LOS ANGELES – Look to the top of this page and you will notice that the calendar has flipped to November.
That places just one more obstacle in front of the Washington Huskies as they report to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to meet No. 7 Southern California (FSN) at 3:30 p.m. today.
Since coach Pete Carroll arrived at USC in 2001, the Trojans are 23-0 in the month of November.
And despite all the indications of USC’s football success, that record is an exception.
Most of the Trojans’ best-known ongoing streaks date only to Carroll’s second season on campus: six consecutive Pacific-10 Conference titles, six straight 11-win seasons, six straight BCS bowls, six top-four finishes in The Associated Press poll in a row, and six consecutive victories over the Huskies.
However, Carroll’s Trojans have seven consecutive perfect Novembers.
And the coach doesn’t dismiss that as a mere statistical fluke.
“We take a lot of pride in finishing well,” Carroll said. “That’s something we’ve prided ourselves in since we first got to the program. We got off to a cruddy start our first year, and then we finished that season off well and ever since then it’s always been a battle cry to finish. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing – whether it is workouts or practice or games or seasons – we want to always come off and finish at our very best. The start to the finish is now under way. When you hit November, that’s how it’s always been.”
USC’s only stumble so far this season came in late September: A 27-21 loss at Oregon State.
“That was a clear experience that you can go out feeling that you’re OK and if you don’t bring it the other guys will beat your butt,” Carroll said. “We got our tail kicked that day, so it was a good lesson for us and one we hate to learn the hard way, but we have been back on track.”
The Trojans bounced back to sweep their four October games, despite opponents’ best efforts to duplicate the Oregon State formula.
“I don’t think anybody has had much success doing what Oregon State did,” UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said. “I think that back (OSU freshman Jacquizz Rodgers) made a lot of that stuff work. I don’t know if it’s so much the scheme as the kid. … The yards after contact in that game with that kid was pretty amazing. But Oregon State played extremely physical with them. They were a spirited group that day, there was a lot of chirping going on. You could see their swagger. And that’s what you have to have going against USC. You can’t be intimidated, you can’t be scared. You have to step up to the challenge.”
The Huskies haven’t seemed intimidated by Trojans in the previous two meetings.
Last season at Husky Stadium, USC overcame three turnovers and 16 penalties and escaped with a 27-24 win.
The year before, in UW’s previous visit to the Coliseum, the Trojans won 26-20 as time ran out with the Huskies on USC’s 15-yard line.
But there’s no telling what sort of emotions Washington will bring to the Coliseum this afternoon, just five days after learning that coach Tyrone Willingham will be released at the end of the season.
That news gave the winless Huskies plenty to think about besides the game plan or even the turning of a page on the calendar.
Most players said they expect to be able to focus on the considerable challenge before them. And Willingham said he hopes that the decision will benefit his team by removing what had become an unavoidable question mark over the program.
“We still have a lot of season left, so we can’t give up now just because coach is gone after the season,” quarterback Ronnie Fouch said. “We’ve got to go out and compete still.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808
BY THE NUMBERS Points USC is favored by vs. the Huskies, the largest spread against UW since at least 1975 (second-highest was 35 against USC in 2004). True freshmen to play this season for Washington, the most in modern Huskies history. Consecutive losses for the Huskies dating to last season, the most since 10 defeats in a row in 1968-69. Southern Cal’s record in November under coach Pete Carroll. Huskies’ record in their past 16 games against the Trojans. UW’s third-down conversion rate, the only “positive” statistic in which the Huskies lead the Pac-10. HUSKIES GAMEDAY
WASHINGTON (0-7, 0-4 PACific 10) AT NO. 7 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (6-1, 4-1)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Television: FSN. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: USC leads, 48-26-4, including six wins in a row. The Trojans lead 29-10 in the Coliseum and have won nine of the past 11 there.
What to watch: This will mark the first time the Huskies take the field knowing that coach Tyrone Willingham won’t return next season. … USC leads the nation in total defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense, and ranks in the top 25 in every statistical category kept by the NCAA. The Trojans’ total defense (215.6 ypg) and scoring defense (8.1 ppg) are their best in 41 years, while their pass defense (129.6 ypg) is the best in 32 years.
What’s at stake: The Huskies remain stuck with North Texas for the nation’s longest losing streak (nine games) and as the only Football Bowl Subdivision teams without wins this season. … The Trojans are fifth in the BCS rankings, and their national championship hopes can’t afford a stumble. Similarly, USC is among four Pac-10 schools with one conference loss so far. USC has never lost a game in November (23-0) under Pete Carroll. The Trojans have won seven consecutive homecoming games.
TNT pick: USC, 53-3. Statistics indicate a severe mismatch, even if the Huskies have retained focus through the events of this week.
8Ronnie Fouch (QB)6-1/203 Fr.
Starting QB is one of 30 Huskies from southern California.
11D’Andre Goodwin (WR)6-0/175 So.
Huskies’ leading receiver in six of seven games.
27Terrance Dailey (TB)5-10/194 Fr.
Needs 36 yards to pass injured Jake Locker for UW rushing lead.
37Johnie Kirton (DT)6-3/296Sr.
Making second start in place of injured Senio Kelemete.
49Danny Morovick (LS)6-4/213Jr.
His father, Dan, played at USC in the late 1970s.
1Patrick Turner (SE)6-5/220Sr.
Ranks among top 15 receivers in school history.
2Taylor Mays (FS)6-3/230Jr.
Former O’Dea prep star was first-team All-American in ’07.
4Joe McKnight (TB)6-0/200 So.
Leading rusher slowed by toe injury; but there’s talent in reserve.
6Mark Sanchez (QB)6-3/225Jr.
Ninth nationally in pass efficiency; at least one TD pass in every start.
10Brian Cushing (LB)6-3/255 Sr.
SC’s leading tackler, pairs with Rey Maualuga for star LB duo.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune