"I'm not sure I have the right words to describe being humbled like this. I don't really know where to put it," Pete Carroll said. "We got our butt kicked on the defense and they out executed us. It was a humbling day of work."
For the second time in three weeks, senior safety Taylor Mays found himself sitting in front of the media fielding question after question about USC's inability to stop another high-powered Pac-10 offense, this time with the sounds of Stanford's locker room celebration spilling into the interview room.
"They deserve that," Mays said. "They deserve to have that feeling. They beat us."
And for the second time in three years, Jim Harbuagh has done what few other coaches in the country have been able to do, beat Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
In fact, Harbaugh handed Pete Carroll his first defeat in November since his arrival at USC in 2001. Carroll had been perfect in the month, reeling off 28 straight wins before Saturday.
After the loss, the USC locker room was nearly silent and filled with puzzled faces as the players and coaches didn't have any real answers for what had just transpired on the Coliseum turf just minutes before.
"I am not really of a clear mind right now," Carroll said when talking with reporters.
After 60 minutes of domination by the Cardinal, the Trojans find themselves in a place that is unfamiliar and not very comforting.
With three losses this season, all coming in conference play, USC is all but out of the Pac-10 title hunt and out of contention for a BCS bowl berth.
For a season that has had its share of highs and lows, Saturday's 34-point loss at home has to be considered rock bottom.
"They brought it and they kept bringing it. We came out and there was something wrong," Mays said. "They were more physical than us."
Gerhart, Stanford's 6-1, 235-pound battering ram, gashed USC's defense for a game-high 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns while perfectly setting up the play-action passing game.
After two early turnovers by freshman quarterback Matt Barkley that were quickly turned into Stanford touchdowns, the Trojans found themselves down 14 points and in a game of catch up that never turned their way.
"We started really fast," Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck said. "Starting fast in both halves really helped."
Luck completed 14-of-22 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and really hurt USC with his legs, adding 61 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
For USC, the offense had some bright moments and kept the Trojans close until Stanford's 27-point fourth quarter explosion.
Carroll relied heavily on junior tailback Joe McKnight, and he responded with a solid performance, rushing for 142 yards on 16 carries including a 51-yard gain and a 28-yard touchdown late in third that pulled the Trojans within a touchdown.
Butler also pulled in a 36-yard touchdown pass that was the longest of his career.
"He played really well," Carroll said. "He did a lot of good stuff."
While Butler made the most of his opportunity he was disappointed in the final result.
"I had a pretty decent game. Every player wants to make plays, but wants to win the game too," Butler said. "I guess I didn't do enough because we lost and you never want to lose a game."
At the end of the long day, Carroll was asked if he has seen any signs of improvement the last few weeks and frankly replied, "There are no signs of that, not after today. Coming out today and getting pounded does not indicate that."
With a bye week coming, the Trojans now have a week to evaluate themselves, find some answers and begin preparing for the rival UCLA Bruins.
"We will work our way through this and try and get mentally and physically right," said Carroll.
Andrew Luck beat the Trojans with his arm and legs on Saturday. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)
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