September 27, 2008

Upon Further Review: Dam Beavers

It feels a little like returning to the scene of the crime.

I can imagine Trojan fans' reactions after Thursday's 27-21 loss at Oregon State. One word questions like "Why," "How," and "Ican'tbeleive#%!#$USClosttotheBeaversagain" had to have dominated conversations Friday, and they will through the weekend.

In fact, this game has a chance to sort of echo through the rest of the Trojan season.

If USC wins out and goes back to the Rose Bowl, this will be the game that kept USC out of the BCS National Championship. If the Trojans struggle and drop another game, the loss to Oregon State was just a sign of things to come.

Either way, this game matters as far as the Trojans' future is concerned, which makes it a prime candidate for me to consider things upon further review.

• It's Tailgate Week on ESPN, and I have no idea why.

• I felt it in the press box Thursday, and I feel it again during this second viewing. Oregon State set the tone with a good special teams play. This is a big reason why teams that win the toss defer to the second half.

• USC's first drive wasn't as bad as I remembered, but the offensive line just gets destroyed on third-and-short. This could be a theme.

• One thing I forgot to account for was the scroll in re-watching this game. Many of you know, I'm a die-hard White Sox fan, and Thursday, my guys pissed away a 6-1 lead. Thanks to my job, I get to relive that loss too.

• Oregon State's first drive, which ends with a touchdown, is a microcosm of the entire game. USC misses tackles against Jacquizz Rodgers. Oregon State executes its blocks. USC gets flagged for a 15-yard penalty.

This paragraph could be "copied and pasted" at least three other times in this story. It still might.

• Also from the scroll: "Knicks sign G Allan Houston." Apparently, Walt Frazier's too busy with Just for Men commercials for a comeback.

• The most telling phrase I can think of to sum up the USC offense in the first half - second-and-long.

Craig James is all over this. USC is trying tackling Quizz Rodgers way too high. They are trying to get Rodgers above the waist instead of aiming low. This is a fundamental error.

• USC finally picks up a first down on the final play of the first quarter is the result of a good spot. Then on the very next play, Sanchez is sacked. Momentum is as tough to grab as Quizz Rogers.

• Troubling site No. 1,134 in the first half: 5-foot-7 James Rodgers blocking Everson Griffen allowing Jacquizz Rogers to keep a drive alive on third-and-five. No. 1,135: Oregon State making a huge third-down conversion on third-and-11, when Sammie Stroughter beats Cary Harris over the middle.

• I'm an hour into this game and I can't find a defining, positive offensive play for the Trojans. It's as tough as finding the definitive dramatic performance in Rob Schneider's film career (which could be him yelling a passionate, well-timed "You can do it" in The Waterboy).

• Coming out of commercial, ESPN shows footage from the Reser Stadium parking lot from before the game. I swear I see a 14-year-old kid hitting a Coors Light.

Ah, Tailgate Week.

• The Trojans just picked up their second third-down conversion, and they add a big play on the following first down when Mark Sanchez and Damian Williams connect. Good call, Sark.

• Later in the drive on third-and-seven, Joe McKnight takes another direct snap and fumbles. Bad call, Sark.

• James Rodgers just got Griffen again on a block. Take that physics.

• Stupid penalty on Averell Spicer gives Oregon State extra downs inside the 5-yard line after a personal foul. Then, this happens…

• Oregon State just nearly turned the ball over, but Kevin Thomas couldn't hang onto the interception. He made a good play to get his right hand on the ball. The bad news, the ball falls right into James Rodgers' hands.

Trojans down 21-0 at the half.

• Dr. Lou should've prescribed me a mute button.

• Second half starts perfectly with the defense taking care of business. Then. The offense starts to the throw, and boom, touchdown to Ronald Johnson. This is the USC we've seen in the first two games.

• Another Trojan stop and then another Trojan score thanks to a great play from Williams along the sideline. USC's within seven and in great shape to win this game in the fourth quarter.

Brian Cushing just missed a big interception, a play he makes if his right hand isn't in a cast. It would've given the Trojans great field position to start the fourth quarter with a chance to tie.

• I'm going to spare you guys the gory details of the fourth quarter. Instead of getting over the hump, the Trojans offense sputters. McKnight should've come up to catch those two punts that roll down inside the 10. The play calling gets conservative, and USC loses. Period.

• Who's to blame? This could go 100 different ways. Here's my take:

Pete Carroll's teams have always had an approach where no game is bigger than the next, and for the large part, that's worked. By keeping his team level, Carroll's been able to keep his team at consistent performance levels.

The downside to this, though, is that other teams approach USC on a totally different level. Oregon State players called the game their "national championship." They come out face the Trojans with everything, including tons of emotion.

Usually, emotion doesn't lead to clean, sharp football, but when it does, like it did for Oregon State Thursday night, watch out.

Now, this is not really correctable because Carroll's philosophies have had so much success. But, from time-to-time, a team will mix a perfect game plan with an ungodly amount of emotion, and that can lead to this kind of loss.

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