- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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1) After routinely dispatching Utah State 66-10 in a game in which Marinovich was asked to throw the ball only 18 times, the Trojans were not cheered by the prospect of facing Ohio State on Sept. 23. Still, Marinovich figured to do better than he did against the Illini. He did not. On the third play of the second quarter, he sprained his left wrist—he is a southpaw—and left the game with USC trailing 3-0. In raced Foley, who promptly led the Trojans on an 80-yard touchdown drive. Marinovich remembers thinking, "I could lose this job as easily as I got it." Brushing aside the pain in his wrist, he told Smith he was ready to return, and the coach says he thought, Well, O.K., let's find out just how tough this kid is. With his wrist tightly taped, Marinovich promptly threw a school-record 87-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver John Jackson; he added three more scoring tosses, and the Trojans smashed the Buckeyes, 42-3.
Caveat: Yes, but Ohio State obviously was not the Ohio State of old, so while it looked like a significant win, it wasn't.
2) One week later, playing at Pullman, Wash., USC was dreadful. The Trojans found themselves with the ball on their own nine-yard line, trailing Washington State 17-10 with 3:31 remaining. Then, the Drive. Marinovich started off with three incompletions, but on fourth-and-10 he connected with flanker Gary Wellman for 15 yards. After being sacked twice and completing a pass for 20 yards, Marinovich confronted a fourth-and-five, and hit Jackson for six yards. Twice more he had difficult third-down situations, and twice he succeeded. With four seconds left in the game, and the Trojans on the two-yard line, Marinovich threw a strike to tailback Ricky Ervins in the left flat for the touchdown. Needing a two-point conversion to win, Marinovich went to Wellman for the completion and the 18-17 victory.
Said State coach Mike Price, "We made Marinovich that day. Give us credit. I should get a percentage of his pro contract." For his part, Marinovich insisted, "I'm not amazed." He should have been. Said an admiring Leroy Holt, the fullback, "I think Todd wanted to show the world he was a winner." A monstrous win.
How monstrous? Former President Reagan called. "He gave me his phone number," says Marinovich. "Told me if I was ever in Bel Air to stop by." The win salvaged the season, which almost certainly would have been ruined by a loss in Pullman.
Caveat: Yes, but it was Washington State, which has a 5-41-4 record against the Trojans and historically is included in sentences that contain words like Oregon and Oregon State. So big deal.
3) Against Washington the next week, Marinovich completed 16 of 17 passes in the first half, the one incompletion being a drop. USC won 24-16.
Caveat: Yes, but Washington also was having an off year, the Huskies' secondary was especially troubled, and winning by only eight points was not an impressive offensive performance. Just wait until Marinovich has to try to complete passes against Notre Dame.
4) Two weeks later, in South Bend, Marinovich paid no mind to the ghosts of Notre Dame's past. He admitted he had no idea who Gipp was, who Rockne was, who the Four Horsemen were. Armed with this lack of knowledge, he was brilliant, hitting 33 of 55 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns.
Caveat: Yes, but USC lost the game 28-24 because, in the waning moments, with the Trojans on the Irish 7, Marinovich threw three straight incompletions. (This after an afternoon of making the Notre Dame defense look ridiculous and helpless against his on-target and on-time arm.) See, biggest game since Illinois and the quarterback couldn't get it done. Probably can't win the big games.