I had to drive into work this morning to do a little prep work for Tuesday's cases. Sunday morning at 6:30 in NYC is a very quiet time, quiet enough to get some thoughts together.
First some history.
In 2004 and 2005 we saw one of the greatest offensive machines in the history of college football. We were spoiled to big wins and we dominated just about everyone we played and we were the toast of town no one can argue that there won't be another offense like that for some time regardless of the talent that is amassed. Coming into last season the questions were how do we recover with all the talent that walked out the door we did a pretty good job of having a productive season finishing the season with a win in the Rose Bowl but we didn't finish the job, as we didn't get to the title game. In 2007 pretty much all of the offensive talent form 2004 and 2005 has left Heritage Hall leaving a new crop of talent to carry on that which Pete Carroll started in 2001. There is no question that continues to be at the top of the college football hierarchy in terms of recruiting, preparation and all around enthusiasm of the game. You will be hard pressed to find a more motivated guy in the business and he always finds a way to get and keep his players heads in the game regardless of the outcome. But because we were so used to almost total domination anything less makes it look like we aren't prepared .
I know I mentioned that we weren't going to crazy about analyzing last nights game but a few things do stand out that should be looked at. Prior to signing of I got an email from a friend who as also watching the game that said in all of the time that he has been watching Pete Carroll at USC he has never seen a team that was "clearly the most disinterested I've ever seen USC in a game in the Carroll era and shockingly coach did nothing to rev them up." That's is a direct quote and I put it up because after I thought about it on the drive in this morning and he is very right. I am not sure what a dynasty in college football is, but USC has come close to achieving that with their constant prominence at the top of the college football landscape. I mentioned last night that we have been spoiled with big games and big wins on opening day and while last night was a win some will say it was not a convincing win. Fine, but I look at some of the other teams in the 5 or 6 spots in the polls and I'm not seeing any convincing wins over top teams in week #1. Everyone essentially played cupcakes and they either lost like UM or blew the other team out which isn't saying much. OU's 79 to whatever blasting of North Texas isn't much of a barometer. Texas also struggled with Arky St.
SC has had it share of injuries in training camp and that still leaves some questions, as we didn't see the complete unit that we want on the field at one time. So PC and staff will plug in the back ups and get them some time. And because those guys on the second string probably didn't see a lot of work in camp it doesn't surprise me that thy looked rusty.
Things that I liked:
The Offensive Line - Kris O'Dowd did a great job starting as a true freshman at center. The whole line did a great job of protecting Booty and making some holes for the running backs.
- The Running Backs - I know a lot has been said about not a having a dominant running back but Johnson and Gable I think did a great job in alternating the carries all of the available RB's saw some duty last night but I was generally pleased with the production. McKnight's fumble was rookie mistake and will be corrected but his cut back run seemed like he was barely moving and it gave us a taste of things to come.
- The Fullback - Havili did exactly what I thought he would do. What difference a year makes as he has really settled into the position. It was great to see him get a TD and he really is a threat out of the backfield. If he is healthy last December SC beats the bruins and we go to the title game a healthy fullback is worth their weight in gold.
- The Receivers - it is hard to compare groups of receivers once they hav moved on but it is safe to say that Ausberry and Hazelton are going to be just fine. Turner will get in the groove as well but they made some great plays last night and that only bodes well for their confidence. I was bummed when Ausberry dropped that pass in the end zone as that was a sure 6 points, he will need to make that play in the future. Hazelton one-handed grab was reminiscent of both Big Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett's receiving exploits. We will be fine at the receiver spot.
- The Secondary - I was not happy that SC gave up 122 yards in the second qtr. alone, most of it in the air. If we are going to be billed the best secondary in the country we need to do better than that.
- The Linebackers - On Idaho's very first drive I saw Rey Maualuga once again over pursue the run giving the opposing RB a hole to go through for extra yardage. I don't care how fast these guys are if they aren't going to stop them from getting extra yardage on routine plays or if they are going to allow the big plays then to me their speed is immaterial. The 2nd string LB's did a decent job when they were in the game.
- The Defensive Line - while they did an OK job of getting some penetration I would have been happy with a few more sacks or just more consistent pressure on the Idaho QB.
- Turnovers - We were -2 in turnovers last night. I mentioned the McKnight Fumble already but the Booty Int. was inexcusable and Hazelton should have done a better job of getting between the defender and the ball. Though it was late McDonald's Int. resulted in Idaho's only TD. Rey almost had almost had a Pick 6 but the he Idaho RB was clearly down so it came back.
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Booty had an OK night with some good numbers: 21/32 206 yds 3 TD 1 Int., but if he is in the hunt for the Heisman this didn't take any votes from those he is competing with as it looked as if he just wasn't crisp. And that one tipped pass brought back some nightmares. So what about the shotgun formation we all heard so much about?
With two weeks to prepare for Nebraska in Lincoln it will give some players some time to heal and hopefully work out some of the kinks. Like I said I don't want to get crazy over this game but these were some things that I noticed in last nights game.
Below are the drive charts from last night's game