[I had problems uploading the pictures to my server last night. I'll do my best to get them online tomorrow.]
I flew out to L.A. to see my first USC game as an alumnus. Here are some of my notes:
Predictions Ringing True: The two things that impressed me the most about this year's spring scrimmage were the play-making abilities of our wide receivers and the exceptional talent of Stanley Havili. Months ago I was surprised to see the Turner, Ausburry, Havili, et. Al. playing at such a high level against our own defense; and I knew that this was a sign of good things to come.
Well, looks like those spring game performances were not aberrations. Even without Turner, our receivers looked solid and made excellent catches. And Havili made so many plays that I lost count going into the 3rd quarter. It feels really good to actually have a fullback, let alone one this good.
We don't need no stinking "feature back": The combination of Gable and Johnson worked excellently last night. As usual, C.J. was mostly featured in split/broken I-formations resulting in tosses and counters. Johnson got a fair share of gut plays and stretches.
The guys looked really good. C.J. didn't break many plays open but continued to be reliable all game. Also, it should be noted that tosses, sweeps, and counters are generally much tougher to execute than traditional run plays. Thus, we should expect to see Gable breaking more runs open as he and his blockers continue to work on the same plays. On the other hand, Stafon exploited Idaho's line-backing and secondary with pure athleticism. Watching Johnson run was extremely entertaining as he seemed very hard to tackle.
McKnight Flashes Some Brilliance: Golden Joe didn't get a great amount of touches during Saturday's game, but he did leave some distinct impressions.
First, McKnight made us all aware of his incredible (for his age) field vision with a long run that broke into Idaho territory. Great jukes, excellent allusiveness, and exceptional awareness of where his blockers are.
Second, it was refreshing to see #4 lining up at the slot during a handful of passing downs. He didn't pull any Bush-like highlights, but the prospect of someone with that much talent catching passes out of the backfield is mouth-watering.
Third, nobodies perfect. McKnight coughed up a ball which had no right hitting the turf. Hopefully he chalks that up to a learning experience.
Silence is Not Golden: At some point during the match everyone in the stands figured out that the Trojans were not taking this game seriously. You could tell exactly when that point was, because it occurred simultaneously with the entire coliseum going mute.
I've been to dozens of home games at USC, and none of them were nearly as comatose as Saturday's. Sam Baker said it best, ``Our tempo faded and we got lackadaisical..." [from Wolf's blog.]
But I honestly can't blame the players or the coaching staffs for pulling on the hand-break, since so many of our guys were dinged up and on the bench. The final score was indicative to the problems our team was facing: Chauncey Washington, Matt Spanos, Patrick Turner and Josh Pinkard (not to mention Brian Cushing's in-game injury) did not suit up for the game. Thus, I'm not going to throw any flack at PC for letting half of our 2nd team defense start most of the game.