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October 20, 2009Pete Carroll preaches the here and the now. For the media at Tuesday's weekly luncheon, however, the world of USC football is viewed through the Notre Dame looking glass.
"You guys aren't interested in talking about Oregon State right now?" Carroll asked.
Carroll had a point. 27 questions were asked about Notre Dame and just four regarding the Beavers.
Perhaps the media is overlooking Oregon State because they come into the Coliseum Saturday tied with USC for second in the Pac-10. Or that they have the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year, Jacquizz Rodgers. Or that they have won two of the past three from USC.
"You know obviously the Pac-10, whoever it is, gets our attention," Carroll said. "We have a lot of respect for (Oregon State) in that they can figure out their ways. They can get their kids right. They can give us issues that can upset us and not allow us to play right."
For the Trojans, this week is not about gloating about a big win over a top team. They've learned that lesson (see Washington, loss at). Instead the focus is on the biggest threat come Saturday, five-foot-seven-inch Jacquizz Rodgers.
"He's a good player and he's got a great nose for the goal line too," Beavers head coach Mike Riley said. "You know I don't think there's magic to (him). He's a great player, a good runner and when we can get some good blocks for him, he's got a good chance to score."
Carroll knows firsthand how Rodgers can score after allowing the then-freshmen to run for two touchdowns and 186 yards in USC's only loss last year.
"There's been a number of guys that are great zone runners over the years," Carroll said. "He's one of those guys; he's really good at it. The fact that he's really fast and he's really tough and he's strong adds to his ability to when he takes the information in and shoots it where he wants to go. You know he can get through tackles and he can break tackles and leave arm tackles and surprise you."
The zone running scheme of Oregon State that Rodgers has become so productive in comes from Mike Riley who, like Carroll, coached in the NFL. As Carroll prepares his defense to attack the Beavers' running scheme, the guy running through the holes is what Carroll chose to compare to the NFL.
"Emmitt Smith was a great zone runner. He could make you play the defense and if you didn't adjust out of it, he was going to get you," Carroll said. "(Rodgers) does the same thing. I have great respect for the way he plays and the way he runs. It really calls for us to be really good (on defense)."
The Trojans defense has been good against the rush so far, ranking forth nationally against the rush and holding opponents to just 2.1 yards a rush. Yet Rodgers torched a highly ranked defense last year, what is going to be different this week?
"Our focus and our attention and respect for him is different than it was going into last year's game," Carroll said. "We've elevated it, because it needs to. And we started out with really good work yesterday. The kids knew, you can tell they wanted to do this right.
"We've got the whole week together and see if we can tackle him on game day."
Good to know at least someone is focused on Oregon State.