Fast-forward a week. After Saturday's victory, Coach Carroll was animated, introspective and communicated his thoughts well. He sang praises about quarterback Mark Sanchez, freshman running back Joe McKnight, the ability of the offensive line to bounce back despite a multitude of injuries, special teams and defense.
Sign Post Ahead, Don't Look Now
Banged-up, bruised and left for the scrap heat by the national media and pollsters, this team is just heating up. If history might indicate anything about Pete Carroll teams, don't look now, but as Carroll is known to say, "We're just getting started!"
This version of the USC Trojan Football team has not found its identity – yet. But it took a huge step in that direction Saturday when they defeated the Arizona Wildcats in a win that challenged the Trojans' intestinal fortitude. Though against a lesser-ranked opponent, the team found a way to pull together a win in a tightly fought battle.
This Train is Bound for Glory
One of the most inspiring aspects of watching a Pete Carroll team is seeing how the team develops over the course of a year. In Carson Palmer's senior year, no one gave the team much credit. By the end of that season, the Trojans dismantled a favored Iowa Hawkeye team who supposedly was led by the better quarterback, Brad Banks. This team struggled at the start of the year, but was in high gear come the Orange Bowl.
In Matt Leinart's first season, USC was left for lost, overlooked by the BCS computers, but not the pollsters – the Trojans were voted number one in the AP and Coaches' polls and dismantled Michigan in the Rose Bowl. This team struggled against inferior opponents at the beginning of the year, but outmatched a highly ranked Michigan team.
Leinart's second year was similar, the national media favored Oklahoma in the BCS Orange Bowl, where Bob Griese commented that Jason White was surrounded by All-American receivers while all USC had was Matt Leinart. USC thrashed Oklahoma 55-19. This team was undefeated.
The hallmark of a Pete Carroll team is that they do not pick up steam until they after they meet their challenges (usually before midseason). Then the team steamrolls through the second half of the season. Don't look now, but this team is just finding itself. Be careful, be very careful – the second half of the season starts this week for the Trojans.
Are You Blind? aka, What Have You Been Drinking?
The national media and local fans have joined together to question Pete Carroll's ability to coach. The national media and pollsters have written off this team. How can you consider top honors to a team who loses to Stanford and struggles against Washington and Arizona, they ask. The local fans have booed the team on consecutive Saturdays.
Lost in the translation: Pete Carrol is 66-5 in the last five years, and 35-1 in the Coliseum going back some six years or more. In today's immediate gratification/media frenzied world, questions have arisen about Carroll's ability to coach. Questioning Pete Carroll's ability to coach is akin to questioning the sun's ability to rise in the morning. Without getting into the technicality of it all – the sun usually rises.
The Proof is in the Pudding
Looking back over the years, it should be apparent that Pete Carroll is the master of adjustments. He has shown the ability to accomplish successful half-time adjustments in every game he coaches. Most importantly, Carroll has shown time and again, it's not how you start the season, but how you end it. He always claims a game can not be won in the first three quarters – in can only be won in the fourth. Likewise, a national championship cannot be won in the first six games of the season. It is usually won in the BCS championship series.
The Trojans are a long shot for New Orleans come January. What is clear though, is that whoever plays USC in a bowl game should not get too over confident. The national press and local fans? Look before you condemn the coach. After all, as Carroll would say, "We're just getting started!" Don't count these Trojans out just yet.