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WeAreSC Roundtable: Favorite USC football memory

In this week’s roundtable, the WeAreSC staff answers the question: “What’s your favorite USC football memory?”

Erik McKinney

My favorite USC football memory is part-USC, part-family. I was a freshman at USC in 2001 and had just gotten my tickets to the UCLA-USC game, which were assigned at random.

Second row, and just about as close as the student section got to the 50-yard line at that time. I was pumped.

It was a phenomenal football game as long as you were cheering for the right team. I’ll remember the Antuan Simmons between-the-legs interception for about as long as I can remember anything.

But that’s my favorite USC football memory because it’s the last game my grandfather saw. For more than 50 years, he was in the Coliseum for virtually every home game–and he made it to an away game or two every year as well. He’s the reason I knew USC was a football team before I knew USC was a school.

Many of us have been able to develop deeper connections to family or friends through sports and it’s one of the things that makes sports–and USC football–so great. That game for me is one that will always stand out a little more than the rest. And I like to think that based on how that regular season ended (he’d made the trip up to Cal the previous week for the 55-14 USC blowout win), he knew what was coming (or had a hand in facilitating) over the next handful of years for the Trojans.

Greg Katz

Man, that’s a loaded question if there was ever once one. There have been so many exhilarating moments that all deserve a favorite memory. For me, my most favorite moment was the BCS National Championship Game over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl.

For me, it was a football exorcism for all the years of frustration and anger since this national title was actually won on the field and not in a vote. All those years of watching USC football and the program playing well below the expectations and the arrival of Pete Carroll’s ultimate revival of the program was surrealistic. It was such an overwhelming display of football in cardinal and gold, and the nation was in full cardinal and gold respect. The Trojans had recaptured their position as the country’s most admired and perhaps even most envied college football program.

I remember flying into Florida for the game and staying at the Trojans team hotel. I met WeAreSC publisher Garry Paskwietz at the Trojans final team practice in a breezy and wonderfully cool South Florida site, and when the practice was over, there was no doubt the Trojans were going to win the game. I remember at the end of practice the players gathered together, and I believe it was either Pete Carroll or Ed Orgeron that was being tossed in the air. Carroll had brought the mental state of the team right into the moment. The electricity at the end of the practice was so intense.

At the game, I sat next to former WeAreSC writer George Young, and we were both concerned when Oklahoma scored first. One pregame memory was an unemployed Nick Saban coming on the field during warmups to shake hands with Pete Carroll, and then Pete proceeding to toss a football to his son, Brennan, which was a pregame tradition for the two.

Back to the game, when USC had blown out Oklahoma in the first half, I’ll never forget the Sooners fans leaving the stadium and early in the second half the famous Boomer Schooner departing the premises, too. After the game, I was amazed that USC National Champion T-shirts were already being sold outside the exits. I still have that T-shirt today, although it’s a bit weathered at this point in time.

Anyway, when I got back to the team hotel, which was magnificent I might add–right on the Atlantic Ocean–we were invited by the football program to join in the team’s midnight celebration in one of the grand ballrooms. It was a super experience, as there was wall-to-wall food, players watching a replay of the game on a number of large TV sets, and a number of celebs all around as music was blaring. To see so much cardinal and gold happiness and joy there was in that giant room was so gratifying. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime memory to celebrate with the national champions.

Kevin Bruce

It was a great memory while walking off the field after beating #3 or #2 ranked tOSU Buckeyes and Woody 18-17, even after taking three points off the board in the first half. I was positive that Notre Dame would take care of Alabama in the Orange Bowl and we would pull out a National Championship. I was later baffled that Oklahoma was also ranked #1 even though they were on probation and played no bowl game.

Regardless, Ohio State was physically the toughest game I ever played. I only practiced three times before kickoff with a serious case of the flu. I started the game after having lost about 18 pounds due to that flu and went on the field at about 218 pounds vs. my normal playing weight of about 232 to 236. I threw up on the sideline after the first series and felt much better.

While walking off the field after a one point win, the USC fans were going crazy and I stayed behind for a while to celebrate. John McKay wasn’t happy about that but all was ok since we won. During the game I got two deep, bleeding cuts above both eyes.

Fortunately we were the home team and with my Cardinal jersey neither the blood (or my sideline “breakfast toss”) showed up. I visited the OSU locker room to recognize the great effort by the OSU offensive guard (he was an All-American btw). Normally I’m not that magnanimous but I was pretty perky with a win and a likely Natty under my belt. Turns out my opponent had deep cuts over both of his eyes too. I guess the helmets did their job…we were both still standing after a pounding. Fight On!

Darrell Rideaux

Hard to believe it has already been 21 years since I first set foot on the campus as a student-athlete at USC. This time of the year, under normal circumstances, is a time that we as fans go to get excited because football is but a month away. 

As I think back at my time as a Trojan, my fondest memory had to be in my senior season 2002. It was rivalry week, and as a team the weather was changing and there was much excitement in the air because Carson Palmer was a bonafide Heisman candidate, we were on a five-game winning streak and were looking at a top-10 match up in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against Notre Dame on ESPN the following week. Things couldn’t have looked or felt better. 

As we prepared for UCLA practice felt like business as usual except it wasn’t. We just felt flat. We were not as crisp as we normally were. I recall conversations in the locker room that week as discussions of  the Trojans being in the discussions of a top four program and all of the new found hype that sounded us.

That year our team was a motley crew–a band of misfits but personalities that meshed and came together well. We had the old seniors such as Malaefou MacKenzie and who had been in the program for so long it felt like he was recruited by John Mckay. We call Malaefou “Jesus in Cleats.” Then there was Justin Fargus, Kareem Kelly, Marcell Allmond, and Darrell Rideaux, Keary Colbert and the emergence of Big Mike Williams. We were just hitting our stride. 

Game Day. USC vs UCLA.

During warm ups we were going through the motions and something just didn’t feel right. There were some overcast guys who were yawning and just flat. Let’s face it, UCLA wasn’t exactly a top rated Notre Dame team that had a lot to play for. So when you hear a player use the cliche “just take this one game at a time,” don’t believe it. The truth is, not all games are measured equally, and match the intensity on a week-in and week-out basis. 

After we went through the dress rehearsal, we went into the  locker room. I walked in just before Coach Pete Carroll. I looked around, saw guys yawning as though they were watching back to back episodes of MASH.  Just to give perspective, I was more of a lead-by-example sort of guy. I left the vocal speech talks to Frosty Rucker and Fred Matua–guys that like to get in your face and pick a fight. As Coach Carroll stepped towards the middle of the locker room, I stepped in front of Coach Carroll and addressed the team with a passionate speech. I talked about how we needed to approach the game with the Spirit of Troy, Play Like Men, Play for Each other, Play like Trojans.

Needless to say, we took a 21-0 lead en route to a 52-21 victory over the Bruins to go 4-0 in my career against UCLA. 

Chris Arledge

My USC football memories belong in a different category than Kevin’s and Darrell’s, because I didn’t play for USC. Mine are all the memories of a spectator.

And the one that stands out is easily Bush Push. 

I’ve probably been to 100 USC football games, including eight games in South Bend. I have never felt that level of intensity before a game. We got to campus early, as we always do when we visit Notre Dame. I was there with my best friend (a USC fan) and my two friends who played for ND in the 70’s, Danny Knott and Luther Bradley. I went with them to a tailgate party and spent five or ten minutes talking to Ara Parseghian. I was wearing my LenDale White jersey. It felt like a LenDale kind of day; I didn’t know this one would belong to Reggie. Ara told me he has nightmares sometimes where he sees jerseys that look like mine. Nice guy, and they were raising money for a good cause.

Walking around campus, there was a buzz in the air. Gameday was there. USC was riding a long winning streak. Many of the buildings on campus had long banners showing all of Notre Dame’s prior streak-breaking games; there were a bunch of them. It was impressive. 

Notre Dame came out in their green jerseys. The crowd went wild. Reggie grabbed the USC flag, ran to the 50 yard line, waved it for the crowd, and tried to stick in the turf. The crowd hated it. It was great.

It was a sloppy first half. LenDale never got going. Matt was spotty. The game was tight. A special teams breakdown on USC’s punt team allowed ND to take the lead late in the first half. 

Everybody here knows what happened at the end. I will only say this: I have never been in a louder stadium. That concrete structure was shaking. And I have never seen a stadium go from deafening to silence as quickly as ND Stadium did after Jarrett’s catch on 4th and 9. Just an amazing moment.  Maybe my favorite of all the USC moments I’ve witnessed. A close second what Bush pushing Leinart into the end zone with ND’s fans standing around the outside of the field after they had stormed the field and were forced off by officials. 

Bush Push.  I’ll never forget it. 

Want to share your own favorite USC football memory? Post it on the WeAreSC message board.