to look at this game and say "Well the Cougs got rolled by Auburn and then beat up some patsies", but Pullman is tough and the Trojans are still a relatively inexperienced group. I like the Trojan advantage against the WSU offensive line...hard to get into a rhythm without protection, but I do think the Cougs will throw it deep and test the USC secondary
  • I think we will see Brittingham at fullback primarily, but would not be surprised to see some more H-back formations with Dale Thompson and Fred Davis. Such a bummer that Havilli got hurt...he looked great when he was in there
  • I look forward to watching the USC offense respond. I fully expect a huge game from Chauncey Washington...he has a lot to prove and does not want the starting position to slip away from him. I think the coaches use an injured Jarrett primarily as a decoy and I think the OL steps up to the challenge against the leading sack team in the nation

Its never easy to win conference road games (see last week) so let's hope the Trojans can grind out another tough win on the road.

Fight On!

Friday, September 22, 2006

On the Road Again....

The USC Trojans head back on the road this week with a trip to Tucson to face the Arizona Wildcats. Given how delayed the blog is this week, I am not going to spend a bunch of time talking about Nebraska, but here are a few of my observations:

  • The defense continues to be outstanding (although Nebraska looked like they were not even trying to score on offense). 10 first downs, 68 yds rushing (1.9/carry), 211 total yds and 10 pts is getting it done of defense
  • Keith Rivers is playing at a totally different level than last year...he has been spectacular in both games
  • Booty is very impressive...he made a couple of loose throws the first series of the second half, but his accuracy is among the best I have seen. As Curt and I have discussed, JDB does not put much air under the ball on deep throws...makes it more difficult for the receiver to react to the ball in the air and make a play. In a sub par effort, USC still gained 400yds and put up 28pts
  • If the Trojan receivers play this well all year, USC will be in good shape
  • Lawrence Jackson is seeing a ton of double teams....may not put up the big numbers he did last year (12 sacks). Very impressed with Fili Moala (75) and Chris Barrett (91) as they filled in for the injured Sedrick Ellis. How about Averell Spicer (99) just stuffing Nebraska on the goal line stand
  • The sack by Thomas Williams DID cause a fumble that should have resulted in a TD for Barrett.
  • Overall I thought the Trojans played well, but a bit sloppy. The game was never in doubt...remember Nebraska is a top 20 team and the likely winner of the Big 12 North. The Huskers may have the best front 7 USC faces this year

On to Arizona
  • Here is where the Wildcats have good/great talent: WR (Steptoe and Thomas), QB (Tuitama), Corner (Cason and Fontenot), Safety (Johnson) and DL (Holmes)
  • However, Arizona is weak at OL, LB and RB. Offensive line play has caused Arizona a lot of problems this year. They have not been able to run the ball effectively (less than 2 yds per carry against D-1 teams) and have not protected Tuitama
  • I think the Trojans DL and LBs match up very well here and can do some real damage
  • Last year, the Trojans struggled a bit with the UofA WRs...they are both short quick guys who have a knack for getting open deep. The play of Ellison and Mays will be critical in this game. Fortunately, I think the USC front 7 can control the running game without safety support
  • Tuitama is a strong armed, mobile qb...a great leader. He got banged up pretty good against LSU. He is completing just over 50% of his passes and has 3 ints vs 2 tds.
  • I think the Trojans' defense matches up pretty well against UofA. Expect the corners and safeties to play soft to avoid the big play....the Trojans front 7 will look to control the run and force Tuitama into some mistakes
  • Offensively, I think you will see USC try to establish the running game. I know the coaches were disappointed with the OL and RB effort against Nebraska so I expect them to come out with something to prove. Moody and Washington will get the bulk of the carries
  • Last year, Arizona played to keep everything in front of them. Not so sure they will do that this year...if they watched tape of the Arkansas game, it would not surprise me to see the Wildcat corners try and jam Jarrett and Smith at the line. Will be interesting to see if Booty can make them pay
  • I expect and hope to see Fred Davis more involved this week...good bet that Stanley Havili (new starting FB and true frosh) catches at least 1 pass
  • In closing, thanks to everyone who helped with the tailgate last week. We appreciate everyone's effort and look forward to seeing you in 2 weeks against UW.

I know that several of you are going to the game this week in Tucson...hope to see you there. Let's hope the Trojans can grind out another victory on the road

Fight On!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fresh Start

Football season has finally arrived and the USC Trojans are looking for a fresh start. The Trojans lost several key players from the teams that went an amazing 37-2 the last three years. There are several question marks for the 2006 Trojans, but based on what I saw in Arkansas, the Trojans are talented, deep and hungry. Reloaded and ready to go.

Couple of quick house keeping items before we discuss the Arkansas and Nebraska games:

  • GameDay will be making its 4th appearance at the Coliseum for the huge game against Nebraska. GameDay starts 30 minutes earlier this year, with the live broadcast beginning at 7am. This will be 6th time the tailgate crew has been at the GameDay set (4 at home plus 2003 Rose Bowl and 2005 Notre Dame) and so far the Trojans are undefeated.
  • We will be arriving very early to have the full tailgate set up before GameDay starts. We hope to see you on the set, but you are of course welcome to watch it on TV at the tailgate.

  • As we embark on another season of Trojan football and tailgating, please feel free to send Andy or I any suggestions or comments...always looking to improve
  • Our plan is to set up in the same spot (Menlo & Leighton) and serve breakfast (probably until 10am) and lunch around 1pm. Full menu for breakfast including eggs, pancakes, breakfast burittos and bagels. Lunch will be the Hoover specialty---fried Turkey. We will have some burgers as well.
  • Please email me if you are planning on attending...include total number in your group.

Arkansas Review

  • Several of us (Flynn, Hoovers, Dan & Carolyn, Matt & Eva, Marcus and AT) made the trip to Fayetteville. While in Arkansas, we ran into the Watkins and Phil Navarro and Dave McCleod as well.
  • It was one of the great trips I have taken. I can't say enough about how nice and welcoming the Hog fans were. They let us park at their business, gave us (and our Trojan gear) a ride to the tailgate spot and invited us to set up amongst the Hogs...they even interviewed us on TV! (see below)

This is where we parked...classic name!

Andy and Marcus getting a ride from a guy named "Hogapooloza"

Liz showing off our tailgate spot in the middle of Hogville...notice the SC flags right in the middle!

Channel 5 in Fayetteville

  • I was very impressed with the Trojans' effort in Arkansas...there were a lot of questions coming into this game and Pete had the kids focused and ready to play
  • The offensive line looks outstanding and will be the key to the Trojans' success on offense all year
  • Booty was composed, accurate and a leader on the field. I was very pleased to see the ball get spread around more so than last year.
  • Fred Davis looked like an All-American and it is so nice to see the quarterback looking for the TE just seemed that we got away from that last year

  • The frosh RBs were extremely impressive in my opinion....they ran hard, had no fumbles and did a decent job picking up the blitz (Booty only sacked once). I thought Chauncey was a bit more impressive than the frosh, but with his hammy, I think it may be a while before he is 100%
  • Jarrett had an off day (and got ripped by Kiffen in the press), but Steve Smith played like he had something to prove...with these 2 guys and Turner we have a great set of WRs. Nice to see Turner involved in the offense
  • Ryan Powdrell looks like a real weapon at FB....very tough to tackle in short yardage and a very capable receiver out of the backfield. I love that defenses need to worry about Powdrell and Davis....just going to make DJ and SS look that much better
  • The defense was solid and did what Pete asks them to do....GET THE BALL! Five turnovers is outstanding
  • LJ looked a bit slow coming off his injury, but I was impressed with Ellis and Moala. Barrett looked pretty good as well
  • Cushing looks like a different player than last year...he is going to have a huge year. I think Rivers made a big leap as well....this may be the year we see #55 play like the #55's of the past
  • Corners were outstanding...I think we have 3 real good ones in Cary Harris, Kevin Thomas (Quito) and Terrell Thomas....lets hope Quito's ankle does not hold him out for Nebraska
  • Losing Josh Pinkard is devastating for the Trojans...Pete had called him "the best player on the team" several times in fall camp. True frosh Taylor Mays (#29) will take over as the starter
  • This was a great win for the Trojans and it felt great to be in the stands for another Trojan victory. By the way, in the third quarter during a time out, the Trojan faithful had one of the loudest "WE ARE.....SC" cheers I have ever heard on the road. The players took notice and joined it. Congrats to the fans who made this trip...the Trojans deserve our support

On to Nebraska

  • Nebraska is an improved football team with the ability to do some damage to the Trojans. It is a bit hard to tell where the Huskers stand because they have played 2 complete patsies so far this year
  • Offensively, the feature an experienced QB (Zac Taylor #12) who likes to throw underneath to both the WRs and the TE....think Cal game in 2004. The Trojans have struggled with this type of approach in the past
  • I don't think the Husker OL is is solid and serviceable, but not the Husker OL of the 90s. The WRs are solid, but not spectacular...TE is the leading receiver. The big play receiver is Maurice Purify (#16)
  • At RB, the Huskers look a lot like USC...they have 4 RBs who will carry the ball, lead by former USC recruit Marlon Lucky (#20)
  • Defensively, Nebraska has an outstanding front 4 led by Jay Moore (#44) and Adam Carriker(#90). These guys are legit defense ends that can wreak havoc in the backfield. The Nebraska LBs are very solid and fast...much like the Trojans
  • In the secondary Nebraska has some issues. They have lost both starting corners to injury and are extremely inexperienced and thin at this spot. The corners are small as well
  • I think Nebraska will try and follow the Cal 2004 game plan...dink and dunk the ball down the field using the TE extensively. If Sed Ellis is unable to go for the Trojans (hurt his knee in practice on Monday), look for Nebraska to test the middle of the USC DL with some power running. Nebraska will probably run some no huddle offense as well
  • You might see Nebraska test the inexperienced Trojan safeties with some deep balls to Purify and some seam routes to the TE
  • The Trojans will counter by punishing receivers who catch the ball underneath and trying to force turnovers. I expect a big game from Lawrence Jackson on Saturday...I think we will get some pressure on the QB
  • Offensively, I think the Trojans will open it up a bit early. Nebraska is vulnerable in the secondary and the coaches are confident in JDB. We will still have good run/pass balance, but you may see some more down the field passes
  • We may see the return of the WR bubble screen...particularly if the young Husker corners try and give the Trojan WR some cushion. If the Husker DBs try and bump at the line...look for some big plays from DJ, SS and Turner

The Coliseum is going to be electric for the home opener with GameDay. The Huskers will likely bring 15k-20k fans as well....can't wait! Let's hope the Trojans can grind out another victory at home.

Fight On!