Observations on the Rose Bowl loss to the Trojans, 14-28!

1-The biggest difference in the game was that USC had 6 red zone opportunities for 21 points while we managed 14 points on 4 red zone opportunities; we couldn't stop them while they stopped us. Actually, both teams stopped 2 red zones each, but their stops were more meaningful. They scored quickly and never let us in the game; we were truly outclassed by a better Trojan team.

2-Navarre was 27 of 46 for 271 yards, 1 TD and 1 pick. He was sacked 9 times, hurried, hit and he still managed to help our offense convert 11 of 23 3rd and 4th down conversions for 25 first downs and 2 touchdowns. Our offensive line couldn't contain the powerful defensive line of the Trojans. Udeze, Wright, Cody and company were simply too tough! Poole is my defensive player of the game with 10 tackles including 2 sacks and a phenomenal 5 pass break ups. Udeze had 5 tackles, 4 for loss including 3 sacks. Tatupu had 12 tackles, 1 pass break up and one lucky 26 yard interception off Braylon Edwards' foot to set up their second TD.

3-Perry had 85 net yards on 23 carries for 1 TD, but couldn't do what our offensive line couldn't provide.He also had 2 catches for one yard. Edwards had 10 catches for 107 yards, but Poole clearly limited his efficiency and ability to change the outcome of the game. Breaston had 6 catches for 61 yards. Avant had 4 catches for 61 yards and next year's starter at tight end, Tyler Ecker, had 3 catches for 31 yards. Massaquoi did manage a 5 yard TD catch.

4-Special Teams were all Trojans! Killean, Malone and company never let Breaston make a difference. The only thing they didn't do was hit their field goal. Our special teams didn't self-destruct, but also haven't done anything either. Finley had 4 punts for a 44 yard average, and some good coverage by Tabb (2 tackles) and others have limited the returns by USC. Rivas had his only field goal attempt blocked by Cody. We end up 10-3 for the year, and all three losses were caused, in part, from blocked kicks; this should give our team something to think about and practice with for 2004.

5-Leinart was awesome with 23 of 34 for 327 yards and 3 TDs and no picks; he also caught a TD pass from Williams. He was the offensive player of the game. The big Sophomore, Williams, had 8 catches for 88 yards while Colbert had 6 catches for 148 yards and 2 TDs. They were three highly skilled players, and much better than our skill players (Navarre, Edwards and Avant).

6-Turnovers were not the difference in this game as each team had one, and they converted theirs into a TD while we couldn't create points with our fumble recovery; however, we did stop a red zone opportunity. Penalties were not a difference either, and neither were official calls. Our defense couldn't stop the highly efficient Trojan offense, and even though they possessed the ball a little over 25 minutes, they created 4 touchdowns, 19 first downs and were 7 of 12 in 3rd and 4th down conversions in 60 plays against the #1 defense in the Big Ten. Markus Curry led our defense with 10 tackles, 3 pass break ups and one forced fumble. I've seen many internet criticisms of Curry, but he played a great game against two pro receivers in Williams (7 or 8 inches taller) and Colbert. LeSueur had 5 tackles including 2 for loss, but was burned for two TD passes; the last on the short pass to White, he missed a touchdown saving tackle. Woods had 5 tackles, two for loss including our only sack in the first half. Larry Reid also had 5 tackles including the fumble recovery. Future pro, Marlin Jackson, had 4 tackles including a nice pass break up of a sure TD pass to Colbert when he and Shazor sandwiched him. Noticeably missing in our defensive statistics was Co-Captain Grant Bowman with no tackles. Also, Co-Captain Carl Diggs was only in on one assisted tackle. Our defensive ends: Stevens, Woodley, Massey, Kashama and Biggs accounted for one tackle and one assisted tackle (Kashama and Stevens). Our defensive tackles: Heuer, Bowman, Watson, Harrison accounted for 3 tackles (2 by Heuer and 1 by Harrison).

7-If we are to improve and put ourselves in position for a national title, it is obvious that we need to improve on defense especially on the defensive line. Are you listening Tim Jamison, Alan Branch, Marques Walton, Will Paul, Will Johnson, Shawn Crable, Lamarr Woodley, Pat Massey, Gabe Watson, Larry Harrison, Eugene Germany, Ryan Baker, Vernon Gholston, etc.??? We need to recruit here and do the job in the weight room as well. We need to have the type of push that prevents good offenses from getting started like the Trojans stopped our offense. We only created one sack by Woods, and Leinart wasn't threatened at all until we created a fumble late in the game.

8-While any loss is disappointing and especially in the Rose Bowl with such a great opportunity as we had, we were outplayed by truly a better team. They did not play their best game in beating us. They deserve to be ranked #1 and play LSU for the national title. It will be nice to see USC as the AP champ, and LSU as the BCS champ. What a great team they have and what a great coach in Pete Carroll; they are a real class act in NCAA football, and deserve all their praise and accolades. Hopefully, we can meet them again next year, and turn the tables on them.

9-If Marlin Jackson and/or Braylon Edwards want to go pro, so be it. It is obvious that they are not as ready as they think they are, but they will also develop into good pros at some point. They both played a good game today, but they aren't nearly as skilled as some of the players from USC like Williams, Colbert or Poole. I'd like to see both return for their senior seasons, but if not, we could also use the scholarships for other talented players. We definitely need receivers, and if we can get Colvin, Dutch, Arrington, Cheatham, etc., we'll have a great supporting cast for Gutierrez, Breaston, Avant, Tabb and others.
Observations on the first half of the Rose Bowl, 0-14!

1-Both teams created red zone opportunities on their first possessions, we came away empty while USC put up a TD. USC has created 3 red zone opportunities for 14 points while we have zero points in one opportunity.

2-Navarre is 12 of 20 for 114 yards and one pick off the foot of future pro, Braylon Edwards, who also dropped a sure touchdown catch on our first possession. He is probably the 3rd best receiver on the field. Our offensive line can't contain the powerful defensive line of the Trojans, and they have 5 sacks and several hurries including one tipped pass, 2 fumbles and one interception. We are 4 of 11 on 3rd down with 19 minutes of time of possession.

3-Perry has 50 yards on 13 carries, and has looked good at times; however, their defensive line is handling our offensive line.

4-Special Teams is all Trojans! Killean has kicked the ball into the end zone all three times for 3 touchbacks, and Malone has 2 punts without return for a 49 yard average (one touchback and one great tackle at the 5). The only thing they didn't do was hit their field goal. Our special teams haven't self-destructed, but also haven't done anything. Finley has 4 punts for a 44 yard average, and some good coverage by Tabb and others have limited the returns by USC.

5-On the bright side, Breaston has 4 catches for 49 yards. We also have one sack by Woods and have limited USC to one yard rushing; otherwise, we could easily be behind by 0-17 or more so we are at least only 2 scores down. Leinart is 11 of 15 for 150 yards and one TD.

6-USC gets the ball first in the second half. If they take it to the "house," we'll have a long afternoon of "catch-up" football. USC is dominating on both sides of the ball, and controlling the game tempo; we must turn this around quickly or we're finished.
Rose Bowl Preview:

Year Score Event Rank Notes
1947 49-0 Rose Bowl 2 vs. 8
1957 16-6 Away 10 vs. n/a
1958 20-19 Home n/a
1969 3 to 10 Rose Bowl 7 vs. 5 Bo's heart attack
1976 6 to 14 Rose Bowl 2 vs. 3 White fumble prior to TD
1978 10 to 17 Rose Bowl 5 vs. 3
1988 22-14 Rose Bowl 11 vs. 5
1989 10 to 17 Rose Bowl 3 vs. 12
2003 14-28 Rose Bowl 4 vs. 1 Carr vs. Carroll

The University of Southern California Trojans have a huge advantage in this game. First, they are the nation's #1 ranked team, but aren't allowed to play for the BCS National Championship so they definitely have something to prove. Second, they are playing a virtual home game in Pasadena. Third, they are very talented athletically and have 2003 Home Depot NCAA Division I Football Coach of the Year, Pete Carroll, and offensive coordinator and 2002 Assistant Coach of the Year, Norm Chow.

The Trojans are led offensively by a former Michigan recruit, Matt Leinart. He is accurate and makes few mistakes; he is ranked 7th nationally in passing efficiency. Their "go to" guy is Sophomore Floridian Mike Williams, a fast and huge wide receiver at 6'5" 230 lbs. He averages 7 receptions for 102 yards per game; he has caught 16 TDs this year (Edwards has 14).That combination will be tough to stop. Their running game is led by another Michigan recruit, LenDale White with 13 TDs. He, Reggie Bush and Hershel Dennis lead a devastating running game behind Senior All-American left tackle, Jacob Rogers, Mater Dei Senior standout Lenny Vandermade, former Michigan recruit and blocking fullback, Sophomore Brandon Hancock, and the Long Beach connection: right tackle Winston Justice, right guard John Drake and Dennis. It looks like Fred Matua will start for Drake who broke his ankle. Another top lineman is 3 year starter, Norm Katnik, at center; he made 1st team All-Pac 10 and was a Rimington nominee. His brother, Kurt, is a backup tight end. They also have sure-handed wideout, Keary Colbert, and another former Michigan recruit, Steve Smith, is a backup wideout. Their offensive line, like Michigan's, limited sacks by opponents to only 14 against (15 by Wolverine opponents). If they have a weakness on offense, it is at tight end where Alex Holmes, another former Michigan recruit and son of former M standout, Mike Holmes, won't be able to play due to a back injury. In his place is 6'8" Junior Gregg Guenther. They have averaged over 40 points a game in their last seven games and set a conference record for total points in a season. Michigan can only hope to slow them down because they are too lethal to be stopped entirely. They just put up 52 points against a Beaver defense who led their conference in total defense, and while that speaks well for USC, it doesn't say very much for the defenses in their conference.

On Defense, they start with Junior All-American defensive end and Nigerian phenom, Kenechi Udeze, with 13.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss this year (tied for 5th nationally with Purdue's Shaun Phillips). He and Junior Shaun Cody lead a stingy run defense and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Their other tackle, Mike Patterson, made 1st team All-Conference. Sophomore Frostee Rucker or Omar Nazel will start on the end. Tony Pape and Adam Stenavich will have a challenge much like they faced with Big Ten standouts Will Smith and Greg Taplin. They also have another former Michigan recruit, Matt Grootegood, at outside linebacker and the former safety is excellent on blitzes and pass coverage. He may not play so Dallas Sartz will step in. Melvin Simmons is another senior starter at linebacker who transferred from rival Washington State.They are led in tackles by Sophomore Lofa Tatupu (Yes, his father was the great Trojan fullback, Mosi, in 1974-77) with 8 per game and Junior safety Matt Leach with 7 per game. USC is the #2 rushing defense nationally with only 61 yards per game allowed so they'll be hard to run against; our offensive line will have their work cut out much as they did against Ohio State. USC had 46 sacks this year similar to Michigan State leading our conference with 44. The Trojans lead the nation in turnover margin gaining 20 fumbles and 21 interceptions in 12 games, and that has led to their success since they turn most turnovers into points rather quickly deflating opposing team's morale in the process. Where USC has a weakness is in their defensive backfield; they have a veteran group, but are ranked 110th nationally. Senior Junior College transfer and displaced New Yorker, Will Poole, leads the Trojans with 7 interceptions. Frosh standout, Darnell Bing, is a big hitter at strong safety and Senior Marcell Allmond is their other cornerback with Ron Nunn backing up. Allmond is a hurdler and decathlete on their track team. Of course, part of the reason they are ranked so low is because they play in such a pass-oriented conference, and they give up a lot of yard passing playing with large leads in prevent defenses. The Trojans scoring defense has allowed 18.8 points per game, and the Wolverines have scored at least 27 points or more in every game. It is most likely that Michigan will need at least 27 or more to win, and they'll probably need more than 27.

Their Special Teams is what separates USC from most other teams; they lead the nation in net punting while the Wolverines rank 113th of 117 Division I teams. Tom Malone is destined to be kicking on Sundays with a 49.2 yard average (it should be noted that he has had two blocked), and he also is the holder for placekicks. They have better special teams than either Ohio State or Michigan State so they'll be tough to break a big return against, and Reggie Bush is one of the most dangerous kickoff returners nationally. They have 4 blocked kicks (field goals and punts) including two by Shaun Cody. As we sadly remember, both our losses were due in large part to blocked punts by the Oregon Ducks and Iowa Hawkeyes. It will be interesting to see if Steve Breaston will be able to return one or more of those long punts for good yardage. If the game is decided by a field goal, the Trojans have Junior Ryan Killeen's steady leg with 19 of 23 attempts (although only two of three in the 40-49 yard range with a long of 45) while Michigan has true frosh, Garrett Rivas, is 9 of 11.

It is no wonder why the Trojan faithful are so confident. Everything seems to point to a USC win. They have some mighty big, powerful athletes who are fast and quick and intimidate most NCAA Division I players into mistakes, and perhaps give most panic attacks about the prospect of playing them. Shockingly, that isn't part of the make-up of the Michigan Wolverine football program and none of the players that are on our team. The Trojans do have the talent to win this game, but by no means will it be a "blow out" or rout. In order for the Wolverines to be successful in this game, they must not let USC create turnovers and good field position. We must use our balance offensively to maintain time of possession advantage and field position. One interesting statistic is that Michigan has lost 18 turnovers and USC has lost 21; turnover advantage must be negated for the Wolverines to be successful and have a chance to win the Rose Bowl. Our defense must limit the USC 3rd down conversion efficiency (currently 37.4% compared to our defensive limit of 26%) so we can limit their point production as well as get opportunities offensively (including red zone efficiency).

Ironically, the only team who has had the audacity to defeat the Trojans took 3 overtimes to do so. The California Golden Bears performed the feat at home behind an offense who led the conference this year in rushing averaging 170 yards per game; they ran for 143 against USC. California, a 7-6 team, did maintain a 17 minute time of possession advantage offensively with a balanced attack throwing for 326 yards, 11 of 18 on 3rd down conversions, limiting turnovers (although they had 4 total: 2 fumbles and 2 picks, but also forced 4 Trojan miscues with 3 picks and one fumble) and was able to do well against the Trojans in 3rd down situations (limiting them to 3 of 12 and forcing 5 Trojan punts). The Trojans overcame a 21-7 deficit at halftime to force overtime, but lost. They've showed they can come from behind, but they also are least effective in the 4th quarter as compared to early in the game where they tend to gain advantage on their opponents. Also, if the Trojans have to run for it on 3rd down, they are tied for 9th in their conference in first downs with only 64 running first downs in 13 games. So while their running game is dangerous, but it is only dangerous when their passing game is unstoppable. The biggest factor in the Golden Bears winning was negating turnover advantage, balanced offense to maintain time of possession, ruining the Trojan running game (24 attempts for 99 yards) and limiting Trojan success on 3rd down.

Another statistic that hasn't been publicized at length by the media in Southern California is USC's red zone efficiency. It is solid with 48 of 59 opportunities for 81%, but 32 touchdowns versus 16 field goals. In other words, only 54% of their red zone opportunities has resulted in a touchdown. This is good, but by no means scary. While some Troy observers attribute this to big leads where reserves were performing, it is a statistic to note. We are 45 of 50 (90%) with 36 TDs (72%). Ironically, the one team again who beat them: California, had the best red zone defense in the conference this year and had similar offensive red zone statistics to the Trojans. Michigan represents the Big Ten Conference well limiting opponents the the fewest red zone opportunities in the conference (26), and only 5 passing touchdowns all year. Beside the 30-33 loss to the Golden Bears in triple overtime on the road, the Washington State Cougars played the Trojans to a near stalemate at halftime trailing 15-10 until the second half onslaught sent them home 43-16. USC was the beneficiary of 4 turnovers in that game, 3 fumbles and one pick. The Cougars also self-destructed with 15 penalties for 115 yards. The Wazoo couldn't establish a running game, turned the ball over, kept it close for a while, but succumbed on Trojan "big plays" although they held advantages in total plays and time of possession. Although many Trojan fans like to laugh at Michigan's loss to Oregon in Eugene earlier this season, they did not have to play the Ducks in Eugene.

Look for Michigan to establish a running game and a balanced attack with successful passing plays to Edwards, Avant, Breaston, Ecker, Bell and Perry creating time of possession advantage while not allowing the USC defense to bully us into a turnover advantage. Look for Pape, Baas, Stenavich, Pearson and Lentz to neutralize the Trojan All-Americans, Udeze and Cody. Look for our defense to far and away be the best defense the Trojans will face all year, and limit their success on 3rd down conversions, forcing punts and causing 4 turnovers. Look for PAC 10 transplants Larry Stevens (Washington) and Norm Heuer (Arizona State) to have big defensive games in their final Wolverine appearances, and the Wolverines to sack Mr. Leinart 4 times and gain 2 picks. Look for Braylon Edwards, Chris Perry and John Navarre to have big games offensively with Perry running for over 100 yards and 2 TDs with at least 150 all-purpose yards. Look for Edwards to catch 2 TD passes and look every bit as good as pro prospect Williams. Look for Californians Calvin Bell, Leon Hall, Zach Kaufman, Matt Gutierrez, Spencer Brinton, Alijah Bradley, Jeremy Read, Courtney Morgan, Craig Moore and Tyler Ecker to be pumped and to help their teammates be pumped to perform their best. Incidentally, USC has no Michiganders on their roster, and there are few of our players who were recruited by the mighty Trojans (Woodley, Gutierrez, Ecker, Morgan, Bell and perhaps Kaufman). Look for Michigan to have six scores: 4 touchdowns and 2 field goals with four of four in red zone opportunities compared to 7 scores for USC: 3 touchdowns and 4 field goals with only four of five in red zone opportunities. Look for USC to finally take the lead late in a game where Michigan will have led most of the game only for the Wolverines to win it on the final drive of the game. Look for the University of Southern California Trojans to be voted #4 on most associated press and coaches BCS ballots!

Prediction: 34-33 on Rivas FG