Trojans must regroup quickly
Upon further review . . .
The worst loss of the Pete Carroll era at USC looked even worse the day after.
That might not seem possible in the wake of the humiliation suffered by the Trojans at Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, but Carroll experienced it all over again Sunday in his office when he viewed tape of the 47-20 demolition.
“It makes me sick to watch us play like that,” Carroll said.
Is Oregon that good or is USC that bad?
The answer probably falls somewhere in between.
Oregon’s dominating victory moved the Ducks from 10th to eighth in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
The Trojans fell from fifth to 12th, taking them out of the title-game equation for the fourth consecutive year.
But the BCS computers, typically a topic of derision for the coach, were the least of Carroll’s concerns less than 24 hours after his team suffered the most humiliating defeat in his nine seasons with the Trojans.
“You wish you could go out and try to do it over,” Carroll said. “But you have to live with it.”
The question now: Where do the Trojans go from here?
The simple answer is Tempe, Ariz., where they will play Arizona State on Saturday.
But tougher opponents loom.
Start with the Trojans’ collective psyche.
USC has regrouped before from a loss at Oregon. Two years ago, they won their last four games and benefited from a knee injury suffered by Ducks quarterback Dennis Dixon to win the Pacific 10 Conference title.
Mathematically, it could happen again.
But USC must look inward this week.
“This loss hurt a lot more than that one because we got beat up,” senior safety Taylor Mays said after the game, comparing the 2007 defeat with this year’s.
The Trojans on Sunday were still feeling the physical effects of the Ducks’ assault.
Linebacker Malcolm Smith suffered a shoulder injury that could keep him sidelined indefinitely.
Middle linebacker Chris Galippo and reserve linebacker Jarvis Jones suffered neck sprains and will be evaluated this week.
Defensive lineman Armond Armstead suffered a wrist fracture, and doctors must determine if he is capable of playing with a cast.
And defensive end Everson Griffen suffered a turf toe injury that could limit his effectiveness.
It was no surprise that the injured came from the front seven on a night when Oregon gained 613 yards, 391 on the ground.
Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James exploited the Trojans’ front throughout the game, repeatedly bursting past or through linemen and linebackers into the secondary.
A linebacker was not among USC’s top six tacklers. Four were defensive backs.
“A horrible statistic for consistent [defensive] run play,” Carroll said.
USC’s front seven, a notable strength of the team during the first half of the season, repeatedly was caught out of position or out of energy trying to keep up with the tempo of the Ducks’ no-huddle spread attack.
“There are responsibilities for guys to be in gaps,” Carroll said. “There are different things that messed it up. . . . It was just a series of inconsistency.”
Several USC players said after the game that the Ducks ran the same “power” play over and over and over again. The Trojans knew it was coming and still could not stop it.
“It’s not rocket science,” Carroll said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
Not that the secondary shined. Masoli passed for 222 yards.
“We had a game, for the first time I can remember, it got out of hand,” Carroll said. “The more the game went on, the more obvious it was we weren’t able to control these guys.”
The task now for Carroll is get the defense to play as it did for most of the first half of the season when it ranked among the best units in college football.
Second-half defensive collapses in victories over Notre Dame and Oregon State portended what happened at Oregon.
“We have to get our front seven shored up first,” Carroll said. “The older players now have to be the ones carrying the message . . . [about] how you refocus and go to what’s at hand.
“If you dwell on what already transpired, you’re not moving forward. You’re stuck.”