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September 15, 2008

Upon Further Review: Buck hunting

After getting home late Saturday night from the Coliseum, I'm now well-rested and ready to dive back into USC-Ohio State.

The game had months of hype, a week of crazy hype and a day-long build up.

Now that some time's gone by, it's time to revisit the game and try and answer some important questions.

Was the Trojan defense that dominant? Was Ohio State bad? Is Mark Sanchez a Heisman candidate? Is Joe McKnight the most exciting player in college football? Could USC cover the 31.5-point spread?

I've got beer in the fridge, pizza in the oven and the game on my DVR.

Let's take Saturday's game, upon further review.

Kirk Herbstreet gets it right off the bat. "Jim Tressel has to break tendencies in order to move the ball."

• The Coliseum just looks gorgeous on TV, but the Kenny Chesney song pregame just made me throw up in my mouth. Just plain awful. One other gripe. I like the whole Saturday Night Football thing on network TV, but why is it ESPN College Football if it's on ABC.

I know the same company owns both of them, but really, isn't ESPN already branded enough? They're everywhere. ABC hasn't had my attention since the second season of Family Matters.

• I will not comment on Erin Andrews' appearance. Seriously, though, I'm always paying close attention when she's on the screen (TV is muted though).

• After winning the toss, Sanchez tells the head official USC "wants to defend the tunnel." I like it. I love how he handles himself in these situations. Kickoff is finally here, and I'm ready to relive the game.

• First message of the game - Jordan Campbell making a hit on the opening kickoff on the Ohio State 11-yard line.

Second - Kevin Ellison gets the first tackle of the game, and then, he pulls Rey Maualuga away from the early stages of a shoving match with an Ohio State lineman.

That's precisely why Ellison's a captain.

• Sanchez and the offense did not look sharp on the first series with a miscommunication on a route, an unblocked Malcolm Jenkins and a botched screen pass. Not the best start. Also, my HD feed just went out, making me frown - and squint.

• Ohio State's third-string quarterback, the guy sending in the signals, looks a lot like Spencer from The Hills, complete with creepy peach facial hair.

• The Buckeyes really do a nice job during their second drive. It's not easy to swap quarterbacks in and out and keep in rhythm, and that's what Ohio State's doing. Terrelle Pryor looks good running the ball and throwing it, and he's opening things up for Dan Herron.

I had forgotten that Ohio State gets inside of the USC 10-yard line on a screen pass, giving them first and goal.

First, Kaluka Maiava makes a good play on a Pryor draw, then Kyle Moore and Fili Moala get great pressure, allowing Moore to get the sack and a false start penalty on third down halt and the great drive. Jim Tressel then gets conservative, and runs the ball on a long third-and goal play.

I didn't like the call in the press box, and now that I know the final score, I like it even less. I feel like playing it close to the vest isn't how you beat a team that's more talented.

Still, Ohio State leads 3-0.

• Finally, I can address McKnight lining up at quarterback, a wrinkle in the USC offense that's been there since the spring. McKnight almost botched the snap and juggled the ball before picking up a first down.

I'm not sure this is something USC will use all that often because they probably won't have to. But, every time the Trojans use it, opposing teams will have to spend a little more time preparing for it.

Showing it in the second game was a good call.

• The touchdown to Stanley Havili, like the McKnight direct snap, is also something we saw a lot of in practice. I even asked running backs coach Todd McNair about Havili getting a lot of balls in practice.

McNair's response: "Can we not talk about that?"

• After USC gets a stop, the Trojans come back down the field and score again. Really, at this point, it's over.

A couple of things on this scoring drive stand out. First, congrats to Blake Ayles on his first touchdown catch. He earned the chance with his blocking near the goal line against Virginia. Second, Ohio State made some dumb penalties, and third, Joe McKnight's crazy explosive.

• Some silly mistakes in the second quarter for the Trojans could've, but didn't, cost them. First, there was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the extra point following the Ayles touchdown, and then, Moore got hit with a facemask after stopping Ohio State on third and short.

Still, Ohio State made the more costly penalties. A big gain to Ray Small was negated by a holding penalty, and a touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie was brought back with another holding call.

A drive that could've made the score 14-10 ended with a missed field goal.

• My favorite subtle moment of the game came in the second quarter. USC ran a sweep to McKnight on the near side, and the Trojans were flagged for a holding. The very next play, the Trojans ran the same play, this time to the far side of the field, and McKnight gained 18 yards.

• Maualuga's interception came at a big moment in the game. Ohio State had been moving the ball with some moderate success before Maualuga stepped in front of the Boeckman pass.

In addition to probably sealing Ohio State's fate, Maualuga made a great play in zone coverage, reading the play perfectly. Also, Averell Spicer and Maiava get a couple of good hits in on Boeckman down the field.

• The Clay Matthews sack and fumble were just beautiful. I look forward to seeing it again at Oregon State.

• USC should've scored late in the first half. Sanchez under threw Damian Williams to the corner, but the play ultimately didn't matter - much like anything that happened after USC's first touchdown.

Patrick Turner had a nice game and is looking like he's out to make the most of his senior year.

• The most impressive thing about the first Sanchez-Williams touchdown - it came on third down. Perfect timing on the play.

• The Ohio State offense looked a lot more dangerous with Pryor in the game, and I'm surprised the man in the vest didn't go to him earlier. Granted his knowledge of the offense isn't the same as Boeckman's, but Pryor hasn't been enrolled in school since the turn of the century like Boeckman has.

• The USC defensive ends had their way with the Buckeye tackles late in the game, beating them off the ball.

• One of my favorite aspects of college football on the west coast is how fast it goes from daylight to night. It's like two different games almost.

• The second Williams touchdown is set up by a great pick from Turner. As Sanchez goes to the sideline, the smile on offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian's face is just enormous.

He called a good game, and he earned it.

Kevin Ellison's fourth-quarter interception is due to Brian Cushing's pressure. No one picks Cushing up, and Boeckman tosses it up for grabs.

• Some final thoughts: Allen Bradford is too good for use solely in mop-up duty. I'd like to see him catch swing pass or two earlier in the game so he can unleash his physical style.

Tyron Smith looks huge and will contribute meaningful reps before the year is over.

Ohio State might not have been overrated; USC might be just that good.


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