Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Fall of Troy

Mentioned a few posts ago that I had my doubts about SC in the national title game. I was pulling for SC but had Texas by 7 before the game. I've been watching Big 12 ball all year. Better than advertised.

Really a remarkable game.

I'm disappointed that SC lost, but they've had such a magnificent run that it's hard to be too bummed.

Texas was just a little bit better. SC's defense was sort of suspect and has been all year. Very different from the last three years. Young could have set up a lawn chair in the backfield and relaxed on pretty much every play--no serious pressure from SC.

Young is clearly the best player in the country. He gained almost 500 yards by himself against USC. That's ridiculous. I was personally disappointed (though not surprised) when the Heisman Trophy award went to Bush. Lots of Heisman voters obviously didn't watch much football from flyover country.

On the other hand, SC could have won this game.

Turning points:

1. SC up 7-0 and Texas is on its heels. Jarret overthrows Steve Smith who is wide open four yards behind any defender. Easy touchdown if Jarret makes the simple pass and Texas is behind 14-0 after 5 minutes and the game is completely different.

2. SC, deep in Texas territory after Jarret's blown chance, goes with a Matt Leinart qb sneek on fourth and inches. Please forgive me, but that was just a dumb call. You've got Lendale White who hasn't failed on a short yardage situation in three years (yes, he got stopped at the end of the game on 4th and 2, but this was 4th and inches). What were they thinking? The Notre Dame game miracle qb sneak was wonderful, but why tempt fate when you've got the best short yardage closer in the country? They make that first down and all the momentum in in their favor and they have a chance for a field goal or td that puts Texas down by 2 scores early on. Again, the whole complexion of the game changes.

3. Finally, later in the first half, SC is driving and Reggie Bush catches a short pass over the middle and picks up 37 yards and puts SC deep into Texas land again. At the end of a huge gain that would have gotten them a field goal at least, he incredibly tries to lateral to a team-mate with three Texas defenders tackling him. Of course, his "lateral" turns into a fumble and SC loses the ball to Texas, again changing the tone and momentum of the game.

I've watched college football for 35 years. That was the single most inexplicable play I've seen in all that time. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but given the context and importance of the game, I stand by that comment. What was he thinking?

More on turning point #3. Maybe he was just very nervous, which would make sense given the hype about this game. Or he was overconfident and didn't take Texas seriously--sort of a school yard play you'd make if you didn't think you were in a serious contest (actually, the trick play with Jarret and Smith so early in the game made me wonder the same thing about the SC coaches). Or, he was intimidated by Texas and thought they had to try any wild trick to get points (the trick play with Jarret and Smith so early in the game made me wonder the same thing about SC's coaches).

4. Young's knee obviously touches the ground on the pitchout for a Texas touchdown in the second quarter. As it turned out, that was the game clincher. No review on the play. Surprising.

5. SC's defense collapses down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Haven't seen that in a USC game in a number of years.

But again, having said all that, I think Texas is just a better team. SC was clearly the best team the past 2 years, and I actually thought they were the best team in the country by the end of the year 3 years ago (Carson Palmer's senior season). Not this time around, though.

My sympathies to my SoCal friends. I have a feeling SC will be back in the national championship game before long. Still, they had a chance to do something no other team has done in 130 years of college football. Don't think that chance will come around again anytime soon. Too bad.

--for those of you who don't understand or care about the cultic gibberish I've just written, please forgive my brief sporto moment :^).


Anonymous John Teter said...

Wordcat, thanks for the Rose Bowl comments. I still cannot believe the Bush lateral. I fear that it was overconfidence. You would never-ever try that in the BCS title game if you came in thinking you had little margin for error.

I think the transformation of ESPN into ESCN this past month got to their heads and hearts a bit.

It was a great run, but the SC program has to be kicking itself right now.

It was a sad way for Reggie and Matt to go out. They made excellent contributions to USC and college football.

PS. I have pictures from the game at my blog.

5:03 AM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Cool pics on your site! I was glad SC showed such class after the game as did the Texas team and fans all year. I'm not a big fan of the state of Texas but UT's fans are known here in Big 12 country for their graciousness along with Nebraska fans. Unlike we Colorado fans. When Nebraska beat us this year at Boulder, stadium security had to close 2 whole student sections cuz they were so out of control and abusive!

10:20 AM  
Blogger 3wishes said...

Nice site, enjoyed the travel shots AND the football comments. My fav team OU Sooners didnt make it so my second fav team, UT pulled through. Never thought I would say Hook em........but after last nights game, I can say Hookem with a huge Texas smile. I was insulted by the lateral. But I get it. Im native valley girl and adult Texan and have seen it all. USC coaches MUST understand the importance of football here. I cant believe that a coach would have made that call, bet he wont make it again :)

3:59 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

thanks for the props 3. Ya, I would have been insulted by the lateral too if I were a Texas fan--as an SC fan I was just bewildered :^) You're right--folks in LA don't get how serious Big 12 football is, though you've got to admit that LA teams in all sports and at all levels win an awful lot of championships. So they must take it pretty seriously too even if many of the fans there don't.

3:19 PM  
Blogger jon said...

I honestly thought that USC looked like the better team. They made a ton of out-of-character mistakes, Texas recovered almost all the fumbles (4/5), there were two significant bad calls (young's knee and a missed fumble on a catch late in the game), and Texas still only won because they got the last score. Don't forget that USC was unstoppable in the second half - the time they were stopped by inches was the only time they were stopped in the entire half. Yeah I'm pac-10 biased, but USC looked better, and I think they win that game 7 times out of 10.

That being said, Young was the best player on the field

4:07 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Ya, it was incredibly close, Jon. I can totally understand your take. I agree that if SC had the ball last they would have won. That's why them getting stopped on that fourth down and 2 was so huge.

4:20 PM  

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