Monday, September 14, 2009

OSU/USC Game of the Year Recap

By Rick Morris

I covered the OSU/USC game from the stands this weekend as part of a media project providing live, real-time analysis. My texts paint a picture of the game as it transpired, quarter-by-quarter. Due to a malfunction on that site, only the texts from the first half were posted then. Here's the complete list from that night:

^ Band coming out, place is electric.
^ Place is electric before kickoff, incomparable atmosphere.
^ Horrible int, no in-stadium replay to see.
^ Trojans off-balance with run and pass established. Most critical drive in 3 years.
^ Bad throws, but USC trusts Barkley.
^ Crowd had the wall of noise going on 3rd and long.
^ Weather is so perfect.
^ Barkley is gonna get the nose at the closed end next drive.

^ Carroll trusted Barkley too much!
^ Crowd would be louder with the college kids.
^ Barkley's completions hurt. You have to load up against the run.
^ Trojans are loose, dancing as crowd sings 7 Nation Army instrumentals.
^ Kicker missed with wind at his back.
^ Big run changed everything, allowing Trojans to go into 2-minute offense at midfield.
^ If Trojans win, big late run was turning point.

^ USC should stay with hurry-up.
^ So weird the extent to which this is a field position battle.
^ I wouldn't want to be the long snapper on the flight home!
^ Settling for FG big blow to OSU. Where's the freaking screens?
^ USC's run game has been so much better.

^ The noise really disrupted the SC offense.
^ Tressel's been running out the clock all quarter.
^ Joe McKnight is the truth. This drive is unfolding as if in slow motion.
^ Pryor ends the night on a fitting note. Completely outshined.

To amplify the observations I was making at the time:

^ Barkley is the real deal at QB. He was unrattled the whole night and was put in position to make plays the whole time. If anything, Carroll seemed to trust him more than Tressel trusted Pryor. While McKnight was the MVP, a true freshman impervious to the pressure was a necessary component for the victory. Meanwhile, it's amazing that Ohio State came as close as they did with such a dud of a performance by Pryor. Granted, the play-calling didn't help, with RB Saine being used only begrudgingly and screen passes still AWOL from the playbook.

^ Jim Tressel looked to be content with trying for a 15-10 win in the fourth quarter and it came back to bite him. Granted, it is a transition year offensively for the Buckeyes with the turnover that they have had, but they still don't go into attack mode often enough. Conversely, while Carroll did the better job on the Xs and Os, he too was off a bit on the play-calling coming out of halftime. After marching straight down the field at the end of the first half, USC should have stayed in the hurry-up until OSU proved they could stop it. Had Southern Cal come up short, it would have been interesting to see how many pundits grasped this missed opportunity.

^ All in all, the low score was reflective of the fact that both starting QBs combined for less than a full year of college experience, very unusual for a game between teams that are national powers year in and year out. Both had their moments (Pryor's being fairly few and far between), but the inexperience contributed to at least a tinge of overall sloppiness.

^ Ohio State will have their hands full in Cleveland this weekend with a high-powered Toledo squad. Just ask Rich Rodriguez how tough they can be! Meanwhile, USC probably has to continue to improve just to win out, which might have been surprising a week or two ago -- and if they enter the BCS voting with the same record as the Big 12 and SEC champions, they'll be on the outside looking in just like last year.

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