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BACK TO BASICS
LOS ANGELES -- College football has returned to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That would be college football, as opposed to the glamorous brand of football that USC played over the last three seasons. In that football, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White took turns delivering SportsCenter highlights.
In this game, college football, young players take two steps forward, and one step back, and occasionally, vice-versa. For the third consecutive week, USC has a won a Pac-10 game by a one-play margin. The Trojans won at Washington State by six. They beat Washington by six. Saturday night, they beat Arizona State, 28-21.
The alarm clock goes off. Sonny & Cher sing, "I Got You, Babe." And USC wins another game.
"It's Groundhog Day," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "That's what it feels like. If it's Groundhog Day and you always wind up winning, that's OK with me."
This USC offense isn't likely to match previous incarnations.
In that Harold Ramis movie, Bill Murray plays a depressed cynic who relives the holiday over and over until he learns how to be a mensch. In the Trojans version, USC will keep trying to make a big play until it figures out how to do it.
"We're not the same team," Carroll said. "We're very, very young [five senior starters]. We're very new. We're playing really good football. We're doing a lot of good stuff to win these games. It's really hard to win. How many teams have won all their games? It's hard to do that. Everybody can worry if they want to worry, but I'm thrilled that we're 6-0 and we feel OK about ourselves."
The USC offense produced only three plays of 20 yards or more. The Trojans' defense forced only one turnover, which gives it 10 in six games. In Carroll's first five seasons, the Trojans' turnover margin ranged between plus-16 and plus-21. At the halfway point this season, USC is plus-three.
"I'm really disappointed in one area, that we're not getting turnovers," he said. "Everything else, I can handle. We're not getting the ball away. It's not that we're not trying. When that happens, we're going to be a really hard team to beat. We'll be a really good team. Until then, we just win."
Carroll believes that the first quarter and a half, when USC jumped to a 21-0 lead, is a harbinger of the good things to come. He is, after all, a congenital optimist. But USC gave up a touchdown late in the first half, and Arizona State converted a matched set of turnovers from USC quarterback John David Booty (a fumble and an interception) into the two touchdowns it needed to tie the game.
"I kept thinking when it was 21-all," Carroll said, "it was going to be really hard to beat them by a lot."
He got the laughs that the line deserved. Perhaps Carroll isn't too concerned because the bye week ahead will give him and his staff two weeks in which to teach. His long list of injured players may grow shorter. It may be impossible for this Trojan team to play with the candlepower that Leinart, Bush and White used to light this Coliseum during their careers.
Given that that realization has arrived as USC has extended its Coliseum winning streak to 30 games and its Pac-10 streak to 27 games, Carroll will be able to live with it.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Saturday night's game against Florida International may turn out to be one of the most memorable in Miami Hurricanes'history, but for all the wrong reasons.
Thirteen players were ejected in the third quarter of the Hurricanes' 35-0 victory following a brawl that involved virtually every player on both teams and caused dozens of police to swarm the field to separate the combatants.
The worst behavior came from two Miami players -- safety Anthony Reddick swung his helmet and crowned an FIU player, while safety Brandon Meriweather took a running start before driving his cleats into the back of a Golden Panther.
Reddick, Meriweather and linebacker James Bryant were not ejected, but were suspended on Sunday by coach Larry Coker for this Saturday's game against Duke in Durham, N.C.
ACC officials were still looking into the incident Sunday and could suspend more Miami players.
"It was disgraceful and very disappointing," Coker said. "That will certainly be dealt with."
Saturday night's fight was the third major incident involving Miami in its last seven games.
Several Hurricanes were involved in a post-Peach Bowl brawl last December with LSU players that left Miami guard Andrew Bain and receiver Khalil Jones unconscious.
On Sept. 16, Miami players stomped on Louisville's cardinal logo at midfield before the game, nearly causing a melee.
Asked if he were concerned about his control over Miami's players, Coker responded, "I do have a strong grip on this program. Don't ever doubt that."
The video clips are stunning. Helmets are being swung at the heads of other players. Players are trying to stomp their cleats into the legs of rival players. The Miami-Florida International brawl was complete chaos. Some Hurricanes fans might try to chalk it up to "FIU started it" or "There are no rules in a brawl." But the thought that keeps coming back to my mind is that this kind of thing just doesn't seem to happen to a Texas or a Michigan.
Miami -- no matter how much Larry Coker and the UM brass have tried to scrub away the old Canes' roughneck image -- still keeps finding itself in the muck. If anyone wanted to say the Canes are still the thugs they were in the old days of Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson, they now have five disturbing minutes of YouTube proof.
To read the rest of Feldman's take on the state of Miami, click here.
UNDER THE RADAR
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M's improving defense and bruising running game have gotten a lot of credit for the No. 23 Aggies' surprising 6-1 start, but don't overlook the production of quarterback Stephen McGee.
In his first season as the Aggies' starter, McGee has completed 64.6 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and only one interception.
Before Saturday's game against previously unbeaten Missouri, Tigers quarterback Chase Daniel was getting a lot of attention for his performance during his team's 6-0 start. But McGee stole the show in the Aggies' 25-19 victory at Kyle Field, completing 19 of 23 passes for 183 yards with one touchdown.
"It's hard not to feel awfully good about No. 7 out there with the way he managed everything and played," Aggies coach Dennis Franchione said. "He handled the ball on the options and handled the checks well."
McGee was at his best in the third quarter, completing his first nine pass attempts as the Aggies went ahead 25-19 on Mike Goodson's 2-yard touchdown run.
McGee completed 16 of his first 17 attempts and didn't throw an incompletion until the Aggies appeared to run the wrong route with 1:15 to play in the third quarter.
"People can say whatever they want and doubt us," McGee said. "This group of guys is determined to fight together and play to the very end. We weren't perfect today, but we grinded it out together and made some stops when we needed to and picked up third downs when we needed to."
LOS ANGELES -- Arizona State had fought back from a 21-0 deficit to tie USC. The Sun Devils trailed, 28-21. They had the ball on their own 23, fourth-and-22, with about 1:30 to play and two timeouts.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Dirk Koetter's decision left some scratching their heads.
Head coach Dirk Koetter chose to punt the ball away.
"Well, it was fourth-and-30," Koetter said, "and I felt like we were better off trying to advance the ball 50 yards and come up with a turnover. The odds of getting a fourth-and-30 play, those are tough."
That Koetter overshot the needed distance by eight yards is irrelevant. It's a lot harder to score on defense than on offense. The odds of converting fourth-and-22 are tough. The odds of a) converting fourth-and-22, b) going downfield to score a tying touchdown, and c) winning in overtime, all on the same drive, may be high, but they are lower than the odds of scoring the tying touchdown if you don't have the ball.
Because of the new clock rules, Koetter had to take one timeout before USC ran a play, with 1:19 remaining. That left him with one. Trojan tailback Chauncey Washington dived into the line twice and, finally, quarterback John David Booty took a knee. The Trojans survived to live another undefeated week.
Koetter's strategy mined a vein of football wisdom known only to him.
"I was shocked," USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. "I didn't understand that. As long as we don't turn the ball over, the game was over. I was obviously very excited when he did it. I wasn't planning on it happening but I thought it was great."
HE'S NO JOHNNY ROTTEN
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Sid Vicious 8, Virginia Tech 3.
The walk-on kicker with the last name many of his coaches and teammates can't pronounce outscored the Hokies on Thursday night during Boston College's 22-3 win before a sold-out crowd at Alumni Stadium.
Steve Aponavicius' two field goals (36 and 20 yards) and two PATs gave the Eagles a much-needed special teams lift and gave the sophomore kicker a storybook ending to his initial 15 minutes (and counting) of fame.
Steve Aponavicius: cult-hero in Chestnut Hill.
From the ESPN cameras following his every pregame move to his nationally televised postgame interview live, to his Lambeau-like leap into an "MVP" chanting student section that he once called home, Aponavicius withstood the hyped frenzy that surrounded his football debut.
"He's really a confident kid," BC coach Tom O'Brien said. "The kid isn't fazed by anything. He had more fun out there than anybody."
But it's time to move on.
Looming on the horizon for BC is a slightly less-welcoming environment at Florida State (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).
"I got here through hard work and I'm just going to keep working hard at practice," Aponavicius, in a gray pinstripe suit that looked every bit as out of place as some thought he did on a football field, said after the game. "A week ago there was nobody talking to me or looking at me and I was still kicking as many balls as I could each day, so I'm just going to keep doing that and hope it keeps working.
"I just wanted to make kicks for my team today, and luckily I was able to do that. But we've got a lot of games left and I'm going to have to equal this performance again. I'm very excited about next week now. It's a huge game for us."
BC (5-1) played its most-complete game of the season in beating the Hokies (3-2), but the Eagles now hit the road, where they are 1-1 on the season.
"I'm not going to accept that as being the end-all game," O'Brien said. "We're only halfway through the year and we've got a lot to improve. But it's a win on a Thursday night against a program that's owned Thursday night. All it really means is we've got to get better and go to Florida State next week.
"But I'm going to call him Sid Vicious the rest of my life. It works."