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BILL DWYRE

Carroll gives no signals for a fade pattern

December 02, 2007|Bill Dwyre

The coach whose job isn't in jeopardy was bubbly afterward. But then, Pete Carroll almost always is.

You can argue over style points in his Trojans' 24-7 victory over UCLA on Saturday at the Coliseum. They weren't especially sharp, had a lot of penalties and seemed to be more out of sync than you'd expect from a top-10 team with 11 games under its belt.

But you cannot argue that Carroll doesn't get the job done, doesn't deliver to his spoiled fan base results that keep spoiling them more.

USC is in the Rose Bowl. Again.

This is Pete Carroll's city for the foreseeable future, while the team across town is on the verge of starting over. Again.

Carroll is 75-14 at USC. This will be his fourth trip to the Rose Bowl, one of which was when the national championship game was played there, a 41-38 loss to Texas on Jan. 4, 2006. In January 2003 and 2005, USC was busy playing in the Orange Bowl and in the hunt for the national title.

Carroll is so good it's scary. So are his goals.

"All we want to do around here is win forever," he said Saturday.

He understands that the Rose Bowl, unless it is a year in which it's the national championship game site, is no longer the be-all and end-all it once was, before computers and polls and the initials BCS took over the world of college football.

He understands that he made a huge mistake to that end this season in the Stanford game, when he left an injured John David Booty in at quarterback when he should have replaced him. That led to the shocking upset that knocked the Trojans out of the national title race.

He refers to it as a "terrible mistake," and is quick to point out that Booty should shoulder none of the blame for that, that he is supposed to fight to stay in the game as long as he can.

Football coaches don't easily come clean like that, even after beating their crosstown rivals.

But that is among the many attractions of Carroll, who, if you pinned him down, would probably admit that, even with a healthy Booty, Oregon with Dennis Dixon might have been a better team this year. Of course, without Dixon, Oregon couldn't beat UCLA or a fairly average Oregon State on Saturday.

When hopes for the national title started to drift, and the incredibly high expectations that come with playing for USC could have eaten away at the Trojans, they regrouped. Some coaches lose teams at that point. Carroll just calls them together, holds up a hat and pulls out a rabbit.

"We were never down or out, even though people thought so," Booty said. "That's just what is going on on the outside. On the inside, with us, we were fine.

"Coach Carroll would never let that happen."

Carroll talked about how his senior class was probably the winningest in college football history. He talked about the pregame Trojan Walk, and how his team was so swarmed on that they could hardly get through the loving and enthusiastic crowd.

And, knowing that he shouldn't, he talked about his affection for playing in the Coliseum, which the Trojans could be leaving if the school's administration and the Coliseum Commission are unable to find agreement on a new lease.

"I don't know anything about what is going on," he said. "I have to say that so I won't comment. It's a great place to play. I know that. Well, I guess I commented."

After watching him and listening to him for 15 minutes, you understand, once again, why everything works so well right now in Trojan Land. You can easily envision mothers of sons age 18, who go 6 feet 4, weigh 225 and run the 40 in 4.3 tossing them at Carroll.

The body language of the day, in front of the 91,553 who apparently didn't hate it so much in the Coliseum that they stayed home, told the story.

Carroll was like a mosquito, buzzing his sidelines, on the officials, on his players, on his assistants and smiling all the time. There was spirit, hyperactivity, a sense of mission.

Across the way, the besieged Karl Dorrell appeared to coach with a sense of inevitability. His style has never been rah-rah, but Saturday, in a game that could still have put his Bruins in the Rose Bowl with a later loss by Arizona State, the serenity was deafening.

People who think that success in college football coaching is all about Xs and O's and not at all about personality might look at the current situation in Los Angeles. Case study, anyone?

Carroll addressed Dorrell's plight with class, which t we have come to expect from him.

"This year has been a horrible challenge for Karl," Carroll said. "It can't get any harder than to try and live like that. The poor guy was down to his fourth quarterback, a walk-on guy. Give him a frickin' break."

Saturday's ultimate body language took place at the Trojans' locker room. One by one, as the players finished dressing, they filed out, many carrying a single rose.

For most of them, it wasn't the first time they'd done this. With Carroll around, it probably won't be the last.

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Bill Dwyre can be reached at bill.dwyre@latimes.com. For previous columns by Dwyre, go to latimes.com/dwyre.

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