DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Attack Cat: USC v. Arkansas, Oregon & Arizona State

Thursday, October 06, 2005

USC v. Arkansas, Oregon & Arizona State

Quick Confession.

Yes, it's been more than two weeks since my last post. Yes, that means I'm a slacker. Have I ever denied it? No, so let's move on.

...and now, some football.

Over the past three weekends, we all got to watch USC beat up on one team, toy with another before beating them down like the first, and finally sleepwalk through the first half of a game before coming to life in the second.

Now I'm gonna get all simile on your asses.

The Arkansas game is like when you first meet a girl and you're totally dazzled by her. Her smile. Her eyes. That body. She moves in slow motion, tossing her hair in the breeze. You can't believe how lucky you are the she's yours and you feel sorry for everyone else with their no-better-than-second-best ladies.

The Oregon game is like when you've been dating for a few months and everything's still great, but out of the blue she says something weird or tells you something that gives you pause. You think, "Did I hear that right?" You look at her a little quizzically for a moment. Then she flashes you that smile and jumps into your arms and whispers something naughty into your ear and you've forgotten that she just said that she voted for Schwarzenneger.

The Arizona State game is like when you've been going out for over six months and she calls you on your birthday to say that if she could, she'd vote for George W. for a third term, she's thinking of leaving her job as in-house counsel for the PlayStation division of Sony, is joining the Church of Scientology and wants to get married and pregnant immediately. You feel nauseated, confused, sad, angry, but mainly nauseated... and that's just about the George Bush thing. You say that you'll talk when you get home and you can't believe that you're going to lose this perfect woman.

Later as you're approaching your front door thinking that the game's over and the first words out of your mouth should be, "We're breaking up," she greets you with a Ketel One martini, decked out like she just jumped off the Victoria's Secret runway and purrs "Surprise..." into your ear. She's bought you a DLP projection TV and has given you the currently-under-development PlayStation IV (and that's not a PlayStation 4, it's actually an intravenous gaming system designed by criminally insane Japanese engineers, doctors from Johns Hopkins, William Gibson and an extra-terrestrial treasure hunter from the future). She was just kidding about the earlier phone call and then proceeds to promise you, in the most salacious detail, that all sorts of deviant sexual activity is in your immediate future.

You then throw your arms up in the air, signaling a touchdown.

Sure that was an excessively long intro and overly-belabored conceit, but I'm talkin' about three weeks of football, so back it off.

USC 70, Arkansas 17
I got to go to the Arkansas game. It was the USC home opener. Did a little tailgating before with my fellow Phi Sigs. Picked up a couple of tickets off of a scalper. ("$150 for a pair? How 'bout a hundred? One twenty-five, huh? Let's make it $120 so it's even.") The Coliseum was packed and the Trojans ran away from the start. We had the ball for just over 90 seconds in the first quarter and scored on four out of the eight plays run. The second quarter was much of the same as the Trojans scored on their first two possessions, ending the game having scored on nine of their first ten possessions. Tom Malone punted once and our second and fourth string quarterbacks each threw touchdown passes. Arkansas didn't play poorly, it's just that USC played too well. It's too bad that the firing-on-all-cylinders team wouldn't be showing up until the second half the following two weeks.

USC 45, Oregon 13
Some said that the trip to Eugene to play the Ducks would be the first real test for the Trojans and it turns out they were right. It was a bit of a flashback to the past few seasons, with SC falling behind early and then rallying big in the second half.

The Trojans spotted the Ducks 13 points before finally scoring just a few minutes before the end of the first half. Conveniently, they continued to score in the second half, racking up 45 unanswered points and denying Oregon another score.

The defense has to be credited with keeping the team in the game, while the offense was unable to make anything happen for most of the first two quarters. This is the same defense that people have been worried about, especially considering we had also lost Dallas Sartz (LB) and Terrell Thomas (CB) prior to this game. Regardless of that, the Trojan D shut out Oregon in the second half.

38 is the new 28: USC 38, Arizona State 28
It seems that the ASU football program would have benefited from reading this blog. As it was, they thought that all they needed to do was score 28 points to beat the Trojans. Had they read a recent post or been the recipient of one of my birthday CDs, they'd know that 38 is the new 28, though even 38 would have been only good enough to tie, not win.

How many of you thought during the first half of this game that it was possible that the Trojans could maybe possibly not win? Well, anything's possible, but even in the darkest moments of being down 18 and all those penalties and all those dropped and/or bad passes I knew that we had all we needed to win. I also had faith in Pete. I knew that he knew what to say in the locker room and what adjustments to make.

That said, I still felt sick every time one of Matt's passes fell harmlessly to the turf or every time we moved backwards from some stupid penalty. We weren't shooting ourselves in the foot, we were taking a shotgun and blowing our legs off at the knee.

Luckily, when it comes to losing, the Trojans have a lot working against them. With all of the talent and experience on USC's side, it's a relatively hard proposition to pull off the loss.

I tend to eschew the nicknames assigned to teams and players, but SC surely reclaimed the title Tailback U. last Saturday, if only for the second half. The two guys who made it happen go by the names Thunder and Lightning, LenDale White and Reggie Bush, respectively. Watching these guys run is just a pleasure. LenDale's the straight-ahead runner who drags defenders downfield, if he hasn't already knocked them down. This assumes that the defense can lay a hand on him. There must be something about the desert heat, because it was on the same field two years ago that LenDale had his coming out party, helping the Trojans out of another deficit in the game that started the current win streak. He ended his day just three yards shy of 200, but it seemed like he must've run for more.

Reggie's the guy who makes amazing things happen from nothing. When he starts to cut back across the field, you have to think that there's no way that he won't be tackled for a loss and then suddenly he's ten, 20, 30 yards down field if not in the end zone.

Though the ground game stood out, there was a least one story about the passing game. Here is the value of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith: Fullback David Kirtman is the day's leading receiver with seven catches for 97 yards.

Finally, though the offense is so often the focus of all the glory, the defense has to be credited with a huge part of this win. So many key stops, so much stamina. Taking this guy who hadn't thrown an interception in 131 passes for 5 picks is pretty huge.

A couple of those take-aways came at key times. Midway through the third quarter, the Sun Devils took away a fumble after the ball slipped out of Jarrett's hands. In a key momentum swing, on the first play of ASU's ensuing drive, Justin Wyatt stepped in front of the receiver and took away Keller's pass. Four plays later, Reggie was in the end zone and the Trojans were within four points.

The defense held the Sun Devils to seven points in the second half and the offense poured it on scoring 35, enough to erase the first half deficit and then some.

38 is the new 28.


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