Saturday, November 07, 2009

Arrogance Drives USC Football to Soaring Highs, Abysmal Lows

Win forever. Compete.

These are just a couple mottoes Pete Carroll has instilled at Southern California since taking over as head football coach in 2001. And for the most part his laid back yet high intensity persona and philosophy has led the Trojans to 1 BCS Championship, another AP Championship and a plethora of PAC-10 titles and Rose Bowl victories.

But these qualities are also responsible to inexplicable losses in recent years to UCLA, Stanford, Washington and last week's shellacking at Eugene, Oregon to the Ducks. USC football has a swagger that propels the team to blowout wins and supreme confidence even during the most dire of situations (see Ohio State game). But confidence leads to arrogance and arrogance, as anyone who follows ancient mythology knows, leads to ruin.

Arrogance is what led Pete Carroll to skip a field goal attempt at the end of the first half against Stanford two years ago. The Trojans failed to run in the touchdown and the Cardinal later pulled off the monumental upset by a single point. Arrogance also led to the lowest point in Carroll's tenure, a 47-20 beat down against Oregon last week where the entire team was outschemed. Arrogance is Will Harris high stepping in the endzone after an interception during USC's lackluster and lucky 14-9 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday night. He cost his team 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff but was really too busy chatting to the ESPN cameras to care. Arrogance is two Trojan teammates fighting for the game-ending interception. Arrogance is using Joe McKnight as a feature power back. Arrogance is failing to send out a field goal kicker who can go beyond 40 yards.

Swagger and discipline are on opposite ends of the spectrum. And while the Trojans are capable of explosiveness and dominance they are also susceptible to excessive penalties, wretched special teams and questionable playcalling.

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