Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog that was titled, “I think USC is back.” I meant every word in that blog knowing that USC’s schedule is one of the toughest but given how great Sam Darnold finished last season and knowing the returning starters on defense. I figured USC could make a playoff run, although the schedule is tricky and the lack of having a bye week could mean being worn down by November.
In week 1, USC beat Western Michigan by 18 points. The college football world overreacted with how “USC is soft.” That USC wasn’t “physical” enough to compete with anybody, and that Sam Darnold was “overrated” because he threw two interceptions, even though he had a 70 percent completion rate. It was hilarious for me to see the overreactions on television and read the tweets from others. Supposedly, USC’s run defense was going to be unable to contain Brice Love and how they were gonna lose at home because it’s “Stanford” and David Shaw (who’s a great coach, btw) has his guys play this physical brand like USC has not done the same since the end of last September.
Fast forward to Saturday night. USC ran up 623 total yards of offense in a whipping. Not only did USC shut up these pundits, they did it in the most Stanford way possible with 370 yards rushing. USC held Stanford to seven points and 25 yards rushing in the second half. Deontay Burnett, Steven Mitchell Jr., Stephen Carr (Stephen Carr reminds me of a younger Reggie Bush), Tyler Petite and Jalen Greene gives Sam Darnold a quality supporting cast. The offensive line made Stanford look soft. Uchenna Nwosu, Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin and Rasheem Green dominated defensively
2-0. Clay Helton finally gets the win over Stanford and the monkey off the back. When I watched the replay of this game, I felt like Uncle Pete Carroll was back on the sidelines. The focus. The preparation. From the second quarter on, you saw the talent level and how dominant USC is, but you also can notice how much better they can be. Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt said “USC is back” after the final Jones TD to put the nail in Stanford’s coffin. When I heard that, I smiled. Then I nodded. Maybe Clay Helton was the right guy all along. We’ll see though.
It’s Texas week. Last time USC played Texas, it was one of the most epic games ever. There are certain memories you have as a person to how impacted your life was. Obviously, January 4, 2006 does not hit like that on a tragedy level, and I’m not comparing the 2006 Rose Bowl to it. That being said, that game hit me like a ton a bricks.
I remember that day. I went to school, talked about how Texas had nothing for our offense (technically they did not except for the infamous 4th and 2) and that three in a row was happening. I remember the pain I had when Vince Young scored the game-winning touchdown. I could not believe the fact that USC blew a 12 point lead in a virtual home game and they were capable of losing (USC won 34 straight games before that night. That’s 2.5 years of not losing football games. Crazy looking back at it).
I remember crying myself to sleep that night. There was a stretch that whenever I would hop on Xanga or even Myspace, the majority of my friends who were not even close to Texas fans would leave “41-38” in my chatbox or in messages. I remember watching Mack Brown hold the crystal ball and being angry that Pete lost to them. Knowing that your guy(s) Leinart, Bush, and White were not gonna be back hurt. I, like every USC fan wanted Leinart to get 3 titles in a row, sleep with more models and go to the NFL (two of those things happened for sure).
11 years later. My dude Jonesy sent me a text asking me if I saw the promo on FOX for Saturday’s game last night. I told him I did not, but I assumed it was about Young scoring. He sent a bunch of laughing emojis but said it was a dark commercial. When I saw it, I understood it. Talk to any other USC fan, and they’ll tell you that even though it happened 11 years ago, that game scars them like it does for me.
USC cannot go back and play that game in 2006 again. Texas is not a rival and never will be a rival. However, there is pain in that game. When I talk about it to people, there is pain in my voice over it. That was the one game as a fan that I really wanted SC to win but such is life. Personally, I have not watched it in full since 2006, and I really do not have the intention to until I am in my 50s.
Everything comes full circle though. When I was in Pasadena, I called Sam Darnold the “white guy version” of Vince Young after USC rallied to defeat Penn State. If you recall, Young beat Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl where he led a furious comeback and Texas won off a game-winning field goal. This led to their quest to win the national title. When I said this around USC fans, they cringed but then realized, we have our own version of superman now.
Vince Young was a different quarterback than Sam Darnold, but there are some similarities too. Darnold is a gamer. Even with his mistakes, you have to take the gun-slinging mentality he has and his ability to elevate others around him. Like Young, Darnold is a winner in the sense of nothing ever gets to him and guys want to play with him. I do not know how many more games he will play in a USC uniform, but I do know that he is only getting better at the quarterback position and that the ceiling is the roof for how great he can be.
Texas comes to LA knowing they need a big win for Tom Herman after losing to Maryland in week 1. USC wants to build off momentum to win another big game and reach their goal of being national champions.
At the end of the day, it is USC against Everybody. Play like it. It’s another big game on national television. Do what you do best.
Fight On. Beat The Longhorns.