Saturday, October 28, 2006

USC (Late) Game Day: Now What?

So, this is what it feels like. It’s been so long since USC Football lost a regular season game, it’s tough to remember. How are we supposed to feel? What are we supposed to do?

Should we chalk it up to injuries and youth, and relax our BCS expectations this season, knowing that we will have a fully loaded (and experienced) team next year? Or, should we hold on to hopes of Pete Carroll "Kool-Aid" inspired scenarios that will get us back to the national championship game?

I don’t know.

I do know that no team – not even the USC Trojans – deserves to win any game after putting the ball on the ground three times and giving up an easy punt return. I also know that the Trojans do deserve some credit after a hell of a comeback behind John David Booty’s 406 yards passing and Steve Smith’s clutch grabs for 258 yards.

Still, I’m not sure I know what it all means. The last two times USC lost at Oregon State the results of each season couldn’t have been more different.

In 2000, the year before Carroll was hired, the Trojans were No. 8 in the nation before losing to the Beavers 31-21. That team went on to lose six of its last eight games for last place in the Pac-10 and no bowl game, with a 5-6 overall record.

In 1967, No. 1 ranked USC, with O.J. Simpson at tailback, lost 3-0 in a mud game at Oregon State. Of course, the Trojans recovered the next week to beat ugla 21-20 in perhaps the most significant game in the history of the USC-ugla rivalry. Those Trojans went on to beat Indiana in the Rose Bowl to claim the national championship.

Usually, history adds perspective and context, but it does neither here. And as we’ve seen in recent weeks, looking for answers in past Carroll-era scenarios doesn’t help much either. Regardless, we will have our answers soon enough. It’s all about the next five games.

For now, like Carroll, I know what I believe: “It’s all about the ball.”

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