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Coaches with two points of view

Stanford's Harbaugh says play on Saturday was not a jab at USC's Carroll, but some Trojans are not so sure.

November 18, 2009|Gary Klein

USC won't play Stanford again until Oct. 9, but memories of Saturday's humiliating 55-21 defeat at the Coliseum are sure to linger for the Trojans.

And for Coach Pete Carroll.

Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh's decision to try a two-point conversion with his team holding a 48-21 fourth-quarter lead continued to resonate Tuesday.

Harbaugh, who has a history of trading verbal and strategic jabs with Carroll, said during the weekly Pacific 10 Conference coaches conference call that his move was "nothing personal."

"I have nothing but respect for him and his program," Harbaugh said of Carroll.

USC players weren't so sure.

Several called the two-point try disrespectful -- "Kind of a spit in the face," junior center Kristofer O'Dowd said -- but all acknowledged that they did not begrudge Harbaugh for making the call.

"That's just how football goes," senior safety Will Harris said. "It's a dog-eat-dog world. If it was the other way around, I would have taken everything from them too."

Said middle linebacker Chris Galippo: "If that's the way they want to respond, more power to them. You do what you have to do."

Carroll agreed.

"They're winning, it's their choice," Carroll said. "I have no problem with whatever decision they make."

But Carroll's public response belies his feelings about the move, the latest in a growing series of exchanges with Harbaugh.

In the spring of 2007, before his first season, Harbaugh told CBS SportsLine.com that the 2007 season was going to be Carroll's last at USC.

Carroll, who had interviewed with the Miami Dolphins the previous January, responded by telling The Times, "If he's going to make statements like that, he ought to get his information right. And if he has any questions about it he should call me."

A few months later, at Pac-10 media day, Harbaugh said the Trojans ranked among the greatest teams in college football history -- and might be the greatest.

A few days before their first meeting, Carroll praised the former NFL quarterback's competitive attitude.

"Jimmy never did make himself into a statesman," Carroll said. "He's not real politically correct all the time, and I don't think he cares."

The Cardinal arrived at the Coliseum a 41-point underdog and upset the Trojans, 24-23, on a last-minute touchdown pass.

USC exacted a measure of revenge last season, defeating the Cardinal at Palo Alto, 45-23. Late in the game, after Harbaugh called a timeout to set up a scoring play that would ruin the Trojans' second-half shutout, Carroll called one too, reinserting starters in an effort to prevent a touchdown.

Harbaugh said Tuesday that Saturday's decision to go for two points with 6 minutes 47 seconds to play was made because he feared USC would have at least two more scoring opportunities and on-side kick chances to create more.

"The only reason we went for two was because we thought we could get it," he said. "SC rose up and got it stopped. That's to their credit."

Harbaugh said he'd "been reading some people's opinion" that the move was a jab at Carroll.

"That couldn't be further from the truth," he said. "There's nothing personal. I'm not trying to make any enemies. Life's too short for that.

"I mean, the way our relationship has been, it's been very competitive. And I really enjoy, especially, pregame with Pete Carroll.

"He's very loose, he's funny. We kind of yuck it up a little bit before the game. But then we kind of always end it with: Time to go to war. And then you go out and try to gouge each other's eyes out.

"And you do the same thing in recruiting. It's great competition."

Apprised of Harbaugh's comments after practice Tuesday, Carroll chuckled and said, "That's a good effort by Jim. That's his description of it."

How does Carroll see the relationship?

"There's not much of one," he said. "He's doing a great job of coaching, we're in the same conference and we run into each other every once in a while."

Carroll reiterated that he was not angry about Harbaugh's two-point conversion decision.

But when asked whether he would remember it down the line, Carroll paused, grinned and walked away without comment.

--

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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