November 20, 2008

Practice Insider: Carroll talks rivalry

USC head coach Pete Carroll will not be spending extended periods of time talking about the rivalry with Notre Dame leading up to the Trojans' game with the Fighting Irish a week from Saturday.

But for each player who steps into Heritage Hall, there's a reminder of what the game means.

Inside a glass case, a trophy has been there each day of senior Kyle Moore's career. And regardless of Notre Dame's struggles, Moore said it's important to keep it there.

"This is a big game. It's for the Jeweled Shillelagh," Moore said. "We've had that in there since I've been here. We have to keep it.

"I'm used to seeing that nice jeweled log inside of Heritage Hall."

USC has won the trophy each of the past six seasons.

While Carroll said he doesn't think it's beneficial to spend time talking about it, he knows the game means a little extra.

"I won't go there a lot in preparation," he said. "It's an incredibly famous tradition for our fans and alums. I think the nation expects to see this game every year as part of the college football season.

"But we're not going to prepare any different than we normally do."

As the Trojans closed out an extra weeks worth of practices, Carroll said Notre Dame wasn't a priority with his team heading into a bye.

"It's been a good week of work," he said. "We worked against each other the whole time, and we have really done very little game plan stuff."

Carroll did admit it's a special game to coach, though, because he grew up with the history of the rivalry.

"I'm like one of the older fans who has watched this game over the years and thought it was classic," Carroll said. "I get all of that."

The two teams are moving in different directions this year, with USC winning seven-straight games and Notre Dame's lost three-of-five.

Still, the match up won't lose any luster in Carroll's eyes.

"I don't think the records matter in these games," he said. "There are times when everything's been at stake, and there was an enormous national build up. But the build up between the fans and the two universities is always a beautiful thing.

"We're lucky to be coaching in this match up as we represent all the people who have done so well in the past."

When the two teams meet on the field a week from Saturday, the past won't be left there.

Safety Taylor Mays said he'll look around the field and think of players like Joe Montana, Tim Brown, Paul Hornung, O.J. Simpson, Carson Palmer, Rodney Peete and Reggie Bush.

"The thing that makes it special is the tradition. Really, it's two of the most prestigious schools in the country," Mays said. "You carry with you what all the great Notre Dame players and all the great USC players did in the past. That comes into the game.

"You're just trying to add to the legacy of one of the most special rivalries in college football."

Extra Points

• Wide receiver Jordan Cameron moved inside to tight end some on Thursday and looked comfortable with the routes.

"It's been an experiment. He's done fine at wide receiver, but when we got banged up, we needed to do something," Carroll said. "He jumped in there, and it gives him an added dimension."

Carroll said Cameron will play wide receiver during the spring, but the team could use him at both spots.

• Carroll called Blake Ayles "very iffy" with his knee injury.

• While the team will not deal a lot with the rivalry-aspect of the game next Saturday, Carroll said he will address the game's importance because it will be the final home game for his team's seniors.

"That'll be the main focus, dedication of this week to the seniors," he said.

• Carroll singled out Khaled Holmes, Matt Kalil, Cameron, Curtis McNeal and Jurrell Casey as young players who impressed him during the past week of practice.

"Guys couldn't block (Casey)," Carroll said. "He was just dominant. Every day he was a factor."

Tyron Smith had a boot on his right foot after having someone roll up on his ankle during Thursday's practice. Smith said he'd be fine by Monday.

C.J. Gable got poked in the eye during Thursday's competition-heavy practice, but he said he'd be fine.

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