|USC Legends News|
USC is still standing
The Trojans had a small second-quarter lead against Stanford, which entered as a 41-point underdog. They were playing at home in the Los Angeles Coliseum. The team doctor told USC coach Pete Carroll that Booty could play provided he felt OK.
Booty wanted to finish.
Carroll thought back to his NFL days when he coached the New England Patriots. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe had suffered a similar injury, stayed in the game and finished as a hero.
"I got into my competitive mode and wanted to hang with it and kind of recreate a little history," Carroll said. "It didn't work out."
Booty threw four second-half interceptions, and Stanford ended USC's 35-game home winning streak, a colossal upset that had experts and fans across the country wondering if finally, after so much success, USC's headlock on the Pac-10 was starting to weaken.
Entering Thursday's showdown against No. 6 Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium, the question remains unanswered. Injuries have prevented No. 11 USC (8-2 overall, 5-2 in the Pac-10) from rallying into the national-title conversation, but a Rose Bowl berth still can be pulled from the top hat.
"The mood in our locker room is we have to win the rest of our games," said defensive end Kyle Moore, referring to ASU and the season finale against UCLA. "We want to go to a BCS bowl. We know what we have to do. We just have to play like we normally play."
Problem is, USC fans have learned to expect greater accomplishment. Over the past four years, the Trojans have entered November as a national-title contender. Last season, they appeared destined for the BCS championship game in Glendale until UCLA upset them on the regular season's final Saturday. They settled for a Rose Bowl win over Michigan as Pac-10 co-champs and finished fourth in the final Associated Press poll, the fifth consecutive season they had been ranked as high.
The hype carried. With 10 returning defensive starters this season, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said USC might be the best team in the history of college football. ASU coach Dennis Erickson said the Trojans belonged in the National Football League. Washington State coach Bill Doba said no one could beat them but themselves.
Then the season began. And injuries piled up. To date, 12 USC starters or projected starters have missed time. Booty, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, missed three games with the finger injury. All-America tackle Sam Baker has missed the past two with a hamstring injury, although Carroll expects him back on Thanksgiving. In all, USC has started seven different combinations along the offensive front.
"We've never played with our backup quarterback in the seven years I've been here, so we've had to go through that," Carroll said. "Along with just getting hammered during the middle of the year at so many positions, that's the most injury adversity we've dealt with. Hopefully, we'll be stronger for it."
USC has won two in a row since its last loss, 24-17 at Oregon. Chauncey Washington rushed for 220 yards and a touchdown Nov. 10 at California and has told beat reporters that he hopes to have the same workload against an Arizona State rushing defense that ranks third in the conference.
"People sometimes have trouble understanding how hard it is to win every game," Erickson said. "Sometimes your situation as a program - like USC, and like it was when I was at Miami - everyone expects you to win every game. That doesn't happen. That's hard to do. . . . USC is a great, great program that's been successful over the last six years and will continue to be successful."
For the Trojans, that means no letdown against ASU and perhaps some revenge against rival UCLA on Dec. 1.
"We don't want to go to the Holiday or Sun Bowl' we want to be up there with the best of them," Moore said. "It doesn't matter how many players we lose. If we can't get to the national championship, we want the next best thing."
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