Adjectives were thrown around like it was Christmas in the USC locker room after the game Saturday.
It seems no one could find the right words to describe the 21-17 loss the No. 20 Trojans suffered at the hands of Arizona.
Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley had to paused for a while before reaching a conclusion.
“I’m trying to think,” a not-so-visibly-displeased Barkley said. “I’d say unbelievable. I’d say amazing, crazy.”
Sixth-year senior offensive guard Jeff Byers, a captain in his final home game as a Trojan, shared a different opinion.
“It is what it is,” Byers said. “It’s frustrating and it’s hard, but dwelling on it is not gonna help me, not gonna help anybody else.”
“It’s part of life.”
Ask Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, who led his team to a final-drive victory in the last three minutes, and you get a bit of a different opinion.
“It comes down to will and wanting it,” Foles said. “And our guys have a lot of heart. USC played great, but our guys wanted it more.”
I’d agree, Mr. Foles.
But I heard a lot of different reasons — a lot of buts, some more valid than others— from the USC side.
“To not be able to win our games at the Coliseum is a big disappointment,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “But it’s young program and there is a tremendous feeling about the guys coming up.”
Fourth-year junior receiver Damian Williams limped to his locker, nursing a still-sore ankle injury. He looked beyond disappointed, if that’s possible.
“It’s tough to swallow,” said Williams, who was reported by multiple sources to be yelling at his teammates in the second half, saying they were getting their butts kicked. “But at the same time, that’s what you go to practice for every day.”
Senior safety Will Harris brought up the uncanny amount of injuries that affected USC.
“It was just a frustrating year,” Harris said. “Two guys going down with neck injuries, Stafon with the throat, and it was just a very emotional and frustrating year for us. But we did the best we can.
Fourth-year junior running back Allen Bradford blamed the time of the game.
“I’m not sure what it was,” Bradford said. “Probably just waking up early, being used to night games, I don’t know what it was.”
Well, whatever it was, it surely wasn’t what they expected.
Four losses in one year for a team that lost once last season and considered it a disappointment.
Four losses in one year for a team that has been to the Rose Bowl the last four years.
Four losses in one year for a team that has been used to being at the top of the conference.
“It feels so different,” Carroll said. “It is so different from where we have been and what we have done.”
This year will be memorable, without a doubt. But for the wrong reasons.
“I’ve never been a part of this,” Harris said. “Every year I’ve been going to the Rose Bowl so it’s gonna feel a little weird.”
But the excuses — the excuses, we could do without.
“I think it’s funny that we call this a low,” Byers said. “An 8-4 season is pretty darn good by most people’s standards.”
And maybe USC will grow from this, maybe USC will bounce back next year. But for now, what USC’s 8-4 season comes down to — in all likelihood — is a December 23 date at the Poinsettia Bowl with Utah of the Mountain West Conference.
The 2009 Trojans’ last chance to prove themselves, they say.
“Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Vegas Bowl, who cares?” Byers said. “Wherever it is, let’s go and let’s have fun. We’ve got one more shot at this thing to prove who we are to go out and show the world what we are and what we’re all about. That’s what we’re going to do and that’s the only thing we can do.”