October 16, 2007
How times have changed. Two short years ago, USC was ranked number one in the country and was favored to go to the BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl. Notre Dame was highly ranked and looked at toppling the Trojans, making a name for Charlie Weis and his Fighting Irish. The Trojans were loaded with talent: Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, Lendale White among others were on the Trojan roster. Leinart was fresh off of his Heisman winning season and Bush was on his way to collect his trophy.
Weis and his Fighting Irish were loaded with talent, coaching schemes and tried everything to wake up the echos at Notre Dame Stadium. With Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Zbikowski among others, the Fighting Irish had a reason to believe they would challenge the Trojans. And they did.
In what is now one of the most memorable games in college football which was a see-saw battle which ended with Leinart fumbling the ball out-of-bounds and the famed Bush-Push, the Trojans prevailed.
One of the most intriguing aspects of that game was the national attention it brought. For weeks leading up to the game, the nation and the press seemed fixated on the looming battle. Everyone talked about it. The media frenzy on both campuses was like "Howard Stern Gone Wild." For the Trojans, the media attention lasted for the remainder of the season.
Two years later and the press conference at Heritage Hall was no different than most teams the Trojans have faced this year. No national press. None of the back and forth between Carroll and Weis.
No Leinart, no Reggie, no tall grass, no Joe Montana and no media frenzy. Just another day at the office.
The following is some of what Pete Carroll had to say about the upcoming meeting with the Fighting Irish and where the Trojans are heading into South Bend on Saturday.
"We're really pleased we got a good game last week, we got a win, we got Mark (Sanchez) started and we got Joe (McKnight) started."
"There's still many questions on our football team, what's going on with some injuries and who's coming back, but we are feeling pumped up about the opportunity, guys are looking forward to this match up with Notre Dame."
Carroll stated that some players are trying to come back, including Stafon Johnson and Brian Cushing who both practiced on Monday. He also stated that Nick Howell practice yesterday. They will continue to work this week. He felt that Butch Lewis and Tiny Malu did a great job shoring up the offensive line last week.
He elaborated on the offensive line, they had 14 linemen to start the season and are down to seven who can play today. Carroll anticipates that players will recuperate but will continue to call on the reserves to do front line duty.
Carroll was playful when the spoke about the BCS rankings. He has made it clear in the past that he doesn't pay much attention to what happens in the polls. His philosophy is that the team should be concerned with the things they can control, winning football games, and that the polls are controlled by voters and computers, which is outside the control of the football team. Said Carroll, "I was told that we fell a little bit in the polls this week, I thought it was the first week (of the BCS ranking), so I don't know how you can fall in the first week…I don't know very much about it."
Pete Carroll was very enthusiastic about the play of Sanchez and McKnight and thought the team did extremely well to pull off the victory. He characterized the game as a fun game to play.
Finding the Team's Character
"Right now maybe expectations may have shifted a little bit…we're really working toward playing good solid football, regardless of who the opponent is, it doesn't matter we're playing either. It has nothing to do with the opponent, it has to do with yourselves, I think it's a very exciting time in that regard, because we're finding ourselves, we have to rediscover what we'll become…We played a lot of games with Sam Baker, playing at left tackle. If he doesn't make it back, that's a big difference…New guys have to emerge, new attitudes and new personalities…"
On Notre Dame
"I know that the situation with Notre Dame who's had a tough start to their season looks like a game that should be an easy game for us, it's not going to be. This is a good hard playing football team right now and they're finding themselves."
"This could be a just like the rest of them. This is like a conference game, we play them every year and they know us really well. We expect a tremendous battle. It makes it interesting, it makes it exciting."
Bits and Pieces
Rey Maualuga has a hip pointer, described as a very deep bruise by Carroll. The versatile Thomas Williams will start in his place in the middle. Presumably, then Clay Matthews or Brian Cushing will be on the strong side.
Carroll isn't sure if John David Booty will play, he will practice today and they will evaluate the situation over the week. Right now Sanchez is the starter, but they will evaluate the progress of Booty's recovery.