There is no way to minimize what happened to the USC football team in Eugene, Oregon on Halloween night.
It was so devastating, so convincing that it merits our full attention now. For the first time in Pete Carroll’s nine years as the Trojans’ coach one of his teams was humiliated.
The 47-20 defeat was by far the most one-sided one he’s suffered at USC. The defensive master was in charge of a unit that gave up 613 yards.
And Carroll takes the blame.
“The problem was a defensive scheme that caused our young players to be too cautious,’ he said. “It was a mistake on my part to put them in that position.”
Carroll said last year’s group was far more experienced and probably could have handled it much better.
As for what happened, Carroll called it ‘a nightmare.”
Let’s remember that all of last season’s Trojan linebackers are now in the NFL. And let’s admit that Oregon had baffled other opponents with a wide-open offense triggered by a quarterback who can run and pass.
The Ducks might have won the national championship in 2007 had quarterback Dennis Dixon not been injured late in the season. And Dixon might have won the Heisman Trophy. So they play some great football up there.
But fans here have grown accustomed to Trojan teams turning back every kind of challenge. Carroll earns his $4.1 million annual salary by recruiting the best players nationally and coming up with successful defensive schemes.
So a total breakdown of the defense gets our attention. This was the most rushing yards a USC team had allowed in 32 years.
“I never got beat like this,” said running back Joe McKnight. “Not in high school, not when I was little.”
Quarterback Matt Barkley observed: “I never thought this could happen to us.”
Well, it did, And now it looks like USC won’t qualify for the BCS championship game or the Rose Bowl Game. The new goal would be he Holiday Bowl.
This Saturday USC will play at Arizona State.
“It will be our last road game,” said Carroll. “Then we’ll have three in the Coliseum.”
Strangely, by Saturday USC will have played six of its nine games on the road. You’d think one of the nation’s premier football powers would be able to control its schedule better than that.
Carroll regards the task of regrouping “an unusually significant challenge.”
He said the attitude has been good in practice.
“We had one of our better Mondays,” he said.
But the Trojans are battered, and some key players don’t figure to be at their best.
But things could be worse. USC could be 0-5 in the Pac-10 like UCLA is.