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November 17, 2008As the USC football team ran off the field at halftime of Saturday's game at Stanford, Trojan players weren't worried. Pete Carroll's wasn't worried. They both knew.
But for people in the stands supporting USC and for the people on the message boards, a mixture of disbelief, anxiety, doubt and panic began to set in.
But no matter how many times it happens this year, there's still that undeniable fact that gets lost in the moment.
The USC Trojans know how to finish games, and they know how to finish a season.
Carroll hasn't lost in November since arriving at USC, and this season, his Trojans are outscoring opponents a staggering 171-19 after the half.
Against Stanford on Saturday, USC outscored the Cardinal 28-6 after being tied at halftime.
"We're prepared for when things don't go right, and we know how to turn it," Carroll said. "We went back to the same themes we go to - doing it one play at a time, making sure we own the line of scrimmage and staying out of our own way."
USC has been a reactionary team all season, really,
You'd think with their superior talent, the Trojans would prefer to have their established plans and stick to them from the onset. You'd think they'd want to dictate.
But instead of coming out at opening kickoff like Mike Tyson, haymakers-a-blazing, the Trojans seem content to counter-punch their way to wins.
They did it against Cal. They did it against Arizona. And, Saturday, they did it against Stanford.
"We were trying to mix-and-match so much early in the game that we couldn't find the running game," Carroll said. "But, then (offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian) got after it. I thought he just figured it out and did a fantastic job of changing the night."
The Trojans ability to adjust hasn't been lost on the players, who are confident that an early deficit or some early troubles can't be rectified quickly.
"We made our adjustments at halftime. We utilized what they were giving us and adjusted to what we needed to do," center Kristofer O'Dowd said. "During the first half, we kind of tried everything out. We tried everything in our game plan. In the second half, we consistently went with what was working for us."
Even in USC's only loss this season, at Oregon State, the Trojans rebounded from a dreadful half to be in the game until the closing seconds.
It's a trait the Trojans are utilizing down the stretch, helping to counter the initial surge teams bring to the field with them when they face the USC football team.
"I don't think we had any doubt (Saturday) that we were going to come out on top," quarterback Mark Sanchez said, "They hit some quick ones early, but you can't win in the first, second or third quarter.
"Never in the history of football has a game been won in the first half."
And with how the Trojans have been playing after coming out of the locker room a second time, USC will be tough to beat when the clock eventually shows all zeros.