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USC looks inside then pounds Oregon

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Oregon State didn't blindside USC nine days ago. Pete Carroll saw it coming.

He saw it six months ago.

He saw Ohio State on the schedule. He knew what that meant. The hype machine would roll into town, and to the victor would go considerable spoils, namely the No. 1 ranking.

And he saw a tricky visit to Oregon State 12 days later.

He knew what his team needed to do. He tried to get them to do it. But they didn't, and a sense of personal failure still weighed heavily on Carroll's shoulders, even as he talked about his ninth-ranked Trojans' 44-10 plundering of No. 23 Oregon.

"That huge game against those guys [Ohio State] -- it was going to be talked about and all that, and as much of our philosophy and approach addresses that, it still fricking happened to us," he said. "It was the fact I couldn't keep it from happening. I tried everything I could think of."

So when he gathered his players Friday night for the traditional pregame talk, he took things deeper.

He spoke, many of his assistant coaches spoke and some of the veteran players spoke.

"It's about sensing your responsibility and to respect what we've been about through the years here," he said. "You could tell from the depth of the night that it made sense and they got it. They respected this opportunity to play here today."

There's a risk in selling out on an emotional speech. It can come off as sappy in a world of irony and cynicism. And it's hard to produce an encore if it doesn't work.

But this one did.

"This one was really special," defensive end Clay Matthews said. "It was pretty much about what football means to each and everyone of us, how it's a part of our lives and it's so much more than just a sport."

Said center Kristofer O'Dowd, ""It gave me chills."

Oregon would be exhibit A of the effectiveness of that emotional gathering.

The woeful USC run defense that surrendered 186 yards to Oregon State true freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers held the Ducks to just 60. This is the same Ducks team that entered the game ranking fourth in the nation with 309 yards rushing per game.

Oregon's 239 total yards were nearly 300 off their season average.

Meanwhile, the USC offense, befuddled in Corvallis, exploded for 598 yards, with quarterback Mark Sanchez completing 19 of 28 for 332 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The turning point was fairly obvious.

Oregon led 10-3 with eight minutes left in the second quarter, and USC faced a fourth-and-2 on the Ducks 34-yard line.

Lots of coaches kick the field goal. Others go for it but use their favorite short-yardage play.

USC went for a home run and it worked: Sanchez found an uncovered Damian Williams streaking down the sideline for the tying score.

"That's such a big spark for our team, to know this coaching staff believes in us going for it on fourth and short in the redzone," Sanchez said. "We started rolling after that."

That was the first strike of 41 unanswered points.

And now the USC that whipped Ohio State has reemerged, dispatching the one that looked so terrible at Oregon State.

But will this version stick around?