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Carroll: No apology needed for USC's celebrations

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LOS ANGELES (AP)

The officiating crew cautioned Pete Carroll during halftime at last season's Rose Bowl. If Southern California kept celebrating its success with the same wild abandon, the Trojans would get a 15-yard penalty or more.

The warning hit a nerve in the Trojans' decorated coach, who considers himself something of an ambassador for fun in football.

"I blew it, because I wanted to make them call that penalty," Carroll said Tuesday during yet another round of discussion of the Trojans' enthusiastic actions at the close of last week's 28-7 victory over UCLA.

"I wish we would have done it so they would have called the penalty on us," Carroll recalled of that blowout win over Penn State. "So we could have gotten penalized for having too much fun, because I don't understand that."

Heading into their season finale against Arizona, Carroll said the Trojans (8-3, 5-3 Pac-10) won't change the fun-filled, flamboyant ways in which they celebrate everything from a big play in practice to a winning touchdown in the Rose Bowl - even though they won't be celebrating a BCS berth for the first time since 2001.

Yet the Trojans' sportsmanship again was called into question last weekend: First for the decision to throw a long touchdown pass in the final minute of their win, and then for the hopping, chanting, team-wide celebration on the sideline during the ensuing TV timeout, drawing the Bruins out to midfield for a shouting match that appeared to be one punch away from a brawl.

Carroll insists the celebration was nothing out of the ordinary for players who are encouraged to get together on the sidelines to send the Trojans' special teams onto the field after each score.

"I don't know if you've ever noticed that, but we do that," Carroll said. "We've been doing that a long time, and that happens across the sidelines, and over the sidelines. That's where we were. We were on our side of the numbers."

The USC program has more than its share of remarkable achievements, from the row of Heisman Trophies greeting visitors entering Heritage Hall to the now-ending decade of Pac-10 domination that includes two national championships.

Carroll's exuberant intensity in every aspect of football also sets the Trojans apart. The players who chose Carroll's style out of high school are eager to preserve the high-energy approach, even when others say they cross the lines of decorum as easily as the goal line.

"I haven't seen any team in the country do the stuff we do," USC linebacker Michael Morgan said. "As far as jumping up and down, showing the love for the game and being free, nobody does that like us. ... We didn't cross the field (against UCLA). They were the ones up there. We celebrate after every touchdown, so I guess they just got mad. Before every touchdown, every special teams kickoff, we're always like this."

Carroll didn't see the celebration as taunting, even when his players broke their huddle and lined up along the edge of the field, chanting and gesturing across the Coliseum at the UCLA sideline. USC was riding an exhilarating high from Matt Barkley's 48-yard TD pass to Damian Williams just one play after Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel called a timeout when Barkley kneeled in an effort to end the game.

"Their decision was to extend the game any way they could, which I think was exactly the right thing to do," Carroll said. "And when they did that, it changes our mentality. We have to get a first down. ... There was no more consideration. That was it. The rest of it is really to be left up to however you guys want to take it. It's a competitive moment. You get to do whatever you want to do."

Carroll hopes the Trojans have a few more celebrations in store at the close of their worst season since his debut in 2001. USC's visit from Arizona carries high stakes for both clubs, with six bowl destinations still a possibility for the Trojans.

If USC beats the Wildcats for the eighth straight time and Oregon wins the Civil War on Thursday, the Trojans seem likely to be chosen for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego as the most attractive name in the Pac-10's quagmire of four second-place teams.

If Oregon loses and USC wins, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, would be the Trojans' most likely destination. But if USC loses at the Coliseum for just the third time since 2001, the Trojans' finale might even be a humbling trip to San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl, reserved for the Pac-10's sixth-place team.

"It's a big deal for us to finish well," Carroll said. "We want to see if we can come off and finish on an upswing."

Tagged: USC

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