Trojans Roar Louder In 24-17 Win Over Tigers

Sept 3, 2002

By KEN PETERS
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES - Carson Palmer's final season at Southern California isoff to a fast start.

Palmer threw for 302 yards and a touchdown, and scored the game-deciding TDon a sneak with 1:26 remaining as No. 18 Southern California opened with a24-17 win over Auburn on Monday night.

'That fifth-year senior got us,' Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said afterthe Tigers lost their opener in what was just their second game ever inCalifornia.

The Trojans' winning drive started at midfield with five minutes remaining.

'This offense knows what it's supposed to do, and we did,' Palmer said.'I missed a couple of (throws) in the first half, but I felt more comfortablein the second.

'Our receivers did a good job of getting open.'

Palmer bulled into the end zone from 1 yard out for the go-ahead score inthe teams' second meeting ever.

Still trying to live up to the high expectations that greeted him at USC,Palmer completed 23-of-32, including a 14-yard touchdown pass, and wasintercepted twice.

'Other than those two interceptions, it was the kind of game you need fromyour quarterback,' USC coach Pete Carroll said.

Tailback Malaefou MacKenzie, who often seemed overlooked by the Auburndefense, had six catches for 117 yards and also carried 11 times for 31 yards.

Carroll, beginning his second year at USC, was pleased with the opening winagainst a tough opponent.

'We stayed with our game plan. Our timing was off, but I think it will beOK in the future. We did not look as fast tonight as we think we can be,' hesaid. 'But it was very warm out there and I think both teams slowed downbecause of the heat.'

Temperatures were in the 90s at kickoff time, and remained in the 80s formost of the game.

Auburn's Carnell Williams ran for 94 yards on 21 carries and a TD, but theTrojans' defense held him to minus-2 yards on seven carries in the second half.

Daniel Cobb went 10-of-21 for 132 yards for the Tigers, with oneinterception.

'Overall we had a good performance, good enough to win except for ourdefense in the second half,' Tuberville said.

After an Auburn drive stalled at the USC 22, the Tigers' Damon Duval made a39-yard field goal nine seconds into the fourth quarter to tie it 17-17.

David Davis' 37-yard field goal midway through third quarter had put theTrojans up by 3 points.

Auburn linebacker Karlos Dansby had an interception in the first half andrecovered a fumble by Kareem Kelly at the Tigers' 12-yard line to turn away athreat in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers got some help from a Trojans mistake, and some luck at the goalline to even it 14-all just before halftime.

Auburn punted from on fourth-and-14 from its own 15, but USC was called forhaving 12 men on the field, giving the Tigers a first down at the 30.

Cobb marched the Tigers down the field, then tried to score himself on ascramble with time running out in the half, but he fumbled at the USC 1. Theball popped into the air and into the arms of Auburn tailback Ronnie Brown, whopushed it over the line for the score with 11 seconds left.

Sultan McCullough gave the Trojans a 14-7 lead earlier in the quarter whenhe scored on a 3-yard run to cap a drive that started when Omar Nazelintercepted a Cobb pass at the USC 25 to end an Auburn threat.

Williams tied the game 7-7 with his 23-yard scoring run one play afterDansby made a lunging interception of Palmer's pass in the flat.

The Trojans capitalized on a Cobb fumble for a touchdown moments earlier.Mike Pollard recovered for USC at the Auburn 41, and Palmer hooked up withKelly on the 14-yard scoring pass.

The Trojans were coming off a 6-6 season. Auburn was 7-5 last year, losingfour of its last five.

In the previous meeting between the schools, the Tigers beat the Trojans16-7 in the 1987 Citrus Bowl.

In Auburn's only other trip to California, the Tigers were beaten 12-0 atSanta Clara in 1936.

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