USC football: A fan's look back at the Emerald Bowl
Yes, it’s been a terribly difficult and disappointing season for USC fans, but let’s give the Trojans credit for going out with a win. They could have easily believed all the press leading up to the game that they would be unmotivated playing in a non-BCS bowl and too distracted by the off-the-field problems concerning Joe McKnight and three players who were declared academically ineligible.
But the Trojans played inspired football. Their performance wasn’t perfect and in many ways reflected the season. They looked terrific at times, awful at others, but in the end came away with the program’s 32nd bowl win, the most of any school in history. (Alabama can match the mark with a victory in the BCS national title game).
Of course, many of the headlines Sunday still focused on the negative, which is just the way it is for USC. You either love the Trojans or hate them. There’s no middle ground.
Here are some of the things I loved:
Matt Barkley. The freshman quarterback closed the season with one of his best games, completing 27 of 37 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns. He should have had another touchdown, but Brice Butler dropped a ball in the end zone. While he did have two passes intercepted, he looked confident and in charge, especially when leading the Trojans to touchdowns on their first two possessions.
Damian Williams. The junior wide receiver who played probably his final college game had 12 receptions for 189 yards. He was USC’s best player all season and will be hard to replace. His terrific 48-yard reception in traffic on a great throw by Barkley set up the clinching touchdown.
Stanley Havili. The junior fullback showed how big a part of the offense he can be when he is actually a part of the offense. He scored the first two touchdowns on receptions of 53 and five yards. He finished with six catches, a career high, for 83 yards.
Jurrell Casey. The sophomore defensive tackle recovered a Boston College fumble at the USC 10-yard line and returned it 22 yards, the play probably preventing the Eagles from taking the lead early in the third quarter. He also had a huge sack in the fourth quarter to take Boston College out of field-goal position. I’ve said before that Casey reminds me a lot of former USC All-American Mike Patterson.
Shareece Wright. The junior cornerback, playing for the first time all season after being academically ineligible, intercepted a pass near midfield in the fourth quarter with USC leading, 17-13. Barkley’s bomb to Williams came on the following play.
What I really liked after Wright’s interception was that he handed the ball to Coach Pete Carroll, almost as if to say "thanks for sticking with me."
And that’s what real USC fans need to do right now — stick together.
The USC haters are everywhere. Just check the comments on any story or blog involving the Trojans. Or the Saturday letters to The Times.
They cheat, the NCAA won’t punish them, their players are stupid.
My suggestion to most of these fans is to worry more about your own program. Especially those in Westwood and South Bend.
I do wonder why the investigation into Reggie Bush has dragged on this long, but I find it ridiculous to criticize USC for the actions of the NCAA. I doubt USC is dictating terms to the governing body of college sports. And who’s to say the NCAA doesn’t severely punish USC in a day or a week?
It would be great if the NCAA made a decision, USC dealt with the ramifications and everyone moved on. The elephant has been sitting in the room for way too long.
Carroll and his staff should be concentrating on getting the Trojans back to the top of the Pac-10, not worrying about what might happen with the NCAA.
And there is a lot to do for USC to avoid another 9-4 season and a fifth-place finish in the conference.
The Trojans simply need to get better in this off-season. In every area.
After seven straight seasons with at least 11 wins and a BCS bowl-game appearance, this season was a most humbling one.
It will be hard to forget the one-sided losses to Oregon and Stanford. But it will be nice to remember beating Notre Dame for the eighth year in a row. Not to mention, owning UCLA for the 10th time in 11 seasons.
There’s still nothing like being a fan of the Trojans and I thank all those who took some time to read this blog this season. Especially readers gerrrg and pk-in-the-mesa, who I know are true fans based on their weekly comments.
Before you know it, USC’s 2010 season will start in Hawaii on Sept. 2.
Until then, aloha.
-- Hans Tesselaar