Saturday, September 13, 2008

Trojans Win Highly Hyped Home Opener Over Ohio St. 35-3

Hype is always overrated. On a day when USC dispels more doubts about the legitimacy of their National Championship plans, the Trojans put down a challenge from back-to-back runner-up Ohio State.

Hype is so overrated.

Everyone from talking heads on TV with large opinions, fueled by likely facts and figures told the story to butter-fed fans of Midwestern, smash-mouth football found reasons to believe that their team could overcome on the West Coast.

Hoping to become only the second team in the last seven years - the other being Stanford, just last year - to defeat a Pete Carroll team on the floor of the Coliseum, Jim Tressel's team took the field in the late afternoon, Saturday sun.

And then came the coin toss.

Stanford won their coin toss. Ohio State didn't.

They should have seen it coming.

From then on, in a game that only lived up to the hype from Heritage Hall, the #1 ranked USC Trojans methodically dismantled the #5 Ohio State Buckeyes 35 to 3.

In the first quarter, the Buckeyes mixed in two distinctly different looks on offense, alternating Senior quarterback Todd Boeckman and true Freshman Terrelle Pryor, sometimes every other play. For almost the entire quarter, the Trojans were held scoreless just by being kept off the field.

After the first 10 minutes, USC had only run three plays from scrimmage, and Ohio St. held a 3-0 lead. Three minutes later, the route was on.

Fullback Stanley Havili scored on a 35 yard touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez on a wheel route - a hold over from the days of Norm Chow. Then, after a quick change of possession in which Boeckman looked like a quarterback looking over his shoulder at his 18-year-old replacement, failed to move the ball. Another change of possession and quickly it was 14-3 USC.

Then, with just inside three minutes left in the first half, a Boeckman interception, thrown right into the hands of linebacker Rey Maualuga resulted in a 48-yard return for touchdown.

And on, and on, and on it went.

About the only interesting story in this highly-hyped blow-out was the scratch of Ohio State's pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate, injured running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. Unable to play courtesy of a sore toe, hurt in a non-contact play in the team's opening game, coach Jim Tressel decided against any last-minute emotional heroics. Put simply, no Beanie - no chance.

Despite the score, the Trojans' execution on offense was spectacularly sporadic. For every Joe McKnight run or Damian Williams touchdown catch, there were as many sloppy moments, as Sanchez ended the first half by throwing an end zone interception.

On the other side of the ball, the SC defense was as overwhelming as advertised, getting five quarterback sacks and, after allowing the first score of the game, nothing else.

Oh yeah... almost forgot... the hype.

For a game that most of the country believed would have been the match-up for last year's BCS Championship - if Stanford hadn't gotten in the way - this game had nothing to offer. Nothing except the same kind of speed-over-slow-motion, big-game, open-up-the-can-and-let-the-whuppin' begin that THE Ohio State University has had to deal with in the final game of each of the last two seasons.

For USC, this game only served to motivate them to remain focused on the last thing that can stop them from rolling into a BCS Championship of their own... themselves.

By the numbers, the only statistical victory for the Buckeyes was found in Time of Possession (32 minutes to 28 for USC). The Trojans out-gained Ohio State in total yards 348 to 207, and by game's end Mark Sanchez was being touted by ABC/ESPN heads as the next big Heisman pick after his 4-touchdown performance.

As for Tressel's Buckeyes, they play next week at home against Troy (maybe that name alone will cause flashbacks) University, while the Men of Troy (not Troy University... more hype, remember) are at Oregon State in two weeks.

And if you've learned nothing from today's game, remember this. Hype, like Ohio State, is overrated.

Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday

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