Friday, January 15, 2010

Sticking In My Craw

LenDale White goes into the end-zone for one of his three touchdowns against Texas in the BCS championship game following the 2005 season. He finished with 124 yards on 20 carries.

I have to get this out of my system.

From Bill Plaschke's column in the LA Times on Wednesday, the day after Lane Kiffin was named Pete Carroll's replacement as head coach at USC:

"A program that thrives on the big play just hitched its future to a guy who was holding the controls during this team's worst play in many years.

"It was the Rose Bowl after the 2005 season, the Trojans needed one first down to clinch the win and national title against Texas, it was forth and two, remember?

"USC called a running play with LenDale White plowing straight ahead while Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush incredibly watched from the sidelines. White was stopped, Texas took the ball and eventually a game, the dynasty's downfall began.

"The offensive coordinator for that play? Your new USC head coach, Lane Kiffin.

"What was Mike Garrett thinking?"

And then, from Friday's edition, by Chris Foster and Gary Klein, in regards to offensive coordinator Norm Chow's decision to remain at UCLA rather than return to USC:

"...USC fans have been slow to forget that it was Kiffin who was calling plays when the Trojans failed to convert a fourth-quarter, fourth-and-two running play in the Bowl Championship Series title game against Texas in January 2006.

"Bush was standing on the sideline when tailback LenDale White was stopped short of the first down."


This line of thinking always irritated me, for the sheer stupidity of it, but this week it's really gotten to me, to the point that I'm about to snap. If you know anything about USC football from 2003-2005, you know that LenDale White was the short-yardage and goal-line back for the Trojans. Reggie Bush was one of the best college football players of all-time, but White was SC's hammer, and with good reason: At 6-1 and 235 lbs, White was your prototype big back, and he was damned good. In fact, he was great. At the University known as Tailback U, White holds the record for most rushing touchdowns with 52. In only three years of play, mind you. He also finished with 3,159 yards and a 5.9 yards per carry average. In 2005, Bush's Heisman-winning season, White rushed for 1,302 yards and 24 touchdowns!

And a lot of those touchdowns were a result of White's size and his skill around the goal-line area, where he served as Mr. Reliable in the greatest offense in college football history. Similarly, in short yardage situations - like, say, fourth-and-2 - White was SC's go-to-guy. The thing is, I thought everyone knew this. When Bush was drafted the experts said he wouldn't be an every down back. He wasn't at USC. He's just not a big guy: 6'0", 200 lbs and that's probably being generous. Why would he be the short yardage back over someone as big and good as White - who only fulfilled the same role with the Titans two years ago, scoring fifteen touchdowns on the ground as the thunder to Chris Johnson's lighting. In fact, in college White and Bush were even nicknamed "Thunder and Lightning." Again, I thought this was understood.

I guess not. And the worst part is, in this instance we're talking about local people who are still criticizing the call! It's one thing for people not as familiar with the situation to be critical (although they are not excused either; if they're going to speak about it they should know their stuff); it's another for the people who are actually from Los Angeles and followed the team and know better.

People like, um, Plaschke and USC fans. Yeah.

Are you really going to second guess the call just because it failed, when it worked so many times in the past? When they won 34 straight games with the same exact strategy? C'mon son. If USC was going to go for it there (another decision that is oft criticized but should have been just as anticipated, considering that SC always went for it in those situations; the confidence in the offense was the most high, and rightfully so), White was the guy who was going to get the ball. The calling of his number should have only been expected.

So, please, for my sake, stop being so idiotic. You're killing me.


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