Feature: Trojans Getting Ready for First of Several Road Tests
Sept. 12, 2007
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Beating No. 1 Southern California since 2002 has been a most difficult proposition, and an impossibility at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
So to have a chance, an opponent has had to face the Trojans at home or, in the case of Texas in the BCS championship game two years ago, at the Rose Bowl.
That should give No. 14 Nebraska (2-0) some hope Saturday at Memorial Stadium in the Cornhuskers' first home game against a No. 1 team since 1978.
'Obviously a very difficult place to play,' Trojans coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. 'Visited before, but I've never been there for a game. I know just historically it's an extraordinary crowd. They've got a great following.
'It's going to be a fantastic challenge for our young guys to handle it, deal with it well, perform like they're capable.'
The game kicks off what looks to be a difficult road schedule for the Trojans, who also travel to play Washington, Notre Dame, No. 19 Oregon, No. 8 California and Arizona State. All are unbeaten except Notre Dame.
'These road games are hugely challenging,' Carroll said. 'It's served us well in the past to take on big matchups and get there and figure out a way to get a game won, get the heck out.
'We are accustomed over the years to playing teams that are prepared to give us the best shot they could possibly give us, and their fans are always ready to answer the call. That's what we have come to expect and that's normal for us to be in that situation.'
USC (1-0) has won 34 straight games at the Coliseum going back to 2001. The Trojans are 60-6 since the beginning of the 2002 season, having lost at Kansas State and Washington State in 2002, at California in 2003, and at Oregon State and UCLA last season besides the last-minute 41-38 loss to Texas. The six losses were by a total of 22 points.
One of USC's 34 straight wins at home was a 28-10 triumph over Nebraska last September in a game the Cornhuskers seemed to approach with a keep-it-close attitude, running the ball 36 times for 68 yards.
'If they want to play a conservative game like last time, that's fine with us,' USC defensive end Lawrence Jackson said. 'If they want to have Sam Keller throw 50 or 60 times, that's OK, too.'
Carroll said he believes Nebraska coach Bill Callahan knows what he's doing.
'They know what's best for them,' Carroll said. 'We really don't know what to expect. They're going to be up to the task. This is a veteran football team with great schemes and great coaching.
'They can do anything. They can totally open it up if they want to, or close it up and hammer you. Last year that was the way they went after us. Maybe they attacked our speed. We're not real big on defense. I don't know what to expect this time around. But we are preparing.'
The Trojans weren't particularly impressive in a 38-10 season-opening victory over Idaho on Sept. 1. They will have had two weeks to prepare for Nebraska.
'I'm glad we got our win and met a number of objectives in the game,' Carroll said of the opener. 'We have the benefit of some guys coming back to us off this break.'
Chauncey Washington, USC's leading rusher last season, didn't play against Idaho. Patrick Turner, the Trojans' leading returning receiver, sat out as well. Both are expected back this weekend.
One player who won't be back is defensive back Josh Pinkard, who needs season-ending surgery on his left knee. It is his second season-ending knee ligament injury. Last year it was his right knee, which he hurt in the Trojans' opening game.
Because of the second injury, the redshirt junior can petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. If granted, he could play next season and the following year.
Jackson said that as a longtime fan of college football, he looks forward to playing at a place like Nebraska.
'It's a great opportunity to play in this stadium,' he said. 'When you play on the road in a hostile environment, it tests your character as a team. This is not the only tough place we'll play.
'I actually don't understand the concept of a tough road schedule. It's the same guys, home and away. If you can't make adjustments to be successful, you lose. You saw Oregon go into Michigan. It's about execution.'
And, Jackson added, doing the kind of job Oregon did can take a rabid crowd out of a game.
'We expect it to be loud,' he said. We show up to play football. Our approach doesn't change no matter how big the crowd is or the hype is.'
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