Maybe Pete Carroll was right when he called the Pac-10 schedule “ridiculously difficult” - or the Trojans just had another epic meltdown against a far lesser opponent. Either way, the end result was a shocking 27-21 loss to Oregon State. Yes, those Beavers. The same Beavers who lost to Penn State and Stanford by a combined 39 points.
You could look for goats in the game: defensive back Kevin Thomas, who let an interception in the end zone slip through his hands at the end of the first half and into the hands of James Rodgers. Or quarterback Mark Sanchez, who despite three touchdowns also threw a fourth-quarter interception that set up the eventually winning touchdown for the Beavers.
But ultimately, blame has to go to one person: Pete Carroll. Yet again, the Trojans fell flat on their face against teams with far less talent. It’s the second time Oregon State has done it to USC, along with Stanford, UCLA…basically, any team that’s beaten USC since 2002 other than Texas.
The team came out flat and uninspired - a content, cocky team expecting to win because they were USC. (and as the LA TIMES’ FABULOUS FORUM points out, maybe celebrating a touchdown to close to 21-7 isn’t such a great idea, Ronald Johnson.) And the coaching staff was incapable of adjusting until halftime, when they had dug themselves too deep of a hole. But really, who could have seen this being anything but a Trojans blowout. Except maybe for Brooks right before the game:
I like the Beavers and the points tonight, which means I’ll be laughing in about two hours, or waist-deep into my sixth Boilermaker* at Coach & Horses around 12 bells.
…or our own Jason K. in the USC/Ohio State Live Brog two weeks ago:
“And Mark will have plenty of time to recuperate, as USC doesn’t take the field again until Thursday, September 25, when they travel to Oregon State. But remember what happened the last time the Trojans took a trip to Corvallis - a 33-31 shocker.”
Far less of a shock is that the Los Angeles Dodgers finally clinched the NL West title, thanks to the Diamondbacks’ 12-3 thumping by the Cardinals. Now Los Angeles’ notoriously fickle sports fans can forget about USC’s collapse and focus on the Dodgers in the playoffs - until they lose in four games to some team like the Cubs. But by that point, hey, isn’t the Lakers’ season starting?
The Dodgers’ clinching the NL West leaves three playoff spots to be decided: the AL Central race between the Twins and the White Sox, and the Phillies/Mets/Brewers mess for the NL East and/or Wild Card.
The Mets and the Brewers remained tied for the Wild Card, both winning in dramatic fashion: New York using a ninth-inning single by Carlos Beltran for a 6-5 victory over the Cubs, while Milwaukee knocked off the Pirates 5-1 on Ryan Braun’s two-out grand slam in the tenth. The Phillies could only sit home idle and watch their lead in the NL East shrink to one game.
Meanwhile, the Twins and the White Sox also went ten innings. In this case, Minnesota put together a five-run rally of their own to win 7-6 to complete a series sweep of Chicago and take the AL Central lead for the first time in a month. Even worse, the White Sox seem to be imploded, as the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES reports that Orlando Cabrera seems intent on destroying team chemistry as he heads out of town.
Other late-breaking news last night, straight from the sports desk of Tank McNamara:
- It had to happen: GOSSIP GIRLS reports that Desperate Housewives beauty and definitely not mother-to-be of Tony Parker’s spawn Eva Longoria and Rays’ sensation Evan Longoria have struck up a friendship. She sent him champagne to celebrate their playoff berth, and he sent her a T-shirt.
- THE LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS notes that the Los Angeles Sparks had to play Game 1 of their WNBA Western Conference Finals at USC’s Galen Center instead of the Staples Center. Why? There was a dinosaur exhibit already scheduled. Usually when I think of “WNBA” and “slow, lumbering, extinct creatures” Rebecca Lobo comes to mind.
- It didn’t take long for Troy Brown to find work after retiring from the Pats: the BOSTON HERALD says he’s already been hired as an analyst by Comcast SportsNet. A great, versatile player, but if any myopic Boston fans try to convince you he belongs in the Hall of Fame, you have permission to punch them in the face.
- I guess studying pays off, even if it’s for a field sobriety test - the CHICAGO TRIBUNE files that charges have been dropped against Cedric Benson on two alcohol-related charges.
- DEADSPIN toughs it out to report on a Mexican boxer who cut off his own pinky so he could fight again. Take that, Ronnie Lott!
- THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS suggests that Jason Giambi and his Power Mustache is likely not joining the Yankees at the new stadium. Meanwhile, MASN wonders if Mike Mussina done as a Yankee (or as player period).
- The NATIONAL POST signs on to Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston and GM J.P. Ricciardi inking extensions with the team, which Roy Halladay celebrates by winning his 20th game.
- SLACKTIVIST satirically suggests that the Mets might want to take a page from the John McCain playbook and suspend the playoff race in deference to the economy.
- The SALT LAKE TRIBUNE has a hard-hitting story of a high school football player’s dad nailing an assistant coach in the face with his son’s helmet, breaking the coach’s jaw. Talk about “smash mouth football.”
- ESPN.COM pokes around to find out that the NFL has reviewed tapes and ruled that the Browns defense did not intentionally try to gouge out the eyes of the Ravens’ Willis McGahee last Sunday - those were just accidental eye gouges.