When my brother was at SC, the main focus for the football team was to win the Pac-10 title and face off against the Big-Ten's finest. There were some epic battles in the past between SC, Ohio State and Michigan. Too many grand memories to remember.
In 2003 fans were treated to the first SC Michigan Rose Bowl in 14 years. When I was a punk kid, it seemed as if a Rose Bowl match up with Michigan or Ohio State was the norm--like they were on the schedule.
So, I took my brother's thoughts as if they were the end result of anger, disbelief and disappointment. "He'd come around", I thought. My brother called me when I was on my journey home from the Rose Bowl, and he had calmed down quite a bit and rationality was once again a factor in his thought process. I said, "Before this season began, if someone said SC would finish the 2006 season 10-2 with a berth in the Rose Bowl, you'd have taken the offer, no questions asked.
After we finished discussing the game, I stopped off at Philly's Best for a cheese steak sandwich and a large Barq's root beer to wash it down. The women taking my order asked if I had watched the game tonight. I said, "I was at the game and it was a tough night for the Trojans. She said, "If I had bet on the game, I would have lost a lot of money." At least she didn't bet. The Trojans failed to cover the spread seven times this season--so far.
As I sat down to eat, the television at Philly's Best had on the California Lottery's Big Spin. The first contestant, not sure if there were more because I changed the channel to the Big-12 conference championship game, was asked what his occupation was. He said, "Cement pourer." Lucky contestant No. 1 grabbed a hold of the wheel and gave it a forceful twirl. The drama began. Would he win millions or $25,000? Either way, I would think a cement pourer would be ecstatic either way. The wheel stopped on $75,000 and the contestant appeared unemotional and almost upset. That brings me to SC playing in the Rose Bowl and my brother's thoughts about the game immediately following the loss to UCLA. SC fans not caring about the Rose Bowl because the Trojans failed to earn a spot in the BCS championship game, reminded me of the cement pourer winning $75,000. Except, SC spun the lottery wheel and didn't win three million or whatever the top prize is, but it won one or two million, and are indifferent with the outcome Come on, I understand SC controlled its own destiny to a Jan. 8 date against the Buckeyes, but what the Trojans accomplished this season shouldn't be considered failing or underachieving. SC will play Michigan or LSU in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 and a victory over either school will ease the pain of tonight's painful defeat.
A few days before UCLA played Notre Dame, a Bruin alum emailed me a message that basically read, "I hope the Irish don't blow us out." I emailed him back writing, "You honestly don't believe UCLA can't beat Notre Dame? I thought the Bruin defense had looked solid leading up to the game in South Bend and Cowan looked as if he was composed and, at the very least, wouldn't lose the game for them."
After the game he sent me another reply to an e-mail I sent him. It read, "The difference between USC and UCLA is USC always knows it will pull out a big close game and we always know we'll lose." He pointed out the comeback last season against Notre Dame--specifically the final drive, of course.
My reply was, "SC had a fifth year Heisman winning quarterback and a Heisman running back. I'm not sure this years team could mount a game winning touchdown like the one at Notre Dame." Well, so far this years team hasn't. Yes, close but no cigar at Corvallis and the Rose Bowl. Both games ending with a Booty pass being batted or tipped. Unlike baseball, two strikes and you're out.
National championship caliber teams find a way to score a game winning touchdown, and the 2006 Trojan football team has shown us on two occasions, it's not a National championship caliber unit, yet. However, I do believe next years team is the one to beat. Not that it matters now, because SC has one more game to focus on this season and next year will require the same one-game-at-a-time mentality Pete Carroll preaches.
Congratulations to the Bruins for a well-deserved victory. Now the UCLA alum can believe the Bruins can hang on and win a close game against one of the top teams in the country.