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Players humbled in wake of loss

Times Staff Writer

Steve Smith had experienced it only once before.

On Monday, for the first time in more than three years, the senior flanker walked through the gate at Howard Jones Field and trotted to join teammates for a practice that did not follow a regular-season win.

USC’s 33-31 upset loss at Oregon State was its first since a triple-overtime defeat at California in September 2003.

“It seems like it’s been forever,” Smith said after the workout. “It’s in the back of your mind, what happened, and that’s going to drive me.

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“I just want to come out here and show the young guys how to bounce back and that you don’t take losses lightly here.”

Coach Pete Carroll said players were quieter and more accepting of criticism during meetings. The workout also was a bit more subdued.

“It was absolutely fitting. It was what it should’ve been,” Carroll said of his team’s mood. “Everybody needed to make sure they knew what the message was and that they were on it. ... We’re back to life and here we go.”

Quarterback John David Booty, a fourth-year junior, did not play in the 2003 loss to Cal, but he recalled the aftermath of the defeat. The Trojans won the rest of their regular-season games, then beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl to win the Associated Press national title.

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“We know you still can end up pretty good at the end of the year after losing a game,” he said.

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Smith said he declined to talk to the media after his 11-catch, 258-yard performance against Oregon State because he was sad about the loss.

Smith aggravated a sore ankle several times during the game, but finished with the second-best receiving yardage total in USC history.

“I was giving coach calls on the sideline,” Smith said, chuckling. “I thought I could do a little bit more.”

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Today is Halloween, but Carroll is not expected to be quite as tricky as he was last Oct. 31 when he and former running back LenDale White conspired to pull a prank on the Trojans.

Carroll and White jawed throughout practice and the running back was finally told to leave. A short time later, players heard White bellowing from a nearby building, and a stuffed figure wearing a No. 21 jersey fell from the rooftop.

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The fake suicide mostly generated relieved laughter, but Carroll also was later criticized.

Also last Halloween, linebacker Rey Maualuga attended a party and was arrested early the next morning for punching a man.

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Chauncey Washington, who fumbled twice against Oregon State, practiced but said his right ankle was sore. Washington focused Monday on ball security. “I’ve just got to practice holding onto it and have it better secured than what I’ve been doing,” he said. ... Funeral services for former USC All-American Marlin McKeever, who died last week, will be held Nov. 8 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Matthew’s Church in Long Beach. A rosary service will be held Nov. 7 at 6:30 p.m.

gary.klein@latimes.com


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