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USC is starting to look like the team we all thought that they would be
this year. The Master Coaches Poll has had them ranked at No. 6 for
three straight weeks, which is higher than any other poll.
is suddenly getting about eight starters back that have been missing.
They have suffered from a phenomenal amount of injuries, having five
defensive starters out early in the season. To me, they have had a
hard time figuring out who they are. Over the past few years, they
have been a team that ran a wide open offense that tried to throw the
ball all over the field. But this team is starting to understand that
this year, they are just not the same as they have been and should try
to win on defense.
I think that their defense might be able to get them back in the
driver's seat in the
Pac-10, but Oregon has one of those offenses that makes you think,
"Wow! They're faster than everybody!" The fifth-ranked Ducks aren't a
great defensive team, but
they are tough to beat if they can get you in a shootout.
To win games, the Trojans should be running the football and
playing great defense, but they have been slow to recognize the
personality of their team. It seems
to me that in the Pac-10, you have to take an oath that says you will
to try to score 40 points and throw the ball 40 times per game. I
don't think anybody wants to play that physical style of football that
played in the SEC week in and week out, but if the Trojans decide to do
so, they will find
themselves right back in the hunt, not only for the Pac-10
but in the national title hunt as well.
The feeling around the country is that USC has been taking teams
lightly and become complacent. I don't agree at all. I don't think
the team has played with
indifference, they have just had a frightening amount of injuries. The
SC defense has about five players that could be first round picks
in the NFL Draft, but they have been out for the past three or four
weeks (such as Brian
Cushing and Hershel Dennis).
John David Booty has been hurt
as well, and Mark Sanchez has taken over at quarterback. He's a good
player, certainly one of the best high school quarterbacks coming out
of Southern California in years. He is starting to look like he can
manage the team, which will be a difficult task on the road in Eugene.
Oregon is a very difficult place to play, and it's about time for the
rain to start. I think they have a faucet up there that they turn on
about this time of year that should be running until April. It will be
tough for SC because some of their kids from may not have ever seen
This game should be a great one to watch and will probably decide the Pac-10
champ. So, sit back and enjoy another wild weekend of college football.
South Florida's Cinderella story appears to have ended. They had a
great start, beating Auburn on the road and knocking off a Top 5 West
Virginia team for the second year in a row, but they came up a little
short at Rutgers. Coach Jim Leavitt was on my staff as a Graduate
Assistant at Iowa. He is a heck of a coach and has done a fantastic
job in building that program from scratch. I may have taught him some
things along the way, but he taught me something too... Do not run
wind sprints with your players!
Jim is a wild man on the sidelines and he still does conditioning
drills with his players after practice. And if you saw the game last
night, he ran a few sprints to get ready to coach the game. The only
thing my metal knees are good for anymore is when I go to the airport
everybody dives under the table when I go through security. I've been
using about a quart per day of WD-40 to get these knees of mine going.
I think that Coach Leavitt's team lost last night for a couple of
reasons. They committed too many penalties in key situations and they
got outplayed in the specialty teams. South Florida was not helped
either by the short week of preparation. Both teams played on
Saturday, but the Bulls had to travel all the way up the east coast on
Wednesday and lost a day of practice.
Rutgers' running back Ray Rice is a truly outstanding player. South
Florida has a tough defense, and that was just the second time in the
last 15 games that a running back gained over 100 yards against them.
Rice was the last player to gain over 100 yards on the Bulls when he
gained 202 yards last year, followed up by 181 yards on 39 carries last
I thought Matt Grothe played well for South Florida, but the play
calling really hurt his cause. They could not pick up the blitzes and
he continued to get sacked for big losses. I think USF should have
used the short passing game. Rutgers blitzed on every play
and an occasional screen or dump off pass to the tight end would have
kept the Knights honest. You have to give Rutgers credit because they
played a very smart game and knocked off another Top 5 team on a
Thursday night in Piscataway.
The specialty teams were really the difference for Rutgers. Ito made 3
of his 4 field goals for Rutgers, including a 51-yarder and Alvorado
missed one for USF and had another attempt blocked. Early in the first
half, Coach Schiano rolled the dice and faked a punt that eventually
led to a field goal. The three points proved to be the difference in
the 30-27 win. Schiano also dialed up a fake field goal. The holder,
DePaola got up out of his stance and threw a strike to Kevin Brock for
a touchdown. The pass dropped right over the top of the defender and
that tight end made a heck of a catch on his way to the end zone.
I am really proud of Greg Schiano for using trick plays the way he
did. They were always base plays for me, because I though it was easy
to catch the opponent sleeping. I have been watching all of these
triple overtime games like LSU-Kentucky, Nevada-Boise State and others
that could have been decided much earlier. All a coach has to do is
fake a field goal on an extra point try and the game would be over. I
give Schiano credit for having the confidence in his team to execute
the trick plays.
In light of the thrilling victory by the Dallas Cowboys over my former
team, I thought I would share some of my thoughts. I was very
impressed with the atmosphere in Buffalo. The Bills fans are really
great fans. When I first started coaching in Buffalo, they had only
sold 18,000 season tickets, and we could not even get a home preseason
game because people would not come out to see it. But that changed
once we won the division with an 11-5 record in 1981...we were selling
the place out and it has been that way ever since.
I was completely shocked (just like everybody else) that the
Cowboys came out on top in the game. Very seldom do you win when you
turn the ball over six times. I give Wade Phillip's team credit,
though, because they made the plays when they absolutely had to make
them, including the field goal as time expired. The Cowboys will no
doubt learn from their game in Buffalo, and I believe that they have as
good a chance as anybody else (probably the best chance in the NFC) to
make a run at the Super Bowl. Romo has played very well, but he just
did not play his best football on Monday night. He was very
inconsistent and erratic at times, but when he is on his game, he looks
like one of the better quarterbacks in the league. A lot has been made
about the suspension of Dallas' QB coach Wade Wilson and how that has
hurt Romo's play. People tend to talk about coaching only when a guy
is not playing well, but when he is playing well, they do not mention
it. Tony Romo played outstanding the first four weeks, and he does not
deserve to be overly criticized for one bad outing.
Cowboys did make the plays that counted, Buffalo truly gift-wrapped it
for them. The Bills could have used the ground game more often to milk
the clock. With another minute or two run
off, they would have assured themselves the win. As a coach, you can
never allow yourself to get too far away from the running game. You
to mix it in well to keep the defense from loading up with an 8 man
front and committing players to the blitz.
late stages of the game were mismanaged as well, in my opinion. The
Bills could have played a Dime coverage with extra DBs and put a
either side to cover the short out routes. The only place the Cowboys
could have gone was to the out routes
because with just six seconds to play and no timeouts, a deep out
completion or a pass over the middle surely runs the clock down.
Jauron's team needed to have a plan in that situation, but they just
missed the assignments. They would not even have had to worry about
the Dime defense if they had just recovered the onside kick. Buffalo's
hands team needed to get their assignments correct and execute. Sam
Hurd broke through the Bills line and deflected the ball that Tony
Curtis eventually recovered. Somebody for Buffalo needed to block off
Hurd, and the rest of the hands team should have pursued the ball with
more urgency. That play really hurt.
It was amazing to see
rookie kicker Nick Folk for Dallas nail two straight field goals from
53 yards when his long in college was a 52-yarder. Incredible as it
was, I think the rules committee is going to have to take another look
the timeout rule. The players on the field do not even know if the
timeout is called because the coach is standing on the sideline in the
ear. The league has really opened up a can of worms by allowing the
coaches to call
a timeout just before the ball is snapped. Pretty soon, a play like
that will backfire when the
field goal is missed on the first try, but the team is granted a
second chance because of the timeout. I may be old fashioned, but I
like the old system. I think the coach should signal the timeout in
to his players just as he does a defensive or offensive play.
am really looking forward to the game this weekend between Dallas and
New England. Romo and the Cowboys will have their hands full when
they host the Patriots. New England seems to have regained their spot
top team in the league this year. They have everything going for them:
great coaching, great players and they have a great quarterback in Tom
Brady. With the off-season additions, they have become dominant. The
emotion of a win like the Cowboys just got over Buffalo will be too
much to overcome on a short week...New England should come out