If you want to circle a moment when USC “arrived” during the Pete Carroll era, it would be hard to say to find a bigger victory than the Trojans’ 44-33 victory over Oregon at Autzen Stadium.
USC started the season 3-2, then held on for a 30-28 victory over Cal and defeated Washington at the Coliseum, 41-21.
But going to Autzen Stadium and winning for another matter. USC had not won there since 1993. And in those days, the Pac-10 had some weird scheduling quirks where USC played at Autzen in 2001 and in one stretch, three straight times in the rivalry.
In 2002, USC was No. 15 and Oregon No. 14 in the nation. The Trojans trailed, 19-14, at halftime but then scored 20 straight points in the third quarter to put the game away.
Carson Palmer passed for 448 yards and five TDs, Justin Fargas rushed for 139 yards and Mike Williams caught 13 passes for 126 yards and two TDs.
What else happened?
Carroll told me he was so upset with the way Oregon fans reacted and the ugly comments they made in 2001 as the Trojans walked from the locker room to the field, that he had a staffer videotape USC’s entrance in 2002 just to document any potential ugliness.
When USC returned from Eugene, Mike Garrett wanted a Heisman Trophy campaign mounted for Carson Palmer. USC traditionally did not do campaigning, but it sent out stuff in the mail to voters all over the nation about Palmer the following week.
The game put Palmer into Heisman contention and, of course, he eventually won the award.