Tuesday, January 1, 2008

No Fight In These Illini

You can call Illinois' Ron Zook a great recruiter, but never mistake him for the chess master. He brought his underdog Fighting Illini into the 2008 Rose Bowl and threw them to the dogs. By the end of the first half, it became more and more obvious that his gameplan was to run, run, and run against a team you cannot run against. On the other side, the master himself, Pete Carroll, went into the game looking to take Juice Williams and Rashard Mendenhall out. When you couple Zook's gameplan with Carroll's, the result is a 21-3 halftime score, in favor of the men of Troy.

With Illinois not looking to stretch the field with a passing game, the beast was unleashed, mostly in the form of Rey Maualuga. With the amount of time Maualuga spent terrorizing the Illini backfield, Juice and company could have dialed Homeland Security to report the incident. It wasn't until the second half that Zook decided he needed to toss it up, and almost instantly the Illini gained a new offensive appearance. With Juice forcing the Trojans to back off into passing lanes, it loosened up the run, and Mendenhall finally got on track, eventually taking a 79 yarder to the house.

But these Roses had a sweet smell of Troy, and team speed and turnovers enabled the Trojans to cruise to a 49-17 victory, stopping 2 yards short of another score that would have given them a Rose Bowl record for points. In all, the Trojans racked up 633 yards of offense, including 344 on the ground. In this Joe McKnight coming out party, he treated the fans to 125 yards, including a burst for 65.

The future looks bright for USC. And with some bad play, here and there, one can only wonder what it could have been. These were the Trojans everyone expected to see when the season began. They captured their 29th Rose Bowl, but it could have been so much more.

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