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USC REPORT

Carroll doesn't expect letdown

November 27, 2006|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Only one obstacle stands in USC's way on the road to a possible third consecutive appearance in the Bowl Championship Series title game:

Cross-town rival UCLA.

On Sunday, a few hours after his team ascended to the coveted No. 2 spot in the BCS standings, Coach Pete Carroll said he was "not concerned at all about a letdown" against the 6-5 Bruins.

"But I am concerned about the fact that it is the last game of the year," Carroll said. "We've seen teams be real difficult at this time of year for us."

Carroll was alluding to the Trojans' 2004 game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl, when the Trojans held on for a 29-24 victory that was not decided until the final minutes. He also referenced the 2003 regular-season finale at home against Oregon State, a game in which the Trojans fell behind after three plays before coming back to win in a rout, 52-28.

"It's a difficult game sometimes because it is the last game," he said. "I don't think it matters who you're playing. You've just got to finish the season off right, not project beyond it and stay with the whole focus."

USC's impressive 44-24 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday helped the Trojans move past Michigan in the BCS standings and also to No. 2 in the Associated Press media poll.

If the Trojans defeat UCLA, they will play No. 1 Ohio State for the national title.

Carroll said the No. 2 ranking would not affect the team's preparation but did add that it was "kind of fun for us going into the last game of the year to know that you have a chance to get in the championship game. That's a good deal."

USC, which lost to Oregon State on Oct. 28, got back on track against Stanford. But wins over Oregon, California and Notre Dame provided the real push back into the BCS title-game scenario.

Now comes UCLA, which would like nothing more than to spoil USC's national-championship hopes by defeating the Trojans for the first time since 1998.

"They've played really good defense all year, which gives them a chance in every game," Carroll said.

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Quarterback John David Booty's second-quarter problems against Notre Dame -- three straight incomplete passes followed by interceptions on consecutive passes -- began after he twisted his ankle.

"I rolled my ankle pretty good in the end zone," said Booty, who did not blame the poor stretch on the misstep. Booty played the rest of the game with his ankle taped.

"I heard the announcers on TV thinking he's really rattled," Carroll said Sunday. "I don't think there's any way John David was rattled.... He does not carry things and let 'em load up on him."

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Carroll said Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis waited for him outside the locker room when the Trojans came up the tunnel. "Just to wish luck for the future," Carroll said.... Former offensive coordinator Norm Chow, current offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian are expected to be mentioned as possible candidates to replace fired Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter. Lisa Love, Arizona State's athletic director, spent 13 years as an athletics department administrator at USC before going to Arizona State.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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