AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week But never has USC ascended to the staggering heights it has reached under Pete Carroll, whose accomplishments in a mere five seasons are unprecedented in the school’s annals and whose team is halfway toward achieving a feat three consecutive AP national titles never done before in college football. The good old days of USC football are now and future sporting historians will look back on this Pete Carroll epoch with reverence, as will those who regularly follow the Trojans’ annual autumn gridiron odyssey. But with the astounding USC success the 28-game winning streak, the 24 weeks in a row atop the AP poll, the 36 wins during the past three seasons, the 18 consecutive Pac-10 wins, the domination of Notre Dame and UCLA, etc. the expectation level among boosters and motivation among opponents has increased dramatically. Because the Trojans had to struggle mightily at South Bend in front of 80,00 crazed witnesses and didn’t secure their 34-31 win over Notre Dame until the final three seconds, Pete Carroll felt compelled during his media luncheon the other day at Heritage Hall on the USC campus to keep emphasizing how improvement was needed in so many areas on his team. Listening to Carroll reflect on the Trojans’ shortcomings especially in the play of their special teams and you’d have never known his 6-0 club still was the No. 1 ranked squad in the nation and had emerged victorious last Saturday against an aroused opponent in alien surroundings. “You’ve created Frankenstein’s Monster,” I said to Carroll at the conclusion of his press conference. The USC coach shrugged. “All this just goes with the territory,” he said. “We’re trying to do everything here better than anyone has ever done it before, from dealing with the media to winning football games. “The toughest thing I’ve found about it is time. There just isn’t enough time to do all the things you’d like to do in a day.” Pete Carroll concedes the relentless pressure of coaching a team under microscopic media scrutiny and under constant siege from rivals has taken its toll. “I don’t sleep as much as I used to,” he says. “But I’m getting older, and maybe I don’t need as much sleep.” There are defining games in the career of a storied coach, and one always thinks of Vince Lombardi allowing his quarterback, Bart Starr, to go for it on fourth down in the final seconds against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1967 NFC championship game. The Packers were trailing by three at the time, and Lombardi took a risk not attempting a score-tying field goal, but Bart Starr sneaked across the goal line to score the decisive touchdown in the Packers’ epic 21-17 win on the Lambeau Field tundra in Green Bay. Well, Pete Carroll faced the same decision against Notre Dame, and also eschewed a tying field goal attempt to allow his quarterback, Matt Leinart, to go for it against the Fighting Irish. “We were at the three-inch line, and I didn’t want us to go into overtime against a Notre Dame team that had moved the ball so well on its last drive,” says Carroll. “I never gave it any other thought than to go for it.” But what if Leinart, who initially was stymied behind the line of scrimmage, had failed? The Trojans’ hopes of winning another national championship would have vanished, along with the immense money and publicity that go with such an accomplishment. Pete Carroll’s legacy would have been somewhat tarnished, and he inevitably would have come under withering criticism for taking such a daring gamble. “Wouldn’t have bothered me a bit,” says Carroll. “I did what I thought was right for our team. I thought we should try to win it right there. A lot of things can happen in overtime and a lot of the things are bad.” But not a lot of things are going badly these frenzied weeks at USC. The Trojans have been seriously challenged on three occasions this season they trailed Oregon, Arizona State and the Fighting Irish at halftime but each time they kept their composure and came back in difficult circumstances on the road to avoid defeat. “We work hard with the players at practices for them to do the kind of things they’ve done when games are on the line,” says Carroll. “It’s been a difficult year. But I’m not complaining. Everyone now points for us, and is set to play a terrific game. You can be sure Washington will be ready for us this weekend. “But we’ve also been ready. I can’t say enough about my players’ efforts. They’ve played hard in every game. But they just have to start playing better. We have to improve if we’re going to get where we want to go.” And where Pete Carroll wants his Trojans to go is a place never before reached in college football, and his team has been finding out the reasons others in the past have failed in such a quest. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Until Pete Carroll came upon the scene to orchestrate the Great Revival, those loyalists who followed USC football lived in the sacred glories of the Trojans’ past. They spoke proudly of those long ago days when a mythic figure named Howard Jones created the Thundering Herd persona and turned the Trojans into a national commodity. They spoke wistfully of those glad days of John McKay when Mike Garrett and O.J. Simpson were winning Heisman Trophies and Anthony Davis was tormenting Notre Dame and the Trojans were taking down national titles on a regular basis. They spoke yearningly of those successful days of John Robinson when running backs like Rickey Bell and Marcus Allen and Charles White produced big numbers and a lot of memorable victories and many championships.