- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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And therein lies the reason the USC offense ultimately made the difference. Tailback Fred Crutcher, a bulldog at 5'10", 195 pounds, carried the ball 35 times for 117 yards, never once for more than eight yards. But, he said later, "Every time I ran, I thought, 'Hold on, hold on! Don't be the one that blows it.' " And he held on. In fact, except for one inconsequential interception of quarterback Tim Green in the first quarter, the Trojans never suffered a turnover.
Consequently, besides its one short touchdown drive, Washington had poor field position all day. Eleven of the 14 times the Huskies had the ball they had to start inside their own 30. Nine times they were forced to begin on or inside their 20. Washington's decisive failure on offense occurred midway through the third quarter. At the time it was no more than a blip on the screen. Ahead 7-6 on the strength of Jacque Robinson's four-yard TD run just before the half, the Huskies had fashioned their best drive of the day, moving smartly from their 28 to a third-and-two at the USC 32. There, quarterback Paul Sicuro put a tight spiral right into the front door of split end Mark Pattison, who was running free and toward the sidelines near the Trojan 20. But Pattison's hands rejected the ball, fumbling it away as he passed over the sideline. So instead of continuing on to perhaps a touchdown or an easy field goal, and a lead that might have held, Washington drew a blank by missing a subsequent 49-yard field-goal try. Taking over at their 32, the Trojans put together the day's only drive worthy of the name.
Enter the irrepressible Green. Actually, Green had been in all along, but he'd been restrained by the game's conservative bent and Tollner's impositions against "going crazy." Which would be more Green's style. Descriptions that come to mind when coaches and teammates talk of Green are the various derivatives of words like "brassy," but they say them with a smile. Tollner says Green has "the style and temperament of a linebacker." Indeed, everyone pretty much agrees that if you could have one guy to help you take on 30, you'd pick Green.
Green's swagger, however, hardly hides his limitations. He had never played much and was scheduled to be redshirted this, his senior year, but starting quarterback Sean Salisbury went down with an injury in the second game. Green volunteered to forgo redshirting to help fill the gap, knowing, he said, "that even if I wait a year, I'll probably sit on the bench again."
Green started the fourth game, against Washington State, and progressed at a snail's pace. Tollner was careful not to give him too much responsibility, but he enjoyed Green's "guts and gall," the way he yelled at teammates to do better. Once when freshman tailback hotshot Ryan Knight spelled Crutcher and fouled up, Green shouted, "Hey, Ryan, run like an SC tailback is supposed to run or get the hell off the field!"
On Saturday, Tollner was still imploring Green to "stay in control." And he did. "He never forced a pass," said Tollner afterward, "and when he got hit he tucked the ball in and held on." Green threw accurately if not stylishly and began the winning drive with a 23-yard first-down strike to flanker Timmie Ware.
He came back to Ware two plays later, this time for 11 yards to the Washington 34. Then on third-and-seven at the 31, he made the offensive play of the game—a 12-yard pass to split end Hank Norman on virtually a busted play. "I blooped it over a guy, and Hank wasn't even running the right pattern," said Green. "I'd called an audible, but my voice was gone, so he didn't pick it up, and he ran the wrong route. School-yard football. But it's not a matter of running out and cutting here or there. It's a matter of guts and fight. We've got that."
From the Husky 19, Crutcher carried five straight times, battering the Washington line left and right on a mix of quick hits. "Bam, bam, bam, pass," said Green. "Bam, bam, touchdown. That's USC football." Jordan then put the game out of reach on Southern Cal's next possession with his third field goal, a 46-yarder.
In the USC dressing room, Tollner told the Trojans how "lucky" he felt to be their coach. Tollner knows about luck. He was one of 26 survivors of the 1960 plane crash that killed 16 members of the Cal Poly football team. He then gave a game ball to university president James Zumberge, who had taken that job in 1980 only to run smack into the NCAA charges of academic and recruiting malfeasance that rocked the USC program and led to the two-year ban on TV and bowl appearances. Next, the president of the Rose Bowl committee, Jim Boyle, thrust a bouquet of roses into Tollner's hands, and as Tollner doled it out stem by stem to the players, Boyle shouted, "It's of-fi-cial!"
A Trojan in the back croaked, "Was there any doubt, baby?"