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T.J. SIMERS

Carroll's Trojans better not cry uncle in Oregon

October 24, 2007|T.J. SIMERS

Uncle Pete, this one is on you.

You're the defensive whiz, putting aside Vince Young for a moment, and this season is now riding on your ability to stop an Oregon team averaging 47 points a game.

It's your very own Karl Dorrell moment.

We've got no problem around here putting Dorrell to the test seemingly every other week, and yet you're the one who has failed two of the biggest final exams in recent memory.

You lost a national title because you couldn't corral the Texas quarterback. Then you lost a championship invite because you couldn't beat a ho-hum team coached by Dorrell.

No one, though, is really beating you up for blowing it like that because for the most part you've been pretty darn dependable.

But one more loss in this season of super expectations and you will have the same number as UCLA while sitting two games behind Dorrell in the Pac-10 standings.

Oxygen, please, for Mike Garrett.

OK, SO the USC media guide indicates Nick Holt is the Trojans' defensive coordinator. Who are you kidding?

This one is on you, Uncle Pete, and your No. 1-ranked Pac-10 defense taking on the conference's No. 1-ranked offense. You like a challenge and you've got it, and as a parting gift, just maybe a date in the Holiday Bowl.

"This might be the best offense we've seen since we've been here," you said Tuesday, "and it poses all the problems you would ever want or hate as a defensive coach."

You live for this, or so you would have us believe.

"I like the fact they got 600 yards last week," you said, "and 600 the week before that."

Anything to make your task seem tougher, the competitor that you are just busting at the chance to face the very best. But now you better deliver.

Run the table, and USC still might play for a national title, but one more Stanford and what a choke job this season will have been.

YOU'VE CERTAINLY gotten your due over the years here. How many times has it been written how good you are at making defensive adjustments? This year's defense was going to be your very best defense.

Some people believe you walk on water, and you did make quite a splash against Stanford, but if you can somehow still get USC to the big game -- no question, You the Man.

All you have to do for starters is design a defense to stop an Oregon offense averaging six yards a rush and 550 yards in total offense. You make Oregon turn the ball over, like Cal did, and maybe you win. You don't, and you lose.

For the first time in a long time, Uncle Pete, you're the one under the gun here. Do you have what it takes to outmaneuver Mike Bellotti, the guy that Garrett really wanted to hire years ago before settling for you? I know you don't need such motivation.

But you do have some explaining to do. Why does a team overloaded with the nation's top recruits and picked No. 1 when the season began go in as a three-point underdog to Bellotti's Ducks -- for the first time in a regular-season game since the 2003 opener against Auburn? You starting to slip?

It's just not right, you playing the part of David.

"People still think we're not a very good team," you said while appearing on 710, talk show host Kevin Kiley almost swallowing his microphone in a rush to tell you he never said that.

"Who says you're not a very good team?" Kiley said.

"People have us rated so low," is how you explained it -- like you're paying attention to the BCS computers. You starting to act like every other coach hoping to catch a break?

Come on, Uncle Pete, this is on you. You've got to have your players ready -- a shaky proposition when factoring in previous games against the likes of Washington, Stanford and Arizona.

No mistakes. You have to be in the right defense and you have to make the right decision when picking a quarterback. You know what a bad decision can do to someone.

You make the wrong decision a few months back, and right now you would be coaching in Miami, preparing for the New York Giants and doing everything possible just to win a game.

But you stayed at USC, where you really rock.

You still do -- don't you, Uncle Pete?

NOW HOW is this for Lakers' progress, and something we've never heard before? Phil Jackson quoted in The Times on Tuesday, saying of Kobe Bryant: "He's trying to make the play and [should] trust his teammates to make the plays instead of trying to be the sole playmaker out there."

THE KOBESTER got his wish, although it probably wasn't exactly what he had in mind -- but when the Lakers start the regular season, Lamar Odom will not be on the court. But instead of being in a Minnesota or Indiana uniform, he'll sit out while his shoulder mends.

IT SHOULD be quite the scene, hundreds and hundreds of folks dribbling basketballs and making their way from the Galen Center on Sunday morning beginning at 9, dribbling to the Coliseum and back.

Everyone is welcome with free admission later to the Cardinal and Gold game.

USC basketball Coach Tim Floyd, who picked up the idea from Al McGuire years ago, would like to make it thousands and thousands dribbling to raise money for Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and the cure for pediatric cancer.

I won't be back from Oregon in time to participate, but knowing how difficult it is for Floyd to walk and talk at the same time, I'm down for $1,000 to Children's Hospital if witnesses testify Floyd dribbled the whole way without a turnover.

TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Mike Norwine:

"You are disturbed. That sounded so sincere in regards to the tragedy in So Cal, but then you are sick. Crummy baseball teams? You win a division and you're considered crummy? You get paid to be a jerk, but not to be stupid."

Thanks for agreeing I should be paid more for everything I do.

--

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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