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September 15, 2009Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has his team headed in the right direction. They're more physically sound than they were before. They're mentally tougher than they were before.
And this Saturday, they're certainly more dangerous to USC than they were before.
With the undeniable fear of a hangover looming as No. 3 USC heads to Seattle to face Washington, Pete Carroll's changing up. This year, he's looked to the past to keep from getting burnt in the future.
After the Trojans beat Ohio State last year, the USC's' National Championship dreams took a huge hit at Oregon State, where an under-prepared and slow-starting Trojan team fell to the Beavers.
While Carroll avoided talk about letdowns last season, he didn't waste time getting into it this year.
"I already started in the locker room just to make sure," he said. "We see teams every week with a big emotional victory, and then the next week, they don't look like the same football team. That happens in sports."
And it happened that Thursday night in Corvallis, Ore. to the Trojans. But unlike last year, USC and Carroll have a specific case to point to - a manual for "how not to come off of a big win."
"I fronted them up a little bit differently using that game as example. I think it was that obvious that we could do that," Carroll said. "We didn't have that example going into that game a year ago.
"I'm no differently aware than I was a year ago coming off the Ohio State game, going into the first conference game, but I didn't do a good enough job last year. We didn't play as well as we could have. Hopefully, we'll capture what it takes and do well by this time."
But what does it take? It takes confidence and awareness.
"We didn't come out the way we knew we could've come out and played. It was a letdown," defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. "We're all aware of what happened. We just don't want to dwell on it.
"We're just going to forget about what happened last week and take care of things at Washington."
Sarkisian isn't counting on a Trojan meltdown Saturday, largely because of Carroll's approach to having his team ready to play.
"I think fortunately for Pete, he's the master of psychological warfare, especially with those kids," Sarkisian said. "He'll have them ready to go.
"He's not going to get stung twice by the same letdown