The Trojans' Horses Have a Field Day
So, it begins. Another season of college football and the USC Trojans starts it off with a bang in Scotts Stadium. It looked like a walk in the park, or was this just a practice game?
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Aug. 30 -- Southern California's song girls took their spot on the sideline of Scott Stadium. Trojans Coach Pete Carroll roamed the same area, a Hollywood tan accenting his Hollywood persona. A group of USC players even antagonized Virginia's student section leading up to the No. 3 Trojans' 52-7 rout of the Cavaliers in Saturday's season opener.
It became clear, even before the opening kickoff, that more than a football team was invading the idyllic Virginia stadium in front of a record 64,947 fans. It was the USC ethos, too. As much as the talent proved disparate, so did the programs.
The brick-and-pillared campus with the stoic coach and rebuilding roster was invaded by a team full of all-Americans, with a glamorous coach and a reign of dominance in college football.
Neither the loss, nor likely even the margin, presented much surprise. Virginia entered the game as a significant underdog, and the Trojans, whose next game is against No. 2 Ohio State on Sept. 13, sent a clear message to Columbus, Ohio, and the rest of college football.
"We knew what we were going to open with when we scheduled the game," Virginia Coach Al Groh said. "We wanted to take a team that is in a league of their own in college football. They've certainly proven that in the last six years."
The Cavaliers simply could do nothing to stop USC from the start, and they did little to force the Trojans to stop them. Only once in the first quarter did Virginia's defense force a fourth down. It was a fourth and one, and the Trojans unflinchingly elected to go for it. They did better, with C.J. Gable rushing for a 33-yard touchdown.
The quality of USC's performance was topped only by the quantity of those performing. Seven players scored touchdowns. Nine players caught passes. The Trojans forced four turnovers and registered 558 total yards on offense.
"To be honest, as far as the plays and the things they did, we knew what was going to happen," linebacker Clint Sintim said. "That's why it's so disappointing. We knew what was going to happen, but they were still able to out-execute us. Losing by 40-odd points is very humbling. It lets us know exactly where we are as a team."
For the third straight year, the season opener leaves Virginia with more questions than answers. Losing to Wyoming 23-3 in the first game last season was embarrassing, but falling by 45 points in front of a record crowd left Virginia's players shaking their heads.
The lone cheering remaining in the final minutes came from a corner of the stadium adorned in cardinal and gold. It became emblematic of an afternoon when the pomp that follows USC overcame Charlottesville.
"You play a good, solid game and a team like that wins, you say we played as well as we can play and they're just real hard to beat," Groh said. "But to do some of those things we did today, that's disturbing to me -- disturbing to everybody in the organization."