December 31, 2008

Trojans handle the hype

Since USC last walked off the field at the Rose Bowl, the Trojans have been eyeing their return to Pasadena.

They knew they were headed back there to face Penn State.

The coaches began watching film, and after some time off, the Trojans got back to work.

And, then the questions started - lots and lots of questions.

The media attention culminated Tuesday when USC players spoke to the media for one final time before they finally get to do what they do best - play football.

"We're used to it. We know how to handle it; we know how to not let the hype go to our heads," Taylor Mays said. "We're used to being in the spotlight of the college football world playing these games.

"We're lucky to be in the situation, and we know how to handle it."

The Trojans know how to handle all of this because they go through it pretty often.

Each practice, fans line the field. Media swarms and asks questions. Cameras and recorders are everywhere.

Games like USC's contest with Ohio State earlier this season attracted the national media for the better part of two weeks.

For veterans like senior Kyle Moore, it's nothing new, but for younger Trojans, experiences like Ohio State week help set the stage for the extra attention a Rose Bowl berth brings with it.

"That gave them a little taste of it. They got to see what it's like," Moore said. "We just let them figure it out. That's how we all did. It's really the only time of the year when it happens like this."

Experience, when it comes to the extra attention, is the best teacher.

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez said he got to watch USC quarterbacks like Matt Leinart and John David Booty go through the media storm during Rose Bowl week, preparing him for all the attention he's been receiving.

"I've been through this before. I just haven't been asked the questions. I've kept an eye on it. I knew it would get turned up a little bit. I knew it might get a little brighter," Sanchez said. "In a bowl week like this, you're the quarterback. People want to know what you're thinking."

And for Moore, seeing just how many people cared was eye opening.

"I remember my freshman year, and it was a neat thing to see. You had cameras in your face, and you get to see all these personalities from ESPN. It's a cool thing to see," he said. "We're seasoned vets when it comes to this. We've done it. I've been here for four years."

And for Penn State, a team who hasn't been here since 1995, it all could be a little overwhelming.

"If you're not used to it, it could be a little much. There are all these lights and these cameras," Moore said. "It can get kind of distracting for teams that aren't used to it. For us, we've been here.

"Lights like this, we've seen it. It doesn't bother us at all."

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