USC went into Lincoln on Pete Carroll's 56th birthday and silenced what was initially, a very raucous and eager crowd of 85,000 Husker fans. The Trojans made a statement with an impressive 49-31 victory over the Cornhuskers, using their dominant running game to quickly turn the "sea of red" from this...
Jeff Byers and the rest of the offensive line to pave the way for 313 rushing yards and no sacks of QB John David Booty. The big nasties up front were mauling people all night and earn my game ball for their impressive performance.
Three things that 'SC did very well:
(1) Offensive line play -- Just like the opener vs. Idaho, the Trojan offensive line was dominant once again. The freshman O'Dowd is holding his own out there and the beauty is that he's only going to get better as the season progresses. And what more can I say about Byers? The guy is, without question, the best offensive lineman in the country.
(2) Running Game -- Stafon Johnson, Stanley Havili, C.J. Gable, and Chauncey Washington completely wore down the Huskers' defense. Although "The Prince" is probably our best ball carrier right now, the offense doesn't seem to miss a beat when the backs are being rotated. Chauncey looked a little bit rusty, but he'll get healthy and will strengthen the group, giving USC 3 fresh and very capable running backs.
(3) Run Defense -- Nebraska tailback Marlon Lucky came in to the game with 54 carries for 323 yards and 4 TD's in his first two games. Pete Carroll and his defense would have no part of that. Lucky's stat line against the Trojans, 33 yards on 17 carries. As a team, Nebraska put up only 31 yards on 28 carries. That's domination at its finest.
Three things that 'SC can improve:
(1) Passing Game -- The Trojans looked very average when they put the ball in the air. I know they gained 313 on the ground and didn't even need to throw the ball, but Booty only managed 144 yards passing. Patrick Turner (3 catches, 24 yards) had trouble holding on to the ball, Ausberry (3 catches, 35 yards) and Hazelton (1 catch, 2 yards) are not getting enough looks, and true freshmen Ronald Johnson and Joe McKnight are still adjusting to big-time college football. It's still early in the season, but the offense needs to develop some kind vertical passing game. More down the field throws will only open things up for TE Fred Davis and FB Stanley Havili underneath. Booty had a very efficient game though, he did not force things and didn't turn the ball over, always a plus.
(2) Special Teams -- The Trojans still lack a gamebreaker in the return game. I'm not asking for a Devin Hester, Reggie Bush, or Ted Ginn, but are there any players that can replace Desmond Reed on punt returns? Had he lost that fumble early in the game, off his muffed punt, then we would have seen an entirely different ball game. Kickoff returns have been unspectacular as well, hold on to the ball Vincent Joseph! David Buehler needs to boot his kickoffs into the end zone more consistently.
(3) Secondary -- A disruptive defensive line, one that constantly pressures the QB, can hide any deficiencies a team might have in the secondary. Though the Trojans played very well defensively, I am very concerned about USC's pass defense. The Trojans benefited from two great plays from defensive end Kyle Moore that led to 2 INT's, but what happens when the opposing teams pick up USC's pass rush? The loss of Josh Pinkard, USC's best cover man, was a very huge blow to the secondary. Terrell Thomas is not nearly as good as he thinks he is, and Cary Harris, although a hard worker and solid tackler, often plays too soft in coverage. Safeties Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison, who have been virtually non-existent in the first two games, need to become ball-hawking defenders and play with the mentality that every ball in the air is theirs.
All in all, a great win for the Trojans. We found out some things about this team against Nebraska: USC has a dominant running game, Stafon is ready to be the featured back, Clay Matthews is a heck of a linebacker, and the defensive line is probably the best in the nation. Now it's time to get ready for conference play. The Trojans open up their Pac-10 schedule this coming Saturday against the Washington State Cougars. We'll introduce you to Wazzu on Tuesday...