Sun, Sep 18, 2005 - Page 23 News List

Trojans' strak nears school record

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LOS ANGELES

Southern California's Desmond Reed, right, celebrates with teammate Frostee Rucker after scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery during the third quarter against Hawaii at Aloha stadium in Honolulu on Sept. 3. The Trojans defeated the Warriors 63-17.

PHOTO: AP

USC coach Pete Carroll has presided over the Trojans' 23-game winning streak, so few should know more about the most significant victories in that stretch.

As USC closes in on the school record for consecutive victories, Carroll this week mulled over the biggest wins and quickly came up with two moments.

"The first year, we beat Oregon State in overtime (16-13) -- that was a great one, when we were trying to learn to win," Carroll said. "And the UCLA game at the end of the first year (a 27-0 victory), that really captured an opportunity with our fans, because we had such a significant crowd."

One problem: Neither of those wins occurred during the Trojans' current streak.

So maybe Carroll isn't the best authority as USC attempt to break the record, 25 straight victories, set by the 1931-1933 Trojans.

Or maybe that's the secret to Carroll's success.

USC hasn't lost in nearly two years, since California pulled off a 43-31 upset Sept. 27, 2003. As much as USC attempts to make history with its third national championship, its winning streak is almost as impressive -- although rarely mentioned.

"Those things are out of our control. Marks of accomplishment don't serve us well," Carroll said. "They don't motivate us. They aren't the things that get us excited. We're doing it for deeper reasons."

Carroll is not obsessed with the streak, but others within the program are aware of it.

"I was just looking at that," receiver Steve Smith said. "We see it and want to dominate every year. It's great to see us win that way. That's an incredible stat, knowing all the great teams at 'SC over the years.

"I was just telling people I have one loss in my career. Not to get big-headed or anything, but it's an incredible stat."

The record might be 72 years old, but it seems safe to call this streak more legitimate than its predecessor. The Trojans of the early '30s enjoyed certain peculiarities during their streak that don't exist today.

the good old days

They played just four road games in that span. According to USC football historian Mike Glenn, there also was a "doubleheader" set of wins in 1933 over Occidental and Whittier colleges, in which the Trojans used two sets of players. The second half in the Whittier game was cut to 14 minutes, but it still counts as an official win.

The Trojans' 25-game winning streak ended in 1933 with a 0-0 tie against Oregon's "Iron Men," a team that did not use substitutes. That was followed by a 13-7 loss to Stanford in front of 95,000 at the Coliseum.

"Stanford's loss to USC in 1932 led the Indian freshmen to swear that they would never lose to the Trojans, and the 'Vow Boys' were as good as their word," Glenn said. "That was the first of their three victories over USC."

The 1932 team, which went 10-0 and posted eight shutouts, is considered by some school officials perhaps USC's greatest team, but the university did not recognize it as national champions until 1973 because the Dickinson poll, considered the authority at the time, awarded Michigan the national title.

The 1931 team upset Notre Dame 16-14 to end the Irish's 26-game winning streak, and a downtown Los Angeles victory parade drew an estimated 300,000.

"That is arguably 'SC's most famous victory ever," Glenn said.

None of USC's present-day accomplishments make much impact on offensive lineman Winston Justice.

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