September 14, 2008

News and notes: Ohio State

There's dominance, and there's what the USC defense has been able to do through two games.

After allowing just seven points in the season opener at Virginia, the Trojans wrapped their strong arms around the Buckeyes and never let them free, holding Ohio State to just a field goal in a 35-3 win Saturday at the Coliseum.

"I'm really fired up about the defense. Gosh, they had a great night keeping them wrapped up," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "We kept them in check the whole time. They scored first, and they didn't score again."

It started up front, with the Trojan defensive line. Inside out, the four-man front spent plenty of time in the Buckeyes' backfield.

Then, there were the USC linebackers, living up to the hype by making huge plays. Finally, the USC cornerbacks and safeties kept Ohio State from making the big play, while they made a few big ones themselves.

"This is the best defense that I've ever been a part of," defensive end Kyle Moore said. "The coaches put us together and we gel well. I don't think really anyone can mess with our defense.

"I believe that we're the best in the country."

The numbers from Saturday's win are staggering. There are the three points, the 11 tackles for losses, the three turnovers and the five sacks.

And, there was the third quarter, when the Trojans held Ohio State to only two yards of total offense on 12 plays.

"Watching them on film, we saw they were very vulnerable in some places. It was just up to us to come here and execute," defensive tackle Fili Moala said. "I think that's what we did; we played to the best of our ability. It was too much for them."

With just two games under their belt this season, though, the veteran players are charged with keeping this dangerous defense focused on the next challenge.

"It comes down to us not being complacent. We can't be satisfied or get bigheaded," Moala said. "We can't think we're something we're not. I take upon myself to tell these guys that only way we'll ever get there is by doing what we've been doing every day in practice.

"It's on the older guys to always remember how it feels to not be there. We need to stay thirsty."

Offensive words

After the Trojans opened the season by hanging 52 points on Virginia, linebacker Rey Maualuga said all those points surprised him.

After his teammates put 35 up on one of the nation's top defenses, Maualuga said he's now a believer.

"It was a question mark, but there's something with these guys," Maualuga said.

Led by four touchdowns from quarterback Mark Sanchez, the offense looked good for the second-straight outing. Still, though, things could've been sharper.

"I thought he did a good job," Carroll said. "This really is a good defense, and it's hard. I know the numbers weren't as big, but I thought he played a beautiful game."

Sanchez completed 17-of-28 passes but he missed on some shorter passes to his backs. He didn't miss, though, when looking for fullback Stanley Havili.

Havili caught five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.

"The week off showed me that I was going to get a lot of work and that I had a chance to have a big game," Havili said. "They didn't really respect that I was out there."

Lovefest

After the game in the media room, one reporter asked who USC's Heisman Trophy candidate should be, leading up to this funny exchange between Sanchez and Maualuga.

Maualuga: "You're looking right at him."

Sanchez: "Are you talking about me?"

Maualuga: "Unfortunately for me, quarterbacks are always getting the attention. Tonight, Mark did a phenomenal job just like he did two weeks ago. I'm sure he'll keep doing a wonderful job. He's going to a tremendous job. He's an awesome person and a great quarterback. I see bright things in his future."

Sanchez: "Thanks bud."

Carroll (who just walked into the room): "Are you guys holding hands up there?"

Sanchez: "You missed it. He just let out his heart for everyone.

Extra Points

• Heading into Saturday's game, Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor was a major talking point among media. Because of how the Trojans have defended mobile quarterbacks in the past, there was some concern in regards to Pryor's plus athleticism and speed.

Moore said the Trojans were able to neutralize Pryor's effectiveness with a solid push at the line of scrimmage.

"Pryor was good and he did his job, but we had a lot of pressure back there," he said. "We're not like other teams. We're going to be in the backfield. We won't let him scramble for long.

"We were prepared for Pryor. We knew he couldn't really throw the ball all that well. When he came in, we knew he was going to try to run."

• On his way through the tunnel after defeating Ohio State Saturday, cornerback Josh Pinkard stopped and started throwing his loose equipment into the crowd.

With a huge smile on his face, he tossed his gloves and his wristbands to cheering fans.

After missing most of the past two years, Pinkard join his teammates on the field at the Coliseum for the first time since 2005, and to his surprise, it felt like he'd never left.

"For me, it's all about getting back into a routine," Pinkard said. "It just felt like it was normal for me for some reason. It didn't feel like I was lost or anything. It felt like I was just here yesterday."

Clay Matthews forced a fumble for the second straight game, sacking Todd Boeckman from behind and jarring the ball loose.

• Freshman Armond Armstead recorded the first sack of his USC career in the fourth quarter.

• USC has held Ohio State to three points or less in the teams' last four meetings at the Coliseum.

• Maualuga's interception return for a touchdown was USC's first interception return for a score since Darnell Bing's 65-yard return at Hawaii on Sept. 3, 2005.

Damian Williams caught two touchdown passes - the first two touchdowns of his Trojan career.

• The Trojans have now won 10-straight games against non-conference opponents, dating back to USC's Rose Bowl loss to Texas.


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