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Friday, December 29, 2006


Features four team: USC, UCLA, Ohio State.... and Michigan. Must... not... choke... everyone.

UCLA Drive 1

UCLA opens empty and immediately proves that's not a great idea, as a three man rush from #96 easily beats their LT inside. Markey for two on second down. Cowan overthrows an open TE seam. UCLA will return to the seam later.

DRIVE NOTES: Three-and-out to start for the Bruins. If I remember correctly, Cowan proves he can't pass worth a damn in this game.

USC Drive 1

Booty nailed by an unblocked, blitzing linebacker on first down; his dumpoff is well short of the TE. Gable goes zone outside for a nice pickup on second down, but a downfield holding call brings it back. False start; second and 19. Badly busted coverage allows Booty a first down conversion by dumping down to Fred Davis; Booty was harried.

Gable draw for seven, and the same play goes for ten. USC to the UCLA 40. First down is Gable again, this time shut down by the free safety after a minimal gain. LB stood up the FB – is that still like the fifth string guy? -- to delay Gable a bit. WR screen sets up third and one.

And here's a key play. On third and one, USC goes play action and the world crashes in on Booty as both defensive ends run right around the tackles, forcing Booty up into a charging linebacker. End result is a panicked throwaway.

Look at the defensive ends shooting upfield on a third and one like it's third and fifteen. It worked out this time, but UCLA's defensive ends were a one-trick pony all game: run as fast as you can upfield and get Booty moving no matter what the situation is.

On fourth down USC gets stoned.

This seems to be mostly the ponderous Chauncey Washington's fault. Good job by the UCLA LB to stand up the FB, forcing Washington outside, where he impotently churns nowhere.

DRIVE NOTES: UCLA spent most of the game speed-rushing around USC tackles. Unfortunately, I don't know if we'll be able to replicate that.

  • Our DEs are not edge-rushing speed mavens aside from maybe Jamison.
  • By the end of the game, USC had figured it out and started walling off UCLA. The final drive was a methodical thing that seemed to be an inevitable touchdown until the fateful deflection. UCLA's pressure had dissapated.
  • Lord knows that USC's spent the last month working on edge rush.
So... this was probably a one-time thing.

Reassuring item: Booty reacts about as well to pressure as Henne. That is, he gets a solid C-. This third down is the second time on this drive he's turfed a ball.

UCLA Drive 2

Cowan throws a short post into coverage; Sartz deflects it. Sartz has impressed me in the USC games I've seen. Guy is fast and active in coverage. On second and ten Markey is stuffed on second down; on third down a Cowan bullet in the seam (open for the second time) is called back by holding. USC's nose tackle, Sedrick Ellis, goes right around the center.

Other than Ellis's slick move, note the gaping hole between the linebackers, who got no depth, and the safeties. Cowan was actually late on this one.

On third and nineteen, UCLA gives up.

DRIVE NOTES: Nice play from the NT here. He looks undersized and penetrating, which is not a good combination from Michigan's perspective.

USC Drive 2

Booty, play action, tons of time, wide open Steve Smith. Doubled Jarrett drew the zone coverage. USC false start. Screen blown up by an alert defensive end; second down zone run picks up four. Third and long sees the defensive ends warp around the tackles again. Booty steps up into a nice pocket and wings it nowhere near his intended receiver.

Another instance of Booty's iffy ability to handle pressure.

DRIVE NOTES: “Doesn't respond well to pressure” is usually nothing analysis on a level with “THEY DON'T HAVE ANY HEART!!!!” but Booty looks more prone to rattling than, say, Troy Smith.

UCLA Drive 3

Starts way deep in USC territory; UCLA picks up a big gainer with a waggle dumpoff to Markey that catches USC blitzing hard. Zone blitz filled the wrong (short) side of the field.

USC in a 3-4, stones a UCLA zone play as the NT gets good push again.

We are likely to see this alignment frequently.

No gain. Next play is Cowan's first scramble, which isn't that relevant for us. Cowan then rolls out and fires way too hard and high for his TE underneath the zone. No YAC, two yards.

Next play is a delay that goes for good yardage.

One of the few times in the game UCLA is able to get a running back out to the linebackers smoothly, and the linebackers don't react very well. Two get blocked off, the other gets spun through by Markey, an eminently average back.

Huge Cowan scramble gets UCLA down to the ten; he takes the run option on a waggle down to the five. Endzone PI on next play, and UCLA manages to punch it in from the two on a Cowan rolout that he cuts up.

DRIVE NOTES: Mostly Cowan running and not relevant for our game. Note one good completion on a waggle completion and a delay that looks a lot like ours.

USC's linebackers are fast and impressive in coverage, but might they be a little undersized to take on our rushing game? Dunno.

USC Drive 3

Opening quick pitch is cut off by a corner blitz and blown up. Rock versus scissors. USC goes wide on second and long and Booty nails a slant for a big gainer.

Next play is a near-disastrous waggle. Booty rolls out and find himself pincered by two Des. This time his dumpoff is accurate and the TE picks up a few, then fumbles spectacularly. Jarrett recovers the popup. Gable goes offtackle for four, setting up another third and short for USC. UCLA stones it again.

DRIVE NOTES: Carrol, chagrined, actually punts. This is the third time in the game USC has failed in a short yardage situation, twice getting stoned on runs.

UCLA Drive 4

Starts at the one, and ends in the endzone with a holding penalty. Safety.

He won't stay blocked; hopefully UCLA's center is poo.

DRIVE NOTES: Cedrick Ellis again owns the center on the holding penalty. Penetrating, gappy player, and a major danger for our running game.

USC Drive 4

Ball at the 34 after the free kick, Booty drops back and is immediately under seige from the ends and a late-charging blitzer. He manages to scramble out for seven. Next play is a WR screen that's dropped; since it's backwards USC loses three yards. False start. Third and 11; Booty is again forced to step up into the pocket by an edge-rushing defensive end. He dumps the ball off and concedes a punt.

Where Troy Smith tends to look for ridiculous huge plays when things break down, Booty has eyes only for the checkdown.

DRIVE NOTES: Michigan's going to see a lot of familiar formations when they play USC. The Trojans' default set is good old Ace 3-wide.

UCLA Drive 5

End around snuffed out by a good play by #28, skipping past the WR's block. Cowan waggles on second down, finding a wideout open in the zone. Markey shut down by Cushing, who shredded a TE block in a way unfortunately reminiscent of Tyler Ecker.

Also of note: USC has moved Cushing to defensive end but will occasionally deploy him in a stand-up look that's indistinguishable from the old 5-2/3-4 we ran a couple years back. I would expect to see that a butt-ton against Michigan. Ellis will probably line up directly over Bihl and try to beat him playside while the five guys on the line try to shoot gaps.

Cowan sacked on the next play by Cushing, who beat the UCLA RT badly.

Ugly visions of that happening against Michigan, though Cushing and Sartz have some nagging injuries.

Third and fifteen. Cowan flushed – no one wants to block a defensive end this game – steps up and throws it a way punty.

DRIVE NOTES: Fairly sure that Jake Long is better than whoever UCLA is deploying at LT, but Riley's been functional at best and is likely to give up a couple QB hurries or worse.

USC Drive 5

Ace 3-wide again. Gable for a few. He's no Reggie Bush. No terror there. Booty again checks down... no deep passes yet aside from the early waggle. Third and three. Second excellent slant to Jarrett. He's no burner but we don't have anyone who can match his size and strength.

Booty gets time on the ensuing first down; checks down anyway. This one works out as Gable outruns the pursuing linebacker. Think David Harris makes this a minimal gain, hypothetically. Play action next; Booty has better time but doesn't have time to look deep. Flushed out, he finds Smith for an eight yard gain at the sideline. Washington picks up the first down on second and short.

Play action on first down again ends with Booty surrounded by UCLA defenders; TE checkdown for a few. Draw opens up momentarily but an excellent play from the MLB holds it down.

Tellingly, USC converts the third and short with the old fake FB dive-quick pitch combo that gets Gable outside. First and goal. Booty slips on a waggle, smartly ditching the ball at a receiver's feet. Gable plows to the one on a draw. (An attempt to bleed clock and rob UCLA of a final first half possession? Worked out if so.) Gable takes a toss on third and goal, touchdown. USC 9-7.

DRIVE NOTES: First actual drive USC's put together. They do it on the backs of checkdowns, solid possession throws from Booty on slants and an out or two, and decent running, much of it finesse.

This ends the half with USC up 9-7.

Second half tomorrow.