… to be human again.
From 2002, Pete Carroll’s second season at USC, to the 2007 Rose Bowl the Trojans lost a total of 6 games by an average margin of 3.67 points: a 7 pointer to 11-2 Kansas State in Manhattan in 2002 along with a 3 point overtime loss to 2002 Co-Pac 10 Champion Washington State in Pullman; a triple overtime shocker in Strawberry Canyon in 2003; an epic Rose Bowl loss to a guy who may turn out to be one of the greatest players of the modern era; a deflected 2-point conversion in Corvallis and a redzone interception in Pasadena in 2006.
Say what you want about Oregon State and UCLA, but at least keep in mind that both teams took USC to its limits in the 2004 title year.
And then there’s Stanford. There is simply no accounting for Stanford: at home, with a 35 game winning streak on the line, against a rookie coach who pissed off Carroll, starting a wide eyed lesbian ceramics associate professor at QB. Stanford.
So why was I standing in the bowels of Beaver Stadium – having just watched Penn State dispatch Wisconsin with ruthless ease and suffered through three updates about the USC-Arizona game (10-10, Arizona up 13-10, USC up 17-13…), all of them accompanied by wild cheering from the crowd – with a huge grin on my face? I watched the last minutes of the game on one of those TV screens they have by concession stands. I watched with a crowd who desperately wanted to see USC lose, because everyone loves an underdog. When David Buehler kicked it through the uprights I turned around and grinned maliciously at them, the kind of grin that’s less smile and more baring of fangs. I pumped a few “V”s, which probably confused everyone. And for the first time since that 2002 season, my favorite season in who knows how many years of watching football, I didn’t think about mistakes, injuries, what-ifs, polls, ramifications, anything, really, except one thing: how good it feels to win.
It’s been so long since USC’s had a realistic chance of losing to anyone except one of the traditional powerhouses of college football (Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan). This is what it felt like in 2002, but, more specifically, this is what it felt like pre-2002: anything can happen, anything will happen, and, yes, even a 7 point win over a hapless Arizona team is a miracle, a godsend, a blessing, a wonder, something worth celebrating in of itself. This was not the case with some of the wins over the past several years. I was spoiled; we all were.
I’m a fan, so naturally I have ideas about what needs to happen for USC to be in New Orleans. (Hah!). But for the first time in a long time I’m only thinking about the next game and the stated goal: to make sure Notre Dame’s only win is over UCLA, which is thoroughly acceptable to a USC fan. Whether that win’s by 3 or 30, I’ll take it.
Oddly, this seems like an evolution, or at least a personal one. I’m sure Pete Carroll doesn’t exactly agree, though according to Scott Wolf:
About the only one who seems oblivious is Carroll. He blithely said it was a “sweet game for us” and “a great day for everyone here at the Coliseum.”
I have a lot to say about Wolf, by the way, but for now: he’s the best USC beat reporter because he very often has the best information; he’s also hideously unreadable thanks in part to his inability to understand the basic tenets of grammar and objectivity. And in this case, he also misses the point – though I can’t blame him, since many others probably did, too. But not Carroll.
It was a sweet game for me, the sweetest kind of victory: any victory at all.
“You have to worry about what’s best for the team,” [Steve] Sarkisian said. “You can’t worry about (the fans).”
Ask 2002 Ohio State if any of those wins are anything less than magnificent. I’m not saying I want this to be the status quo. A five touchdown victory over Charlie and the (On Strike) Touchdown Factory would be lovely, but, again, it’s nice to be human again.
From the same Daily News article:
“People have to learn this is the way it’s going to be for a while,” Sarkisian said. “This isn’t Matt (Leinart), Reggie (Bush), LenDale (White) and Dwayne (Jarrett).
“None of them are going to be easy now. We have to play tight football games. Field position is a big deal now. We never talked about that before.
“We’re going to be a in a dogfight. We’re learning. We’re a different football team. The punter matters now.“
The bolded portions are my own doing. They say, essentially, welcome back to reality. This is how 99% of college football teams do it. Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted, because it might be a while until it happens again – if at all. Which is something else worth reviewing: did I enjoy the past 5 years enough? I think so. I hope so. I was drunk most of the time, anyway. Not that I’ve evolved past that.
Not that I’ve evolved past reveling in the pain of others, either.
Bettering USC means a lot to the LSU Nation as evidenced by what happened when Tiger Stadium public address announcer Dan Borne announced USC’s loss to the record crowd of 92,910 just after LSU scored a touchdown to cut Florida’s lead to 17-14 midway in the fourth quarter. Players and fans went wild, and the noise was deafening.
“When they announced the USC-Stanford score, the stadium came loose,” Miles said. “We were operating to win the game, and when that happened it was like another shot of adrenaline that just said, ‘C’mon guys, let’s go play.’ It was a nice feel.” [LINK]
Guess what I did after watching PSU bludgeon Wisconsin and USC escape with a win? I watched Kentucky beat LSU, and I cheered my little ol’ schadenfreude loving heart out. Then I watched Oregon State beat Cal at home. For a good four hour period on Saturday I was back to a very familiar, very comfortable place: screw everyone that’s not dressed in cardinal and gold. That also felt a bit like an evolution.