USC Returns To An Old Staple
You know what the most impressive part of that USC upset victory at Arizona was?
The Trojans got physical. That’s right, phys-ic-al.
Lane Kiffin, noted more for his finesse passing offense, turned his kids loose, and it suddenly felt like we were back in the days of John McKay and John Robinson.
Marc Tyler and the gang ran the home team Wildcats into the ground. Tyler, clearly the No. 1 tailback now, rushed for a season and career high of 160 yards. The Trojans held onto the ball for 37 minutes, and in the second half, 29 of their 44 offensive plays were runs.
Give some credit to the guys up front for USC, too. They came out with an attitude as prickly as some of the cactus surrounding the campus stadium. They were blocking and pounding the U of A defense everywhere you looked.
It was a good strategy, considering Arizona quarterback Nick Foles had no trouble finding those familiar gaping holes in the Trojans’ secondary. When he had the ball, he was doling out lots of damage.
Luckily for Kiffin and USC, Foles didn’t get the ball that much. Because Tyler and Co. were too busy running up and down the field.
It was an encouraging performance, even if Arizona trimmed the final score to 24-21. It gave the Trojans a 7-3 record with a decent shot at closing out the season with three more victories and a 10-3 finish that would have to rank as nothing short of astonishing, considering the circumstances. OK, maybe astonishing is too strong of a word. Make it remarkable.
It also bodes well for the future, especially the offense’s future. With Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and, more than likely, Tyler returning to join what seems to be a terrific group of skill players in the upcoming recruiting crop, it is encouraging to see that Kiffin understands the need for a solid running game.
Championship teams are built around strong defenses and powerful running games, and it certainly won’t hurt Barkley, Woods and Co. and their opportunity to spring big plays if the opponents have to concentrate on shutting down the run first.
Kiffin deserves high marks for what is going on now. It would have been easy for this team to suffer a letdown after that emotional loss to Oregon, especially with the Ducks running off the final 24 points.
Then there are the NCAA sanctions to consider and the fact the Trojans have no bowl game to use as motivation.
Yet, given all that, USC has continued to play hard these past two weeks. If the defense has been lacking, the effort hasn’t, and maybe more than anything else, that’s been the most impressive thing about the season.
This proud, tradition-rich program could have collapsed, and it didn’t. And now we know why.
It was too busy remembering how to be physical.
Some quick shots from another fascinating sports weekend:
Somebody has to ask the question to Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema: 83 points? Really? . . .
Nothing like a hot, 3-point shooting team like Phoenix to make the Lakers a little less full of themselves . . .
Somebody explain how Cal, of all teams, holds explosive Oregon to one offensive touchdown . . .
The Patriots’ Tom Brady was more impressive on the sidelines than on the field Sunday night. Seriously, I’ve never seen him that animated . . .
Georgia’s brilliant A.J. Green is the closest thing to Randy Moss I’ve seen on a college football field. Right down to the same skinny legs . . .
We have to get Pacquiao-Mayweather eventually, don’t we? . . .
OK, so you tell me who the best team in the NFL is right now. Exactly. You can’t, because there isn’t one . . .
Every time I see Mark Sanchez pulling out games at the end for the Jets I wonder what might have happened if Pete Carroll hadn’t been afraid to let him go all out at USC . . .
OK, it’s official. I’m rooting for Boise State to get in the BCS title game . . .
It could happen, too, because I think Auburn will lose at Alabama . . .
Cam Newton is great despite all his problems, but the Tigers have a lot of holes on defense . . .
Kevin Love’s 31-31 jawdropper should put an end to all those critics who thought he wouldn’t make an impact in the NBA . . .
Is Wizards’ rookie John Wall fast, or what? Even the young Allen Iverson wasn’t that quick . . .
Gee, it must be a lot of fun in the Vikings’ dressing room these days . . .
— STEVE BISHEFF