Seniors stand tall in final triumph

In final game, those that remained at USC in spite of NCAA sanctions bask in the moment.

LOS ANGELES – USC started only four seniors against cross-town rival UCLA.

Their impact on the stat sheet was negligible.

Their impact on the team and its season, however, was immeasurable.

The group of Trojans playing before a sold out Coliseum crowd of 93,607 for the last time helped lead the program through perhaps its darkest moment, the devastating NCAA sanctions handed down in the Reggie Bush case, only to emerge on the other side with an exclamation point in their 50-0 rout of the Bruins on Saturday night.

In the process, USC secured a 10-win season and likely top 10 ranking for the first time since 2008, a feat that seemed impossible as the team entered the final year of its bowl ban with one of the youngest rosters in college football.

The likes of defensive tackles Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris, wide receiver Brandon Carswell and linebacker Chris Galippo made sure the team improved practice after practice, game after game.

Their leadership was critical as USC (10-2, 7-2) rounded into form, eventually winning at Notre Dame and Oregon and pushing Stanford to the limit after struggling early.

"When you put a group of young guys together with a group of older guys, they learn from the older guys," Harris said. "We lead by example. We play hard, they play hard. We play fast, they play fast. We messed up, they'll mess up.

"It will always start with us and they'll finish it."

But they didn't have to stick around. Through a loophole associated with the postseason ban, upperclassmen were free to transfer to another school without losing a year of eligibility.

A handful of players did. Some carved out significant roles on losing teams, others played sparingly for programs that reached the BCS.

Those that remained were determined to send a message, that USC was not dead and buried.

Message received.

Instead of the senior class that saw Troy ransacked and reduced to a shell of its former self, they will now be remembered as the group that returned the program to glory, NCAA be damned.

And while UCLA (6-6, 5-4) will play for the Pac-12 championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl next Friday, USC showed it was the rightful champion of the South division, even wearing t-shirts that said as much in the post-game press conference.

Asked if USC ‘ruined' the championship game, Harris could hardly contain his glee.

"We definitely did," he said. "Made my day. I love it. It's like a kick in the ass." Top Stories