That assessment still applies. Despite throwing five interceptions, Arizona State's Sam Keller frequently lit up Southern Cal, completing pass after pass in front of corners Justin Wyatt and John Walker, a fifth-year senior making his second start. Even if the Trojans did win their share of battles as the game wore on--Walker had a pair of picks--this bunch remains suspect. With a chance to bury Arizona early in the second half, USC allowed the Wildcats their longest scoring play of the season, a 42-yard touchdown over Wyatt. The Trojans comfort themselves with the knowledge that with his defensive acumen, Carroll will be able to scheme around the pass-defense issues.
Even if Carroll can't, even if some quarterback--whether it's Notre Dame's Brady Quinn this Saturday or Fresno State's Paul Pinegar on Nov. 19 or Vince Young of Texas in the Rose Bowl--passes his team to a three-touchdown lead over these guys, that team must:
?SURVIVE THE ONSLAUGHT
"It doesn't matter how far ahead you are--you know they're coming back," says Rodgers. In USC's last defeat, Cal coughed up a 14-point lead. "You've gotta take their best shot," says Rodgers, "and survive it."
This becomes more difficult as the season goes on. Every time the Trojans pull off one of these comebacks, such as the rally against Arizona State, they come out of it stronger, more united, more persuaded that they are unbeatable.
Which, of course, they are not. Picture this: With his players chanting "Do the Trojan!" after yet another win, Carroll obliges them by performing his signature gyrating victory dance in the dressing room. Losing his footing on the slick floor--a custodian has been paid to apply excessive amounts of Mop & Glo--the coach takes a hard fall. Confined to a golf cart the following week, unable to follow his usual manic routine of bounding around the practice field like a Skittles-wired fourth-grader, the 54-year-old becomes morose and withdrawn. His lassitude is contagious: The team comes out flat, the sun sets on the streak.
Or, failing that:
Wait until next season.