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September 8, 2009

Commentary: Carroll's got his guys listening

Pete Carroll gets a lot of credit for his approach to the mental side of football and life for the matter. The USC head coach is the man who has made "Win Forever" and "Always Compete" as common of phrases among his players and staff as "please" and "thank you" are to a child.

But is Carroll really pushing the envelope with his theories? This week as much as any, it's important to examine it. With No. 3 USC headed to Ohio State this weekend, Carroll has re-issued one of his greatest hits: "Each game is the same."

It turns out that tune has already been recorded.

At the beginning of the wildly popular movie "Hoosiers," Gene Hackman walks his team into the biggest arena any of them have ever seen. He has one player get on another's shoulders and measure the distance from the rim to the floor - showing them the dimensions of the playing floor are exactly the same.

Now, consider this quote from Carroll on Monday:

"It's interesting, we often forget that the field is the same, the ball's the same, the officials and all that stuff, it's all the same. You go to a different place, and it's just louder."

I sure hope that theory isn't copyrighted.

In fact a lot of what Carroll preaches is rehashed common sense. USC wide receiver Damian Williams said he's heard a lot of Carroll's motivational tools, demanding excellence in all areas of life, approaching each game with maximum effort, from other coaches throughout his career.

But, regardless of it being cliche or hokey or both, it resonates. And ultimately, that's what matters.

"It's true though," Williams said. "I think that he says it just to see who can really grasp a hold of the idea. It's more of a tool. It's obviously true. But if you really think about it, you are playing with the same size football. You're playing on the same size field. You're playing with the same people you played with the week before; it's the same team you're on.

"If you think of it that way, you won't let anything get too big."

And USC doesn't.

The Trojans have a remarkable track record in games like Saturday's game at Ohio State, and the players know that whatever Carroll's preaching has worked.

It's an incredible power to have.

"It's always about knowing that Coach Carroll really knows his stuff," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "What he says, if you put into perspective and apply it, it really does work. If you just go out there, no matter what environment, if you're disciplined and you're focused the whole, time, you should be ready for anything they throw at you."

History and belief in Carroll's philosophies go hand in hand. It becomes much easier to take one game at a time if taking one game at a time has produced Heisman winners and National Championships.

It probably was tougher to convince guys like Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu to "Win Forever" than it is to get current Trojans to buy in because guys like Griffen and Williams can see the results from the past.

Without question, guys like Palmer and Polamalu were receptive to the new philosophies because of what had happened with Paul Hackett. Like a pretty girl on the rebound after a rocky relationship, anything new seems like an upgrade.

But Carroll's philosophies worked then like they work now. It's just the winning makes them much more believable.


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