Friday, October 1, 2004
Bush, White pack lethal one-two punch
By Ted Miller Special to ESPN.com
The "President" is flashy and electric on the field, mellow off it. The "Showcase" keeps things simple, but is known to express himself freely and at length away from the gridiron.
The Showcase and the President. Thunder and Lightning. LenDale White and Reggie Bush.
Physical LenDale White has a nose for the end zone.
It seems ridiculous to call USC's sophomore tailback tandem a one-two punch. Either one is enough to knock out a college football team.
This is college stuff, so let's get literary.
White is Hemingway. He is 6-foot-2, 235 pounds of power and streamlined footwork; he cuts and goes without a lot of decorative maneuvers. He is good.
Bush is Shakespeare. He's gifted with speedy brilliance and flourish. Bush is 200 pounds of sound and fury signifying touchdown. He doth rise from the ground like feathered Mercury striding the heavens.
Said White on Bush, "He's smooth; he's got mad, crazy speed. He's got some crazy stuff."
Said Bush on White, "He's very physical. He softens them up and I run by them."
White, who led the Trojans with 754 yards rushing last year as a true freshman, averages 83.8 yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry with five touchdowns. Bush averages 82.5 yards and 6.5 yards per carry with three touchdowns.
The reason Bush, a 6-0, 200-pound San Diego native and former consensus prep All-American, gets so much more publicity is that he is a lot more than a tailback.
Bush, who's broken 10.4 in the 100 meters, ranks third in the nation in all-purpose yards with 213 per game. He returns punts; he returns kicks. He's probably the nation's best receiver who doesn't play receiver (see 14 receptions for 196 yards and four touchdowns).
He has 13 plays of over 20 yards in four games. He averages 10 yards every time he touches the ball.
Ask other coaches about stopping Bush, and there is resignation. That is a job better suited for NFL coaches a few years down the road.
"You really can't [stop Bush], to be perfectly honest," Stanford coach Buddy Teevens said. "He's in a class by himself."
Stanford gave USC a scare last weekend, until Bush's 33-yard -- spinning, juking, feinting -- punt return set up a short touchdown burst from White. Bush finished with 240 total yards and a touchdown.
Thunder and Lightning and the rest of the Trojans are off this weekend but will play host to California on Oct. 9 in what is widely considered the Pac-10 game of the year.
While Bush resembles the elusive Gayle Sayers or the versatile Marshall Faulk, White, who was slowed by a sprained ankle against Stanford, has been compared to former Trojan great Ricky Bell or Eddie George.
White, a Denver native, has a nose for the end zone, scoring 18 touchdowns in 17 career games. Of his 335 yards this year, 283 have come after initial contact.
He's also the brasher of the two. His nickname "Showcase" is illustrated by tattoos "Show" and "Case" on his left and right triceps.
He calls USC, "one of the most powerful teams in the world," and said he never thought twice about signing with the Trojans in 2003, despite the presence of the highly touted Bush.
"I'm one of the best in the world; where else can you go to prove that than Southern California?" White said.
USC's Reggie Bush averages 10 yards per touch.
Bush, first called "The President" by former Trojans' receiver Keary Colbert, wants to graduate in three years and expresses mild frustration that the demands of football forced him to change his major from premed to psychology.
"I'm more the quiet type," Bush said. "LenDale is more outspoken and outgoing. I keep to myself."
They're good friends, but, just like brothers, they don't always get along. And they compete every day, wanting to do whatever it takes to maintain or expand their opportunities on the field.
There is only a modicum of a preconceived plan concerning who plays when during games; it's mostly up to the feel of the coaches.
"We just kind of wait and see what happens each week," coach Pete Carroll said.
While Bush has become a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate, White gets less attention. Both said there is no jealousy or frustration with sharing repetitions, and White said he has no problem with the media glare shining mostly on Bush.
"The things I do complement this team just as much," he said. "I'm not jealous at all. I'm happy for him."
He has made one executive decision. As far as the "Thunder and Lightning" nickname, he's claiming "Lightning."
"We switched it from the way people expect it," he explained.
Ted Miller covers the Pac-10 for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.