By Erica Lucero
Page 2

The very last thing I felt like doing Wednesday night was writing this column.

I had looked forward to it earlier in the evening, thinking that I would be writing flushed with victory. However, with 19 seconds left in the game and USC down, I knew it was over.

It was depressing. After such an inspiring season, it hardly needs to be said that I, along with most other Trojans fans, firmly believed that when I sat down to watch the game armed with tortilla chips and my TiVo, I was about to see history made. However, it didn't happen, and it took me all morning to sort out how I felt about this game.

I considered several points of view:

I could sit here and bash Texas, whine about Vince Young's controversial knee, and like so many e-mails I received, calculate the score that "should" have been. I could point out the Longhorns were fighting a grudge match against a team that had stolen a lot of glory from them this season, consistently keeping them in the No. 2 spot, both in the polls and the Heisman voting.

USC fans
USC fans can't complain too much -- they've had a great run.

Or I could sit here and pick apart USC's flawed play. When Reggie Bush threw that ill-fated lateral, I couldn't blame my dad for screaming, "What is he, in high school?" I could complain about the interception, the missed fourth downs, and like so many e-mails I received, calculate the score that "should" have been.

For USC, the 2006 Rose Bowl played out like a perfect Greek tragedy. We were a team that had it all: an amazing director in Pete Carroll; some of the most endearing lead actors you'll find in the NCAA, from Reggie Bush to Mario Danelo; and the perfect stage -- sunny Southern California. But we also had our tragic flaw: In the end, when it came down to the wire, it was almost inevitable that our defense would open the door to our first taste of defeat.

However, this was far from a sob story. I may be taking a leap in speaking in the collective, but here goes: There are no broken-hearted Trojans.

There was a bond created this season, a special one, one that could only exist in college. A far-flung collection of people invested themselves in one ideal and never looked back. I used to think, walking around campus, that here, in the heart of Los Angeles, I was among the only group of people who truly cared about USC football.

I was wrong.

As my Bruin mother jumped around in her "Fight On!" T-shirt, as calls from around the country poured in, and e-mail messages from my peers from Maine to Missouri to Florida flooded my computer, I realized that I was in a rare position, at the intersection of a communal outpouring. I may have to lock my door at night, and the heartless and desperate may attempt to commit fraud on my tiny bank account, but I am glad to see that when it comes down to it, people can still unite over something.

There is no doubt that we students are a disappointed lot as we return to class. But our bond is still intact. As far as I'm concerned, my football team did me proud: They went out there and played their hearts out. I have never been prouder to be a Trojan.

Erica Lucero, a sophomore at Southern California, wrote updates from campus this season as the Trojans attempted to win their third consecutive national championship.