|Stakes are different now for Trojans|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 30 October 2007 12:34|
That's what the next-to-last month of the year means at Southern California, and what usually results is a run at the national championship.
Not this year.
USC is 20-0 in November games under coach Pete Carroll, and was 3-0 in regular-season December games, as well, before losing to UCLA 13-9 last year, knocking the Trojans out of the BCS national championship game.
The 13th-ranked Trojans (6-2, 3-2 Pac-10) were eliminated from the national title race last weekend, losing 24-17 to No. 4 Oregon, and there's a good chance their streak of playing in five straight BCS bowl games will end, as well.
They said it doesn't change their approach.
``It just makes people want to work harder,'' guard Chilo Rachel said Tuesday.
``We just have to stick to our way of doing things,'' safety Taylor Mays said. ``We have to finish strong. I don't think the focus changes.''
Mays knew of USC's perfect record in November games under Carroll, adding most of his teammates were aware, too.
``Every once in a while, he brings it up,'' Mays said regarding Carroll, whose overall record at USC is 71-14 including a 6-6 mark in his first year.
``It's been an awesome factor for us over the years. It's one that makes us proud of the way we finish in other seasons,'' Carroll said. ``I would love for that to happen for our seniors and our guys that have busted their tails around here for so long. Wherever that leaves us, we'll find out.
``That's not a big battle cry for me, never has been. But finishing, finishing has always been one of the tenets of our program. And it's finish time now. If we finish really strong, and we put this thing together, we'll have really overcome some difficult things.''
One of those difficult things has been the broken middle finger on quarterback John David Booty's throwing hand. The fifth-year senior was injured Oct. 6 in the second quarter against Stanford, and Booty threw four interceptions in the second half as the 41-point underdog Cardinal shocked the Trojans 24-23.
Third-year sophomore Mark Sanchez was an adequate fill-in for three games, but wasn't able to do enough to get USC over the hump at Oregon. Booty appears to have recovered sufficiently to get his job back, starting Saturday when the Trojans entertain Oregon State (5-3, 3-2).
``If John's full-speed, ready to go, he's the starter,'' Carroll said. ``That hasn't changed in my mind throughout any of this. The question mark through these last few weeks is whether he could play effectively or not. And if there is a question about that, we were thrilled to play Mark, because he's a heck of a player, a great young kid coming up.''
USC has won 30 of 32 games against Oregon State, with one of the victories by the Beavers a 33-31 triumph last year in Corvallis.
And the Trojans have won 20 straight over Oregon State at the Coliseum since losing 14-0 in 1960.
The game features two of the country's best defenses - Oregon State No. 1 nationally in rushing defense and 13th in total defense while USC ranks seventh in rushing defense and fourth in total defense.
``Oregon State is playing really good football right now, they've won three in a row,'' Carroll said. ``They've looked good in a number of ways.''
The Beavers might be without leading rusher Yvenson Bernard, who didn't play in the second half of last weekend's 23-6 victory over Stanford because of an injured shoulder.