Tuesday, September 8, 2009
USC enjoys taking its big show on the road
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Maybe USC has trouble in the "O" states?
Hey, it's a reach to note that the mighty Trojans colossus has lost three in a row in the state of Oregon and apply it to this weekend's marquee tilt at Ohio State, but at least it's a chink in the armor for a program that hasn't lost a nonconference road game since early 2002, Pete Carroll's second season at Troy.
Charles Baus/Icon SMI
USC coach Pete Carroll’s Trojans aren’t afraid to take it on the road.
While Ohio State fans believe 105,000 united crazies inside the Horseshoe shouting down the Trojans and their true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley might make a difference, USC has carefully cultivated a culture that embraces taking its show on the road.
When USC walks into the room, every one knows it. Folks can't help but stare. And the Trojans love being looked at.
"I love it -- the noise, everybody going against you and you get the chance to quiet them down," running back Joe McKnight said. "It's fun. Any time we go somewhere, people want to see what USC is about. They want to prove to the world that USC can be beat."
USC has won its last three at Notre Dame, including the infamous "Bush push" in 2005. Auburn was thinking national championship in 2003 before the Trojans manhandled them 23-zip, with Matt Leinart making his first career start. Arkansas talked endlessly about taking vengeance for a 70-17 beatdown in 2005 only to leave their fans gaping in a 50-14 throttling the following season in John David Booty's debut. Nebraska, Virginia, Colorado, BYU and Virginia Tech also have been conquered by Trojan visitors.
That success might explain why USC doesn't get invited to party any more in certain areas of the country.
"I think there is a culture you can cultivate -- there's a whole mindset," Carroll said of playing on the road. "It doesn't just start with the day you're on game week [before going] on the road.It's something you built over a long period of time. It's your attitude and how you handle all games, not just road games."
Still, the long airplane ride, the foreign environment -- hotels, field, locker room, etc. -- all break a routine. Moreover, even if hostile faces don't make a team queasy, the noise is inconvenient no matter what, particularly for a visiting offense.
And deafening noise will be new for Barkley. No matter how cool he is, he's never experienced what he will experience on Saturday. This will be the first time he will play a game without being able to hear or be heard much of the time.
"That will be the first time he'll ever hear [noise] of that magnitude," Carroll admitted.
Nonetheless, Barkley only offers a pleasant shrug. Will it be loud? Sure. He'll adjust.
"I don't think that will make a difference," Barkley said after his cool-as-a-cucumber debut against San Jose State. "We'll do what we do best -- focus on ourselves throughout the week, focus on how we can better. You have to learn to push that stuff out. The atmosphere is probably going to be nuts. I probably don't even know how crazy it's gong to be. That won't faze me."
USC will practice with extra noise all week. It will work on various nonverbal signals to share audibles and information. While the Trojans defense is young, Barkley will be surrounded by veteran players on offense.
If any Trojan is worried about the notorious atmosphere in the Horseshoe for a night game, he isn't letting on.
"It's just noise," safety Taylor Mays said. "I like it. I like hearing it and then hearing it get quiet."