Monday, October 30, 2006

Bush & Leinart Still Connected To USC - This Time In Misery

During the three seasons in which Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart were together at USC, adversity was a largely unknown term on campus. The two superstars combined for as many Heisman Trophies as losses. USC was a fixture in college football’s penthouse, with Bush and Leinart as the high-wattage faces of the program. Although the two stars have moved on to the NFL, it seems appropriate that they would share the same perspective as their school when things aren’t so rosy. After the Trojans endured a miserable Saturday, Bush and Leinart followed suit on Sunday.

USC’s national title aspirations took a huge hit with Saturday’s 33-31 loss at Oregon State, a program the Trojans had dominated for decades. Before this visit to Corvallis, USC had won 30 of 31 matchups between the schools since the Beavers shocked an O.J. Simpson-led powerhouse in 1967. After that upset, the school of The Glove (Gary Payton) was no match for the school of The Bloody Glove. The lopsided series was no surprise if you consider the na├»ve sitcom character made famous by Jerry Mathers. The Beaver would have no idea what to do with a pack of Trojans.

However, despite a stirring fourth quarter rally, the looming specter of Halloween doomed the third-ranked visitors on Saturday. The team in orange and black came out on top. Also, as if greeting trick-or-treaters, USC decided to give things away. Unfortunately, it was the football, not Snickers bars, that they kept handing over to OSU. The four turnovers kept USC from a fourth consecutive narrow escape in Pac-10 play. The Trojans had been in costume all month, merely dressing up as national championship contenders.

Bush’s New Orleans Saints had also specialized in close victories before this weekend. However, the Baltimore Ravens slowed the momentum of the Saints’ inspirational season with Sunday’s 35-22 win in the Superdome. Bush left in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle, which he said will not keep him out of action next week. He rushed for just 16 yards on five carries against the vaunted Baltimore defense, adding four receptions for a mere five yards. He also coughed up a fumble and threw a halfback option pass that was intercepted by Ray Lewis in the end zone. The latter play, involving a star from the University of Miami, had an oddly familiar ring to it: A Hurricane caused havoc in New Orleans, and Bush did nothing about it.

Leinart also had a tough day in a 35-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The game was not the biggest story of the week for him, however, as he became a father on Tuesday. Former girlfriend Brynn Cameron gave birth to a new boy named Cole Cameron Leinart. According to a report from the delivery room, Cole entered the world after being shoved out of the uterus by a fetus with “619” eye black.

Fatherhood did not bring good luck at Lambeau Field on Sunday, as Cole’s dad completed just 14 of his 35 attempts. Leinart was also sacked four times to go with his one touchdown and one interception. The disappointing Cardinals have lost seven in a row, so coach Dennis Green is likely to be on the unemployment line before long. The only Green who fared worse this weekend was Bowling Green, who somehow lost to Temple. The phrase “USC loses, while Temple wins” has led millions of college football fans to suspect that they are being punk’d.

While this was a rough weekend for Trojans of the present and recent past, the outlook should brighten considerably next week. USC gets to take out its frustrations on winless Stanford. Bush, presumably back at full strength, faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who yielded his first NFL touchdown on October 8. And Leinart gets the best news of all. His Arizona Cardinals have the week off.