Southern California (0-2, 1-3) at #10 Washington (1-0, 3-0)
Saturday, October 6 -- 12:35 PM
Husky Stadium -- Seattle, WA
Last Meeting: October 31, 1998 – USC 33, Washington 10
Series All-Time: USC leads, 42-25-4
Since that 1998 Halloween game -- with a first-time starting quarterback named Carson Palmer throwing for 279 yards in a 33-10 USC win in Los Angeles, even though Washington ran 39 more plays and had a 13-minute time of possession advantage -- both coaching staffs have changed, in name and in philosophy. After a 16-year coaching tour of the NFL (including head-coaching stints in New England and New York), defensive guru Pete Carroll was hired last December to try and resurrect a once-dominant USC program that has only been to one Rose Bowl since 1989. The Trojans' record –- including this season's 1-3 start -- is a maudlin 32-32 in the last five years and 66-55-3 spanning the last ten, two of them losing ones.
Carroll, who's last college gig was at Pacific in 1983, hired long-time BYU passing master Norm Chow to be his offensive coordinator and former Washington running backs coach Wayne Moses to perform the same duties at USC. It took all of three games to turn the Trojans into a very non-Trojan looking offense -- a five-receiver, no-huddle offense that was first sprung on Oregon.
The early returns are mixed at best. USC rang up 451 total yards against the Ducks –- 411 through the air. It was a different story against Stanford last week; amid a sea of penalties and mistakes, the Trojan offense was held to 266 total yards and one touchdown –- on an eight-yard drive.
"Our team plays really, really hard. I like the fight in these kids," says Carroll of his team's early struggles, "but we're just not playing smart. Our decision-making is just not there right now. We're doing what we can to clean it up."
"We need to start scoring some points so we can operate in a more normal mode."
Almost blasphemous to the trophies of Heritage Hall, USC is dead last in team rushing in the PAC-10 -- by a mile. The Trojans rushed for, if you want to call it that, 28 yards against the Cardinal. It wasn't much better against Oregon, netting 40 yards. Consequently, USC is also last in the conference in time-of-possession.
Yet USC has been right there knocking every week. They've faced two top-tens and a undefeated Stanford in their past three games, coming up short by a combined 11 points. They fell behind Oregon 19-6 and Stanford 21-0, and came back. They allowed K-State 340 rushing yards -- and 10 points. They're athletic, and they're fast. Shutting down Stanford to zero second-half points and holding Oregon to 303 yards at home is no small feat.
There's a lot of talent –- and what worries Washington coach Rick Neuheisel most, a lot of ANGRY talent. USC is 1-3 for the first time in 40 years, and hasn't won an October game since a 1999 win over Oregon State -- eight games and counting. The Trojans seem to be the antithesis of what Washington has become –- week-to-week, always knocking, always competing, but not quite finishing.
The Huskies have learned how to win again the past (going on) three seasons, no matter the circumstance. Which sounds a lot like how USC used to be.
No doubt about it. It HAS been a millennium since.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA OFFENSE
Long gone are the Trojan days of "Student Body Right and the Heisman shall follow." Coach Chow, who enjoyed 27 years of passing fancy at BYU before spending last year at NC State, unveiled his spread offense against Oregon that when engaged makes USC look like -– well, BYU. And junior QB Carson Palmer (6-5, 220) does like running it, though he's still learning it. "We're putting in new things," Palmer says, "and there are going to be other wrinkles, too. It's only a matter of time before we get it going."
Palmer has been an enigma for much of his career -– at least when he's not been injured. He's thrown for 660 yards over the last two games, but has been picked off five times. Though known as a pure passer, Palmer jumped up and ran for 60 yards against Kansas State. He can kill defenses with his arm and is just as liable to hurt his own cause by hasty decisions -- Palmer has 28 TDs and 33 INTs in his USC career. One thing is for certain -- he'll be the man unless he goes down, as neither of his two understudies, RS-freshman Matt Cassel and true freshman Matt Leinart, has thrown a pass yet.
Palmer's weapons were reduced by one when Marcell Allmond was suspended by the USC student council for the fall term for an alleged fighting incident, but he does have junior Kareem Kelly (6-0, 190), who is making a serious run at Johnnie Morton's all-time receiving records. Kelly's 93-yarder against Oregon was an Autzen Stadium record. He was the only USC receiver to catch a pass against Kansas State, he had six receptions against Stanford, and he leads the team with 20 grabs. The flankers are a combination of junior Grant Mattos (6-2, 220) and sophomore Keary Colbert (6-1, 195). Colbert took over at flanker last year when Allmond broke his leg halfway through the season; Mattos earned his first career start against the Ducks, and has nine receptions. Senior Kory Dickerson (6-4, 235) has made the switch from linebacker to tight end a successful one, with 11 receptions and a 14-yard average. Dickerson has a 6'8" high jump to his credit, and will be hard for any linebacker to cover.
As the reigning 100-meter champion in the PAC-10, junior Sultan McCullough (6-0, 195) lays fair claim to being the fastest player in the conference. McCullough has nine 100-yard games in his Trojan career. Amazingly, his 1,163 yards in 2000 was the highest Trojan rushing total in 10 years. Though with only 270 yards so far this season, he does have five rushing TDs, and he's a threat to take it the distance every touch. McCullough will also split wide as a receiver in the spread. Senior Malaefou MacKenzie has a terrible run of luck going this year, first missing two games with a knee injury, then having to return home to Western Samoa for his father's funeral. Upon his return, he popped his knee again during his first practice, and looks to be out for quite a while. True freshman Daryl Poston (5-11, 185) and RS-freshman Chris Howard have four carries between them, and both are now one snap away from getting the call. Senior co-captain Charlie Landrigan (5-11, 235) gives Palmer a Marcus Fields-like threat out of the backfield, averaging 14.6 yards on 14 receptions from his fullback slot.
Like Washington, USC only starts one senior on the front wall, and both tackles are new. Sophomore center Lenny Vandermade (6-3, 275) earned several freshman All-American honors last year, starting all 11 games (the last seven at center). He suffered a torn chest muscle against K-State but still hasn't missed a game. Senior co-captain Faaesea Mailo (6-3, 325) has started at both guard and tackle, and even dabbled as the goal line blocking back during the Paul Hackett era. If it seems like Mailo has been around for a long time, it's because he's served a two-year Mormon mission -- his freshman year was in 1995. Reliable junior Zach Wilson (6-5, 300) has started 23 games at right guard. A pair of sophomores line up at the tackles; Jacob Rogers (6-6, 290) and Eric Torres (6-6, 305). Torres backed up Vandermade last year, and can also play guard.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DEFENSE
Despite having the worst rushing defense in the PAC-10 (thanks to 340 yards allowed to K-State), the Trojans have done a terrific job keeping offenses out of the end zone. USC features perhaps the deepest (and fastest) defensive backfield in the country, helping to offset six new starters in the front seven. Experience and depth are both concerns, especially with the injury loss of two starters up front and one key reserve linebacker against Stanford last week. A pair of freshman will start up front, "And the backups behind those guys have to be ready," coach Carroll said. "We are really start reaching into the depth chart, and we hope guys can come through."
Senior Ryan Nielsen separated his shoulder last week, so true freshman Shaun Cody (6-3, 255) will get his first career start. He made three tackles last week. Junior nose-tackle Bernard Riley (6-3, 315) leads all Trojan linemen in tackles so far this season, including a career-high 10 stops against K-State. Riley received notoriety last year for helping a USC student who fell out of her apartment window and became impaled on a fence. Senior Bobby DeMars exited the Stanford game with a neck sprain and is doubtful, so big RS-freshman Kenechi Udeze (6-3, 295) gets the call at one end. Udeze has one sack and 14 stops on the year, and was the starter against Kansas State. Senior DE Lonnie Ford (6-3, 260), a converted tight end who was a starter in 1999 before backing up Sultan Abdul-Malik last year, shares the Trojan lead with two sacks. Reserve Omar Nazel (6-5, 235) also has a pair of sacks and will undoubtedly see his role increased.
The linebackers are all extremely quick to the ball. Junior Mike Pollard (6-0, 225) and senior Frank Strong (6-1, 220) both average over eight tackles per game -- Pollard had 11 stops against the Ducks. RS-freshman Matt Grootegoed (5-11, 205), who missed all of last season with mononucleosis, hasn't had contact in three weeks while nursing a shoulder injury, and is still questionable. Both Grootegoed and Strong are former safeties -- Grootgoed has enough speed that at one time he was being looked at to return kickoffs. Sophomore Chris Prosser (6-2, 225) is starting after a two-game NCAA suspension for receiving illegal benefits, and has 11 tackles in his two appearances. Senior John Cousins (6-2, 220) will be called upon heavily, as Lee Webb broke his foot in the Stanford game. Cousins, who is fully deaf in one ear and partially deaf in his other, got the starts in Prosser's and Grootegoed's stead, and has 11 stops on the year.
Where USC is experienced and deep is in the defensive backfield. Senior co-captain Antuan Simmons (5-10, 195) was a three-year starter at corner before an abdominal tumor sidelined him for the 2000 season. He returned and beat out junior LaShaun Hill (5-11, 200) for the starting spot. Simmons single-handedly destroyed Washington with two 4th-quarter interception returns for touchdowns in the schools' 1998 meeting. He is nursing an ankle sprain, but has played in all four contests and has one interception. Fellow co-captain Troy Polamalu (5-10, 210) leads the Trojans with 37 tackles -– five of them for a loss -- from his strong safety spot. Seniors man both corners -- Kris Richard (5-11, 190) has six career interceptions, and Chris Cash (5-11, 170) has three picks in his two-year Trojan career. Like Washington's Lowe/Alexander combination, Cash blocked a Mike Biselli field goal that was scooped up by Richard for a 65-yard score, getting USC within five of Stanford. Juniors Darrell Rideaux (5-9, 170) and Kevin Arbet (5-11, 180) can also play corner, and do most of the kick returning -- Rideaux owns a 10.27 clocking in the 100-meters. Arbet earned a PAC-10 POW award as a freshman for a 75-yard INT return and a fumble recovery against Louisiana Tech. He returned a punt 47 yards setting up USC's lone offensive touchdown against Stanford, and also recovered a fumble.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SPECIAL TEAMS
Junior place-kicker Dave Davis (5-11, 160) showed pretty good range against Oregon, nailing two of his three field goals from outside of 40 yards. The left-footer was a JC Grid-Wire All-American last year at El Camino Junior College. Davis beat out senior incumbent David Newbury, who still kicks off for the Trojans. Senior punter Mike MacGillivray (5-10, 195) has averaged 39.4 yards per punt in his four-year Trojan career -– it happens to be his average so far this year, too. Only 10 percent of his punts have exceeded 50 yards, but 30 percent have ended up inside the 20.
KIBBLES AND BITS
Of the last four USC coaches to visit Husky Stadium's friendly confines for the first time, only Larry Smith won his inaugural. Both John McKay (1961) and Ted Tollner (1983) were shut out. Paul Hackett was spared his visit by the schedule-maker and a pink slip . . . PAC-10 quarterbacks are among the top-10 in the country in passing efficiency -- ASU's Jeff Krohn is 4th, Stanford's Randy Fasani is 6th and WSU's Jason Gesser is 8th. It could be part of the reason the PAC-10 has gone 18-4 in non-conference games . . . for all the excitement Charles Frederick has provided returning punts, Stanford ranks number two in the nation in that category. The Cardinal's Luke Powell leads the conference with a 25.3 return average . . . Hard to believe, but it's been 20 years since USC's last Heisman trophy winner (Marcus Allen in 1981) . . . Thanks to Derek McLaughlin's performance against Cal, Washington now leads the conference in punting average. However, they are ninth in net punting, allowing nine yards per return . . . FLAG DAY IN PULLMAN? Washington State and Oregon State are ninth and tenth in the PAC-10 respectively in penalties, both averaging over 10 indiscretions per game . . . USC true freshman CB John Walker was a child-actor in the T.V. shows E.R. and 7th Heaven. He could not play football until his sophomore season in high school because of a clause in his acting contract, specifying no school sports . . . Arizona State's Mike Barth is the only "perfect" kicker left in the conference (not a single missed PAT or field goal) . . . Larry Tripplett ranks second in tackles-for-loss in the PAC-10 -- and leads all down Defensive linemen . . . USC is 4-0 when Sultan McCullough has 25 or more carries in a game. But when McCullough handles it 20 or few times, the Trojans are 0-6 . . . The Huskies are the only team in the PAC-10 that have yet allow a rushing touchdown this year . . .
OPPONENTS' PREVIEW: A look at USC
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