I think I’m going to start calling games like the USC/BC Emerald Bowl a “Pete Carroll Game.” What’s a Pete Carroll game, you ask? It’s a cousin to the various “Mike Riley Games” (full post about that coming some day), only the Pete Carroll Game is a close game that was a total blowout, despite the score.
USC beat BC 24-13 in the most recent edition of the Emerald Bowl, and BC was even close for a while. But anyone watching the game knew the Eagles had absolutely no shot at taking the lead on the Trojans. Matt Barkley was flat-out fantastic and there was simply no way his team was going to lose that game. And yet…the score was 24-13 at the end. Not exactly what you’d call total domination.
There’s historical precedent for this as well. In last year’s Rose Bowl, the Trojans beat Penn State 38-24 behind a gem from Mark Sanchez. Everyone knew Penn State had no shot, and yet it was only a 14-point game at the end. In the 2007 Rose Bowl, USC beat Michigan 32-18 in a game I think everyone can agree Michigan was destroyed by the Trojans. The most obvious one is the first time USC beat Michigan, winning 28-14 in a game that was not nearly as close as the score.
The Pete Carroll Game seems to occur most often in bowl games, but it can happen in the regular season as well. For example, USC beat Arizona 17-10 in 2008. Phillips and I watched that one in a bar in Evansville, IN from beginning to end (I have the emphysema to prove it, by the way), and there was no way Arizona was ever, ever, ever going to win that game. USC was in total control from start to finish, but didn’t win the game big like one might have expected given the talent, skill, and coaching difference between the two teams.
In 2004, USC beat rival UCLA 29-24. UCLA never held a lead, but was within a touchdown for a lot of the game. Yet, USC always answered any Bruin score with a score of their own and were never seriously challenged for the lead in the second half. Total Pete Carroll Game.
I think the classic example of a Pete Carroll game is also something of an exception to the rule. In 2005, USC played a classic, entertaining shoot out with Fresno State at the Coliseum. It’s actually better known as the Reggie Bush Game because the Heisman winner had two total touchdowns, ran for 294 yards, had 135 return yards, and caugh 3 passes for 68 yards. The Trojans ended up winning 50-42 over the Bulldogs, but anyone who watched that game, despite Fresno State’s brief 42-41 late lead, knew that USC would always come back and win. It was just a matter of how and when they did it. It was a no-doubter that was still a close, entertaining game.
Of course, the term can be applied to pretty much any sporting event in which the favorite dominates but doesn’t blow their opponent out. If Roger Federer wins a Grand Slam Final in four sets instead of sweeping three, he pulled a Pete Carroll. If a baseball team wins 2-0 but their pitching staff only gives up three hits, they pulled a Pete Carroll. If a guy asks out the loosest girl in his social circle, takes her to Chili’s and a matinee movie, and STILL gets some action at the end of the night, he pulled a Pete Carroll.
That is the beauty of the Pete Carroll Game. Now go forth, and use it wisely.