Posted by Rock Mayock 10:30PM Yesterday we explored the start of Mattie’s journey through the football world. Starting from his awkward fat cross eyed youth to his domination of the Serra League and California Interscholastic Federation Division I. We will bypass Mattie’s redshirt freshman season (2001) and relatively uneventful 2002 freshman year performing mop up duty for Heisman Palmer, to devote more time to one of the most magical seasons in USC football history.
Prior to the start of the 2003 football season there were a lot questions about the direction of the USC program. Third year coach Pete Carroll had just come off the absolute obliteration of Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl, however cornerstone pieces Heisman winning QB Carson Palmer and All American safety Troy Polamalu had graduated and moved on the NFL. It was unknown if Carroll would be able to sustain the momentum or if he would be a one pump chump.
Promoting his culture of excellence through competition, Carroll along with offensive coordinator Norm Chow, left the QB position up for grabs between Matt Cassell, Brandon Hance and Mattie. While some people will say that Carroll and Chow handed the spot to Mattie because they simply needed a starting QB, I seem to remember Mattie handily winning the spot with his exceptional play during Spring ball. Nonetheless, after being named the starter, Mattie told Coach Carroll, “You’re never going to regret this.” (I have goose bumps and quite possibly a BOING!)
Winning the starting job was but the first, and easiest, challenge in Mattie’s fledgling USC career. USC opened its season on the road against Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game placed Heisman hopeful and current Raiders QB Jason Campbell against first-time starter Championship Mattie Leinart. Early in the game Campbell was picked off by Darnell Bing setting up Mattie’s first completion as starting QB, a touchdown pass to Mike Williams. Behind the stellar play of Mattie and a little bit of help from a stout USC defense, the Men of Troy prevailed over the punk ass Tigers 23-0.
Mattie and the Trojans proceeded to win their first three games of the season before losing a triple overtime heart breaker to Cal at Memorial Stadium. It is a little known fact that the FOOTBALLPHDS were in attendance for this game and witnessed first hand the growing legend of Mattie. It is also a little known fact that the FOOTBALLPHDS ran into Leonardo DiCaprio in line at Orgasmo Pizza during the same trip.
Following the triple overtime loss to Cal, USC was back on the road in Tempe to play Arizona State. In one of the most frightening moments in my adult life, during the second quarter Mattie injured his left knee and he was taken to the locker room for evaluation. His return to the game was in question however Mattie sacked up and returned for the start of the third quarter. He ultimately finished 12-23 for 289-yards in a 37-17 USC win.
Mattie lead his Trojans to an 11-1 season record and #1 ranking in both the AP and Coaches Polls. USC appeared to be a lock for the BCS Title Game however they were inexplicably dropped to #3 in the final BCS ranking behind Oklahoma and LSU. Ever the optimist, Coach Carroll outwardly displayed excitement to face Michigan in USC’s home away from home, The Rose Bowl.
Mattie made the most of his Rose Bowl opportunity going 23-34 ,327 yards, 3 passing TDs and one receiving TD (see the highlights below) in USC’s 28-14 demolition of Michigan. Mattie was named Rose Bowl MVP and USC finished the season ranked #1 in the AP, thereby creating the first split national championship since the 1997/1998 season. In his first year as a starter, Mattie truly did become Championship Mattie and could have easily been Heisman Mattie.
In retrospect, Mattie should have been Heisman Mattie for his performance throug out the season. In 13 starts he finished with a 12-1 record, 255-402 (63.2% completion), 3,556-yards with 38TDs and 9INTs. Instead Mattie finished 6th in Heisman voting behind punk ass winner Jason White.
Tomorrow we will explore Championship Mattie’s Junior season and his retribution against Oklahoma for robbing him of his 2004 BCS title game.