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Ex-Trojans still in shock as USC attempts to rebound from loss

Last week's ambush at Oregon confounds former players, but history points to a USC win Saturday against Arizona State.

November 07, 2009|Gary Klein

Shaun Cody watched helplessly from a hotel room in Buffalo, N.Y.

Kyle Moore tried to make sense of it from Los Angeles.

Lawrence Jackson recorded it in Seattle but could not stomach seeing it in its entirety.

The NFL players, all former USC defensive linemen, reacted similarly last week as they witnessed Oregon's dismantling of the visiting Trojans:

Man, I can't believe this.

The 47-20 loss at Autzen Stadium stunned players from some of USC's best defensive units in Pete Carroll's eight previous seasons as coach.

"I tried to call everybody I played with but no one answered," said Cody, a consensus All-American in 2004. "I guess they were feeling the same way I was."

The aftermath apparently continues for some former Trojans.

Linebacker Brian Cushing, Cody's Houston Texans teammate, declined through a team spokesman to discuss the defeat and how the Trojans might come back.

"He's still too close to it," Cody said.

Cincinnati Bengals linebackers Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga also did not respond to interview requests.

But former quarterback Mark Sanchez, who started when USC lost at Oregon in 2007, offered perspective while watching the Trojans practice on Thursday.

"Oregon was on fire -- it looked like the game I played in," said Sanchez, now a rookie with the New York Jets. "All we could do was win the next week."

The 2007 Trojans went on to win their final four games. They also caught a few breaks and earned a berth in the Rose Bowl.

Tonight, seven days removed from its Oregon nightmare, USC will attempt to regain its confidence when the 12th-ranked Trojans play Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium.

Recent history favors a USC turnaround, though an eighth consecutive Pacific 10 Conference title remains a longshot. An eighth straight Bowl Championship Series bowl appearance might be within reach if the Trojans win out.

Since the start of the 2002 season, the Trojans followed each of their previous nine regular-season losses with bounce-back victories.

The Trojans also have never lost a November game under Carroll.

And while Oregon trips have been treacherous -- USC is winless in its last four games in the state -- Arizona has been a tonic: Carroll teams have not lost in seven trips there.

In 2001, Carroll's first season, the Trojans turned a corner by defeating Arizona, 41-34, at Tucson. The victory started a four-game winning streak that helped the Trojans finish the regular season 6-5.

Two years later, on Oct. 4, 2003, USC arrived in Tempe a week after a triple-overtime loss at California.

Quarterback Matt Leinart, a former Santa Ana Mater Dei High star who was in his first season as USC's starter, shook off a second-quarter knee injury and returned to lead the Trojans to a victory over Arizona State that started a 34-game winning streak.

By the time the streak ended, the Trojans had won two national titles, played in two BCS title games and Leinart and tailback Reggie Bush had won Heisman trophies.

"You need that one win to find out your identity," Cody said. "That season, the Arizona State game was our turning point. Maybe this can be the one for them too."

Tonight, freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, another Mater Dei product, will be running the Trojans' offense.

But it is USC's defense that is on the spot after giving up 613 yards against Oregon, 391 on the ground.

Oscar Lua, who played linebacker at USC from 2002 to 2006, watched the Oregon game on TV with an Oregon alumnus. Lua was not overly concerned when the Trojans trailed, 24-17, at halftime.

"I just figured Coach Carroll and the boys would make the adjustments and in the second half do what we always did," Lua said.

But the Oregon onslaught continued.

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James enjoyed career games as the Ducks posted their highest point total in the history of the series.

Dallas Sartz, a linebacker for USC's 2003 and '04 national championship teams, said the Ducks' no-huddle spread attack was an especially challenging assignment for a young Trojans linebacker corps.

"It's stuff that you don't see every day, so it messes you up," Sartz said. "If you're going against it with guys that are in their first year starting, it's a tough thing for them to match up with."

Moore, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie, addressed the Trojans at practice before they departed for Eugene last Friday.

He has since returned to Florida and endured pointed ribbing from NFL teammates.

Nevertheless, he sees a return to glory for his alma mater.

"It's a young defense," Moore said. "Next year it will be a dominating defense because the longer you play with each other the more chemistry you get."

Jackson, in his second season with the Seattle Seahawks, said he does not have to finish watching the Oregon debacle to know how the Trojans will respond.

"Everyone gets knocked down," he said. "It's about who keeps getting up."

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gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Returning to form

Since the start of the 2002 season, Pete Carroll's second as USC football coach, the Trojans have followed each of their nine regular-season losses with a victory.

*--* The loss The bounce-back win Sept. 21, 2002 Kansas Sate, 27-20 Oregon State, 22-0 Oct. 5, 2002 Wash. State, 30-27 (OT) California, 30-28 Sept. 27, 2003 California, 34-31 (3 OT) Arizona State, 37-17 Oct. 28, 2006 Oregon State, 33-31 Stanford, 42-0 Dec. 2, 2006 UCLA, 13-9 Michigan, 32-18* Oct. 6, 2007 Stanford, 24-23 Arizona, 20-13 Oct. 27, 2007 Oregon, 24-17 Oregon State, 24-3 Sept. 25, 2008 Oregon State, 27-21 Oregon, 44-10 Sept. 19, 2009 Washington, 16-13 Washington St., 27-6 *--*

*-Rose Bowl game

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