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USC FYI

Carroll: Pac-10 start is 'cool'

September 21, 2008|Gary Klein and David Wharton | Times Staff Writers

They seamlessly handled a season-opening cross-country trip to Virginia. Neither the mega-buildup nor Ohio State fazed them.

The top-ranked USC Trojans now turn their attention to the Pacific 10 Conference with a game at Oregon State on Thursday night.

"It's cool that it's Pac-10 time," said Coach Pete Carroll, whose team resumes practice today after a two-day break. "We're very optimistic about our chances, and we're looking forward to getting this thing cranking and seeing how it all shapes up."

Despite USC's winning or sharing six consecutive conference titles, the Trojans' Pac-10 stumbles helped land them in the Rose Bowl instead of the Bowl Championship Series title game two years in a row.

In 2006, Oregon State and UCLA derailed USC. Last season, Stanford pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

"We know just historically our toughest games have come in conference, and we don't know what shape or form that's going to come in," Carroll said.

USC will depart for Oregon on Wednesday afternoon. A nationally televised Thursday night game will not disrupt the Trojans, players said.

"We'll get ready the way we always do," senior defensive end Kyle Moore said.

"Nothing changes," junior safety Taylor Mays said.

Problem spot

Despite winning more than 80% of his games since arriving at USC in 2001, it seems that Carroll hasn't quite gotten the knack of leading a team into Corvallis, Ore.

In the midst of a 2004 national championship run, undefeated USC needed a late punt return by Reggie Bush for a touchdown to defeat the Beavers on a fog-shrouded night that Carroll recalled as "crazy."

Two years later, another undefeated Trojans team was upset, 33-31, when quarterback John David Booty's two-point conversion pass was knocked down at the line of scrimmage in the final seconds.

"I know what happened the second game," Carroll said. "We turned the ball over four or five times and gave them all kinds of chances in the first half and they capitalized. I don't know if that has anything to do with Corvallis or what."

Mike Riley was the Oregon State coach for both of those games. He doesn't plan to dredge up videotape to show his players.

"But the one thing that [2006 victory] does bring up is that we took advantage of opportunities," Riley said. "And we have some guys who are still here, so they understand that."

Quick kicks

Sophomore receiver Damian Williams (ankle) and sophomore fullback Stanley Havili (hamstring) are expected to return after sitting out practices last week.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

david.wharton@latimes.com

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