No. 10 USC Football Continues Pac-10 Play On Road At Arizona State
Sept. 28, 2003
USC (3-1 overall, 0-1 Pac-10) vs. Arizona State (2-2, 0-1), Saturday, Oct. 4, 12:30 p.m. PDT/MST, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
No. 10 USC enters the month of October looking to bounce back from a trying triple overtime loss in its Pac-10 opener, its first loss after 11 consecutive wins. This is USC's first visit to Tempe since 2000 and only the second in the last 6 meetings with the Sun Devils. Arizona State has lost its last 2 games, including its Pac-10 opener last week. The Sun Devils - who Troy has played less than any other league foe - have lost their last 3 games to the Trojans to give USC its first-ever lead in the young series. USC P Tom Malone leads the nation in punting. ASU's highly-regarded QB Andrew Walter will face a Trojan defense that has intercepted a pass in each of the last 14 contests. The game will be shown live regionally by ABC-TV.
USC is ranked 10th by AP and USA Today/ESPN. Arizona State is not ranked.
For the first time in its young series with Arizona State (which began in 1978), USC holds an edge in the overall record, 10-9. USC has won the past 3 contests. ASU is USC's newest and least played Pac-10 rival. In Tempe games, the series is tied at 5-5.
Last year in the Coliseum, QB Carson Palmer threw 2 touchdowns and ran for another, while TB Justin Fargas rushed for 125 yards with a score and the Trojan defense allowed only 3 second-half points, to help No. 8 USC to a 34-13 victory over Arizona State. USC opened up a 20-3 lead late in the second quarter on Palmer scoring tosses to WR Mike Williams (18 yards) and TE Alex Holmes (2 yards) and field goals by PK Ryan Killeen (20 and 41 yards). ASU closed to 20-13 following a 24-yard scoring pass from QB Andrew Walter to WR Shaun McDonald late in the first half and PK Mike Barth's second field goal of the game (a 27-yarder at the end of the third quarter; he had a 22-yarder at the end of the first quarter). But USC responded with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns on short runs by Fargas (3 yards) and Palmer (2 yards). The Trojans piled up 434 total yards to ASU's 324 and held the ball 35:15. Troy ran for a season-best 201 yards against an ASU defense that was allowing just 107.6 rushing yards. USC, which posted 4 sacks, slowed down a Sun Devil offense that was averaging 34.4 points. ASU ran for just 27 yards and converted only 3-of-14 third downs (and 0-of-2 fourth downs). Palmer completed 20-of-34 passes for 214 yards. Fargas had his third career 100-yard outing with his 125 yards on 26 carries. WR Keary Colbert had a game-best 7 catches for 98 yards and Holmes caught a career-high 6 passes for 50 yards. CB Darrell Rideaux and S DeShaun Hill each had 6 tackles, with Hill and LB Melvin Simmons getting interceptions and DE Kenechi Udeze recovering a fumble. Walter hit 24-of-49 throws for 297 yards, but was picked off twice.
In 2000 in the last meeting in Tempe, USC - which had a 29-point second half lead - snapped its 5-game season losing streak with a dramatic double overtime 44-38 win over ASU. It was the Trojans' first win in Tempe since 1992. It also was an NCAA record third consecutive overtime game for the Sun Devils (and second double overtime loss in a row). After the teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime - a 27-yarder by ASU PK Mike Barth and then a 23-yarder by PK John Wall to make it 38-38 - USC FB Chad Pierson scored on a 2-yard run in the second overtime (Wall's PAT kick was blocked). On ASU's series, DE Sultan Abdul-Malik stripped QB Griffin Goodman on second down at the 25 and DE Matt Childers came up with the fumble to give USC the victory. For the first three-fourths of the game, USC thoroughly dominated ASU. The Trojans got on the board first on TB Sultan McCullough's 51-yard first quarter sprint. But ASU responded with a 28-yard Barth field goal. The Trojans took a 21-3 halftime lead behind an 18-yard TD pass from QB Carson Palmer to WR Keary Colbert in the second quarter and then a 1-yard TD run by TB Petros Papadakis. On the opening drive of the second half, USC WR Matt Dalton blocked Nick Murphy's punt and WR Steve Stevenson ran it in 3 yards for a score. Barth then hit a 45-yard field goal after USC fumbled away a punt on the next series, the first of 6 turnovers by the Trojans (including 4 fumbles). But Troy opened up a 29-point lead on the following possession as Palmer hit TE Antoine Harris for a 24-yard score to make it 35-6. From that point, ASU scored 32 unanswered points (including 29 straight in the final 15:46 of regulation) as the Trojans turned the ball over on 5 of their next 7 possessions. First, 3 plays after a USC fumble, TB Tom Pace had a 3-yard TD run with 46 seconds to go in the third quarter. Then, when USC lost a fumble 3 plays later, ASU took just 1 play - a 45-yard Goodman to Pace pass - to score (Goodman had relieved injured starting QB Jeff Krohn in the drive after USC took its 35-6 lead). When USC had to punt on its next possession, WR Shaun McDonald returned it 81 yards for a TD to bring the Sun Devils to within 35-27. The Trojans were forced to punt again on their next series and ASU took just 6 plays to tie the game with 4:21 left in regulation as WR Donnie O'Neal hauled in a 32-yard scoring pass from Goodman (the duo also hooked up on the conversion). USC had its highest rushing output of 2000, getting 261 yards. McCullough ran for a career-best and game-high 176 yards on 23 carries (he had 103 yards by halftime), his fourth consecutive 100-yard outing. It was the most rushing yards by a Trojan since 1994. Pierson, who came into the game with only 15 rushing yards on 4 carries in his career, had his best-ever outing with 72 yards on 16 tries while running out of the tailback and fullback spots. Palmer hit 22-of-37 passes for 279 yards. Colbert (75 yards) and Kelly (a game-high 85 yards) each had 6 receptions. Defensively, S Troy Polamalu led USC with 14 tackles, while LB Zeke Moreno had 10 and LB Aaron Graham - in his first career start (for an injured Markus Steele) - had 9. S Frank Strong returned an interception (the first of his career) 67 yards. The Trojans posted 4 sacks. For ASU, Goodman was 13-of-21 for 164 yards in relief of Krohn, who was 17-of-33 for 150 yards. O'Neal (83 yards) and TE Todd Heap (51 yards) each had a game-best 7 catches, while WR Richard Williams had 6 for 41 yards and McDonald had 4 for 45 yards (plus 121 yards on 4 punt returns). Pace ran for 70 yards on 21 carries, but ASU managed just 77 rushing yards overall. USC had 540 total yards to ASU's 391 despite running off 8 fewer plays (90-82).
USC has been ranked in the AP Top 10 for its past 10 games, its longest string since 13 in a row in 1988-89.
USC has a 268-104-19 (.710) all-time record while playing in the month of October.
The Trojans have captured their last 11 home games (with 2 shutouts). That's USC's longest Coliseum win streak since getting 11 in a row during the 1977 through 1979 campaigns (next is a 19-game-streak in 19313-33).
NEARING 700 WINS
USC is 2 victories shy of becoming the 10th Division I team to collect 700 victories. USC's all-time record is 698-297-54 (69.1%).
While only 1 Trojan claims Arizona as home - SNP Matt Hayward attended Mountain Ridge High in Glendale and then Glendale Community College - 37 Sun Devils hail from California...USC DT Manuel Wright's cousin is Arizona State senior tailback Mike Williams...OT-OG Drew Radovich's father, Mark, was a linebacker at Arizona State (1974-76)...USC S Jason Leach's cousin is ex-Arizona State (1999-2002) S Alfred Williams...USC WR Keary Colbert's cousin is ex-Arizona State DT Tommie Townsend (1999-2001)...USC P Tom Malone's personal punting coach is former Arizona State 1997 All-Pac-10 first team punter Marcus Williams...ASU men's golf coach Randy Lein was USC's coach from 1984 to 1992...ASU women's tennis coach Sheila McInerney played for the Women of Troy from 1977 to 1980.
In terms of difficulty, it might be hard to match USC's 2002 schedule, which was ranked by the NCAA, USA Today/Sagarin and BCS as the nation's toughest - it featured 11 bowl-bound team, including 9 ranked by AP (and only 1 with a losing record) at the time of the game. But Troy's 2003 slate might not be far behind. USC - which has 3 byes in 2003 - faces 8 teams that played in bowls last season, including 3 ranked in the final AP Top 20. Two USC foes are ranked in this week's AP poll. The Trojans opened at SEC power Auburn, ranked No. 6 at the time. Then, after hosting BYU and Hawaii, USC ventured into the always-difficult Pac-10 campaign, with 4 of its next 5 games on the road (including its annual tilt with non-conference rival Notre Dame). The Trojans play at California, Arizona State, Washington and Arizona, and host Stanford, Washington State and crosstown foe UCLA. The Pac-10 finale is a home contest against Oregon State on 'Championship Saturday' (Dec. 6, the latest USC regular season game since 1980).
It took 3 overtimes to end No. 3 USC's 11-game winning streak, as California PK Tyler Fredrickson's 38-yard field goal won it for the upset-minded Golden Bears, 34-31, in the Pac-10 opener for both teams before 51,208 fans in Berkeley and a national FOX Sports Net audience. It was Cal's first win over a Top 5 team since doing so against USC in 1975. Fredrickson, who had his 2 previous field goal attempts blocked by the Trojans, hit his game-winner after PK Ryan Killeen - whose 33-yarder with 16 seconds left in regulation sent the game into overtime - missed a 39-yarder on USC's third overtime possession. Both teams failed to score in the first overtime, with USC losing a fumble at the 1-yard line and then TE Gregg Guenther (Troy's tallest player at 6-8) blocking Fredrickson's 29-yard field goal try. In the second overtime, the teams traded touchdowns as WR Jonathan Makonnen caught a 20-yard pass from backup QB Reggie Robertson and then USC WR Keary Colbert grabbed a 10-yard pass from QB Matt Leinart. USC - which was coming off a bye - fought back from a 21-7 halftime deficit. Cal scored on its opening possession as starting QB Aaron Rodgers ran in from 3 yards (the first rushing TD surrendered by USC in 23 quarters). The Trojans got on the board late in the first quarter on Leinart's 27-yard pass to TE Dominique Byrd. But Rodgers then threw a pair of TD passes in the second quarter: a 2-yarder to TE Garrett Cross and a 27-yarder to WR Burl Toler. In the middle of the third quarter, USC scored twice in 10 seconds, first on a 6-yard run by TB LenDale White and then LB Lofa Tatupu intercepted Rodgers on Cal's next play and ran it in from 26 yards. Frederickson put the Bears back up with a 51-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter before Killeen's late kick extended the game. Cal dominated the statistics, getting more first downs (24-18), total yards (469-376), plays (85-63) and, most significantly, possession time (38:26-21:34). The Bears also converted 11-of-18 third downs to USC's 3-of-12. In the first half, USC had only 7 first downs and held the ball just 8:01. Leinart completed 21-of-39 passes for 277 yards and the 2 TDs, but had 3 interceptions. Colbert had a game-best 8 catches for 81 yards, while WR Mike Williams added 6 receptions for 96 yards. Dennis ran for 53 yards on 14 attempts. For Cal, TB Adimchinobe Echemandu rushed for a game-high 147 yards on 34 carries (the first time an individual ran for 100 yards against USC in 17 games). Rodgers was 18-of-25 for 217 yards with 2 picks and Robertson was 9-of-12 for 109 yards. Makonnen (104 yards) and Cross (41 yards) each had 7 catches. USC S Jason Leach had a game-leading 11 tackles, while LB Melvin Simmons and S Darnell Bing each added 9 stops.
Both USC and Arizona State feature a top offensive player named Mike Williams (USC's sophomore receiving sensation and ASU's senior tailback).
Pete Carroll brought big doses of experience, enthusiasm and leadership in his quest to revive the USC football program when he was named the Trojans' head football coach on Dec. 15, 2000 (he signed a 5-year contract). He is 20-9 as a college head coach (all at USC); his losses were by a total of 42 points (4.7 average) and only 1 was by more than a touchdown (it was by 11 points). After starting off his Trojan career 2-5, he has gone 18-4. He is 7-0 in November. His teams already have posted 3 shutouts. In 2002, just his second season at USC, his Trojans thrived despite playing what was ranked by the NCAA, Sagarin and the BCS as the nation's most difficult schedule (facing 9 AP-ranked teams and 11 bowl squads). USC - which beat Iowa in the Orange Bowl - posted an 11-2 overall record and a No. 4 ranking in the final polls, and won the Pac-10 championship while going 7-1. The Trojans also won their last 9 home games. It was USC's first 11-win season since 1979 and its highest ranking since 1988. Troy won its final 8 games (scoring at least 30 points in each), including blowouts of traditional rivals UCLA and Notre Dame (the first time USC beat both in the same season since 1981 and the first time in back-to-back games since 1978). USC led the Pac-10 in total offense (449.3) and total defense (284.9), as well as scoring offense (35.8) and scoring defense (18.5), and was in the NCAA's Top 25 in nearly every team statistical category on both sides of the ball. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Carson Palmer and safety Troy Polamalu were first team All-Americans. Carroll was 1 of 8 finalists for the 2002 Paul 'Bear' Bryant Coach of the Year Award and was 1 of 4 runners-up for the 2002 American Football Monthly Schutt Sports Division I-A Coach of the Year Award. After USC started off his opening 2001 season slowly at 1-4, Carroll stayed the course and got his troops to rally by winning 5 of their last 7 games (including the final 4 regular season contests) to finish at 6-6 overall. USC, which won its last 5 Pac-10 games after beginning league play at 0-3, placed fifth in the conference at 5-3 and earned a berth into the Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl. Putting an exclamation point on the regular season was a 27-0 blanking of No. 20 UCLA, USC's first shutout in the crosstown rivalry since 1947 and the series' biggest margin of victory since 1979. The 51-year-old Carroll has 28 years of NFL and college experience, including 12 on the college level. He was the head coach of the NFL's New England Patriots for 3 seasons (1997-99) and New York Jets for 1 year (1994). He guided the Patriots into the playoffs in his first 2 seasons, winning the AFC Eastern Division title at 10-6 in 1997 and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, then posting a 9-7 regular season mark in 1998. His overall record in New England was 27-21 in the regular season (including 8-8 in 1999) and 1-2 in the playoffs. He owns the franchise's second-best winning percentage (54.9%). After serving as the Jets' defensive coordinator for 4 seasons (1990-93), he became the team's head coach the following season. His 1994 Jets went 6-10. Only 3 other Jets head coaches won more games in their rookie campaign. He spent the next 2 years (1995-96) as the defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, who won the NFC Western Division title both seasons. The 49ers were 11-5 in the 1995 regular season when they had the NFL's top-ranked defense and then went 12-4 in 1996. Carroll began his coaching career at the college level, serving as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Pacific, for 3 years (1974-76), working with the wide receivers and secondary. He then spent a season as a graduate assistant working with the secondary at Arkansas (1977) under Lou Holtz as the Razorbacks won the 1978 Orange Bowl, and then a season each as an assistant in charge of the secondary at Iowa State (1978) under Earle Bruce (the Cyclones played in the 1978 Hall of Fame Bowl) and at Ohio State (1979) under Bruce. That Buckeye squad lost to USC in the 1980 Rose Bowl. He next spent 3 seasons (1980-82) as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at North Carolina State, then returned to Pacific in 1983 as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. He entered the NFL in 1984 as the defensive backs coach of the Buffalo Bills, then held a similar position with the Minnesota Vikings for 5 seasons (1985-89). The Vikings advanced to the playoffs his last 3 years there, getting to the NFC Championship game in 1987. The 1988 team was 11-5 in the regular season and the 1989 squad won the NFC Central Division crown with a 10-6 mark. His secondary averaged 25 interceptions a season and led the NFL in passing defense in 1989. Carroll spent the 2000 season as a consultant for pro and college teams, doing charitable work for the NFL and writing a column about pro football for CNNSI.com. Carroll was a 2-time (1971-72) All-Pacific Coast Conference free safety at Pacific and earned his bachelor's degree in 1973 in business administration. He received his secondary teaching credential and a master's degree in physical education from Pacific in 1976. He was a 3-sport (football, basketball and baseball) standout at Redwood High in Larkspur, Calif., earning the school's Athlete of the Year award as a senior. He played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. He then played football at Marin Junior College in Kentfield, Calif., in 1970. He was born on Sept. 15, 1951 in San Francisco. He and his wife, Glena, who played volleyball at Pacific, have 3 children: sons Brennan, 22, who played tight end at Pittsburgh (he previously played at Delaware) and is now an assistant at USC, and Nathan, 14, and daughter Jaime, 19, a junior at USC who played on the Women of Troy's highly-ranked volleyball team which competed in the 2000 NCAA Final Four. His late father-in-law, Dean Goranson, received his master's degree from USC.
USC's No. 1 concern in 2003 was finding a replacement for quarterback Carson Palmer, the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner whose Pac-10 record 11,818 career passing yards and 11,621 yards of total offense were among the 33 Pac-10 and USC marks he set. The All-American first teamer completed 63.2% of his passes (309-of-489) in 2002 for 3,942 yards, 33 TDs and just 10 interceptions. Four players got a shot at the job in 2003 spring practice and the competition remained nearly even throughout the spring, but left-handed sophomore Matt Leinart (72-of-124, 58.1%, 924 yds, 8 TD, 6 int in 2003) emerged with an ever-so-slight edgedespite never having thrown a pass at USC while seeing brief action in 3 games in 2002and he extended his hold on the job in this fall's practice (in Troy's 3 fall intrasquad scrimmages, he was 43-of-57, 75.4%, for 608 yards, 6 TDs and no interceptions). Backing him is junior Matt Cassel (2-of-3, 66.7%, 21 yds in 2003), Palmer's backup the past 2 seasons who has thrown just 6 passes in his career. Also available are junior Brandon Hance (1-of-2, 50.0%, 13 yds in 2003), who sat out last season after transferring from Purdue (he started 9 games there in 2001) and saw limited reps in 2002 practice after having surgery on his throwing shoulder, and sophomore Billy Hart, whose only action was briefly in 2002 but he didn't throw a pass (he also plays on the Trojan baseball team). And don't count out heralded freshman John David Booty, believed to be the first football player to graduate a full year early from high school and enroll at a major Division I-A university. Also able to take snaps is walk-on freshman Michael McDonald, the son of ex-USC All-American Paul McDonald.
- In his first career start, Leinart was an efficient 17-of-30 for 192 yards with a touchdown (on his first career pass) at Auburn.
- Leinart threw 3 touchdown passes against BYU while hitting 19-of-34 passes (but he had 3 interceptions).
- Leinart completed 71.4% of his passes (15-of-21) for 220 yards and 2 TDs (with no picks) in 3 quarters of action against Hawaii, while Cassel was 2-of-3 for 21 yards and Hance hit 1-of-2 throws for 13 yards.
- Leinart was 21-of-39 for 277 yards and 2 scores (but threw 3 interceptions) at California (in the second half, he hit 16-of-24 throws for 191 yards).
Last year, USC relied on 3 effective senior tailbacks to carry the load: Justin Fargas (who started 5 late-season games and rushed for 715 yards and 7 TDs), Sultan McCullough (a 5-game starter who led the Trojans with 814 yards and 8 TDs, and finished eighth on the school's career rushing list with 2,800 yards) and Malaefou MacKenzie (a 3-game starter at tailback and 7-game starter at fullback who ran for 939 yards and caught 76 passes in his career). In 2003, the only experienced tailback entering the season was promising sophomore Hershel Dennis (60 tcb, 230 yds, 3.8 avg, 2 TD in 2003, plus 4 rec, 12 yds, 3.0 avg). He was USC's No. 3-leading rusher (198 yards) and its top kickoff returner (151 yards) in 2002. Joining him this fall as freshmen is a terrific trio of prep All-Americans in Reggie Bush (24 tcb, 89 yds, 3.7 avg, 2 TD in 2003, plus 2 rec, 22 yds, 11.0 yds and 4 KOR, 88 yds, 22.2 avg), Chauncey Washington (9 tcb, 40 yds, 4.4 avg in 2003, plus 1 rec, 6 yds, 6.0 avg and 3 tac) and LenDale White (17 tcb, 70 yds, 4.1 avg, 3 TD in 2003, plus 2 tac), plus frosh Jody Adewale. Dennis and Bush are speedy, darting runners, while Washington and White are known as the 'The Bruise Brothers.' Also available are 3 walk-ons: sophomore converted safety Andre Woodert and freshmen John Griffin and Sean Kelly.
- In his first career start, Dennis ran for a career-best 85 yards on 21 carries at Auburn, including a second-effort 14-yard TD, while Washington added 24 yards on 3 attempts, Bush 9 yards on 5 carries and White 6 yards on 5 tries.
- Dennis ran for 40 yards on 16 carries, with an 11-yard TD, against BYU, while Bush had 19 yards on 6 tries (he also returned a kickoff 30 yards) and Washington gained 8 yards on 3 attempts (he also made 2 tackles on special teams).
- Against Hawaii, White had a game-best 58 rushing yards on 10 carries with 2 TDs (5 and 20 yards) and made a tackle on special teams, Bush added 54 yards on 9 carries with 2 scores (23 and 27 yards), plus he caught a 28-yard pass and returned a kickoff 20 yards, Dennis ran for 54 yards on 9 attempts and caught 2 passes for 5 yards, and Washington ran for 8 yards on 3 tries and caught a 6-yard pass before going out with an ankle sprain.
- Dennis rushed for 53 yards on 14 carries at California (he also caught 2 passes for 7 yards), while Bush ran for 7 yards on 4 tries (he also returned 2 kickoffs for 38 yards) and White had 6 yards on 2 carries (with a 6-yard TD).
With Malaefou MacKenzie gone, a new fullback must emerge. Sophomore Brandon Hancock (1 tac in 2003), who started twice last fall, was slated to be the starter, but an ankle sprain in fall camp slowed him in USC's first 3 games of 2003. So junior Lee Webb, who also has played linebacker at USC, assumed the starting job, backed by sophomore David Kirtman (1 rec, 3 yds, 3.0 avg in 2003). Prep All-American Whitney Lewis (1 rec, 2 yds, 2.0 avg in 2003) came to USC as a wide receiver, but so far in 2003 he has mainly played as a fullback (usually in motion). Walk-on redshirt freshmen Mike Brittingham, a converted safety, and Morgan Craig, a one-time quarterback, also are in the mix.
- Lewis caught a 2-yard pass against BYU.
- Kirtman had a 3-yard catch against Hawaii (on a key fourth down play).
COLBERT AND WILLIAMS
Even though USC career reception leader Kareem Kellyhe had 204 catches, including 46 last fall, and set an NCAA record by catching a pass in 47 consecutive gamesis gone, the Trojans are in good shape in the wide receivers corps as a pair of 1,000-yard receivers (a first at Troy) are back. Both are playmakers who could win 2003 post-season honors and they form the top receiving duo in the country. Underrated, yet consistent, senior Keary Colbert (18 rec, 248 yds, 13.8 avg, 3 TD in 2002, plus 1 tcb, 11 yds, 11.0 avg) starts for his fourth season. He has caught a pass in 27 consecutive outings. He is sixth on USC's career receptions ladder with 156 grabs (tied for 26th on the all-time Pac-10 chart) and a repeat of last season's 71-catch output (for 1,029 yards) will push him past Kelly as the school's all-time leading pass catcher. His 2,199 career receiving yards is 39th on the all-time Pac-10 list. Even if Colbert breaks Kelly's reception mark, Keyshawn-esque sophomore Mike Williams (27 rec, 394 yds, 14.6 avg, 4 TD in 2003, plus 1 tcb, 17 yds, 17.0 avg and 1 tac) is poised to shatter the standard before his career concludes. He already is 11th on USC's career receptions list (108) and has 7 100-yard receiving games in his young career (twice in 2003). He has caught 18 touchdowns in his 17-game career (and he has had multiple TD games 5 times). He is averaging a touchdown every 6.2 times he touches the ball (18 TDs on 112 touches, including his 3 rushes and 1 pass attempt). He currently is 21st nationally in receptions (6.8, third in the Pac-10) and 15th in receiving yards (98.5, fifth in the Pac-10). The 2003 pre-season All-American won Freshman All-American first team status last fall and was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year when he set NCAA frosh records for receiving yards (1,265) and receiving touchdowns (14) and the Pac-10 frosh mark for receptions (81). He was 16th nationally in receiving yards (97.3) and 20th in receptions (6.2) while starting twice in 2002. Last year, he caught a TD pass in 7 consecutive games (including 3 against Washington to tie a USC game record) and his 14 TD catches not only were the second most in the nation, but tied the USC season mark. He also had 5 100-yard receiving games, including 4 in a row, in 2002. He caught 13 passes at Oregon in 2002, a USC frosh record.
- At Auburn, Williams had a game-best 8 catches for 104 yards (his sixth career 100-yard receiving game) with a 5-yard TD, while Colbert added 2 receptions for 13 yards.
- Williams grabbed a game-high 10 passes for 124 yards, including a pair of touchdowns (a 1-yarder to open USC's scoring and then an 18-yarder in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach) against BYU, while Colbert had 3 catches for 68 yards, including a nifty 48-yard catch-and-run for a TD.
- Colbert had 5 catches for 86 yards (with a 32-yard TD) against Hawaii and Williams added 3 grabs for 70 yards (with a 33-yard TD).
- Colbert had a game-best 8 catches for 81 yards (with a 10-yard TD) at California and Williams added 6 grabs for 96 yards (each were also credited with a run while catching a backwards pass, Williams for 17 yards and Colbert for 11).
OTHER WIDE RECEIVERS
Dependable backup receivers have emerged behind Keary Colbert and Mike Williams (even though no other wide receiver on the roster caught a ball last year). The cast includes such veterans as seniors Sandy Fletcher and D. Hale, a walk-on-turned-scholarship winner who has started once in his career (an ankle injury could sideline him this year), junior Jason Mitchell (1 KOR, 18 yds, 18.0 avg in 2003), sophomores Greig Carlson (1 PR, 5 yds, 5.0 avg in 2003) and converted cornerback Justin Wyatt (3 rec, 20 yds, 6.7 avg in 2003, plus 1 KOR, 31 yds, 31.0 avg and 2 tac), and sure-handed redshirt freshman Chris McFoy (1 rec, 15 yds, 15.0 avg in 2003). Carlson, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship this spring, was USC's top punt returner in 2002 (177 yards). Wyatt was the surprise of 2003 spring drills after his switch to offense. Two walk-ons also figure in junior Steve Levario Jr. and redshirt freshman John Zilka. Adding to all of this, one of the nation's most highly sought-after high school pass catchers enrolled at USC this fall as a freshman: prep All-American Steve Smith (2 rec, 16 yds, 8.0 avg in 2003, plus 1 tcb, 8 yds, 8.0 avg).
- Smith (7 yards) and Wyatt (5 yards) each had a catch at Auburn, the first of their careers.
- Wyatt had 2 catches for 15 yards versus BYU, while Smith had an 8-yard run on a backwards pass.
- McFoy caught a 15-yard pass against Hawaii, Mitchell had an 18-yard kickoff return and Wyatt had a 31-yard kickoff return.
- Smith had a 9-yard reception at California.
USC is well-stocked at tight end, with a returning starter and a pair of experienced backups. But that returning starter - senior Alex Holmes, who has caught 58 passes in his career (including 29 in 2002, the most by a Trojan tight end since 1993) - has been bothered in 2003 by a back injury and might redshirt. In his place, sophomore Dominique Byrd (10 rec, 170 yds, 17.0 avg in 2003) has taken over. Playing often behind (or with) Byrd is junior Gregg Guenther Jr. (4 rec, 37 yds, 9.3 avg in 2003, plus 1 blk FG), who started once last fall. USC's tallest player at 6-8, he also stars on the Trojans men's basketball squad. Then there are redshirt freshmen Kurt Katnik (1 rec, 13 yds, 13.0 avg in 2003), a converted center (and the younger brother of starting center Norm Katnik) and walk-on Nick Vanderboom, a converted quarterback, plus walk-on junior Owen Hanson, who also is on the Trojan men's volleyball team.
- Byrd caught 3 passes for 63 yards at Auburn, including a 42-yarder, while Guenther added a 6-yard grab.
- Against BYU, Byrd caught 2 balls for 19 yards and Guenther added a 7-yard grab.
- Byrd had 3 catches for 28 yards against Hawaii, while Katnik grabbed a 13-yard pass.
- Byrd had 2 catches for 60 yards (with a 27-yard TD) at California, while Guenther caught 2 passes for 24 yards and blocked a field goal in the first overtime period.
The 2003 version of USC's offensive line might be Troy's best in years. Players returned at 4 positions - only 4-year starting right guard Zach Wilson is gone - and there are some big-potential younger players angling for time. Both tackles returned and they're good ones: senior Jacob Rogers, a 2-year starter who earned All-Pac-10 first team laurels in 2002, and sophomore Winston Justice, a 2002 Freshman All-American first teamer. Both are in line for 2003 post-season honors. They make up the nation's best bookend tackles (Rogers on the left and Justice on the right). Senior Lenny Vandermade, a 3-year starter, returned at left guard (he also has started at center in his career), while reliable center Norm Katnik, another 2-year starter, also returned (he also has started at guard and tackle in his USC tenure). Redshirt freshman Fred Matua, a guard who was set to start the 2002 opener before a knee sprain sidelined him, has captured the starting job at Wilson's right guard spot. Versatile senior Eric Torres, who started 7 times in 2002 at every line spot except center (Torres started all of 2001 at right tackle), is finally ready to contribute in 2003 after missing the first 4 games of the season. He broke his left ankle in the Orange Bowl and missed spring drills (he was slowed in fall camp, too). Returning squadmen looking to work into the rotation are senior tackle Nate Steinbacher, who worked some at defensive tackle last fall, junior guard Travis Watkins, and redshirt freshman guard-tackle Kyle Williams, plus walk-on junior center Spencer Torgan, a converted defensive tackle, and walk-on redshirt freshman center-guard John Lanza. Coming aboard this fall were tackle John Drake, a junior college transfer who is a junior, plus a trio of freshmen who were prep All-Americans: Sam Baker and Drew Radovich at guard (Radovich can also play tackle) and Ryan Kalil at center. There's also freshman Matt Spanos, a converted defensive end.
- Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Matua and Justice started at Auburn, with Drake and Watkins seeing significant action as backups.
- Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Matua and Justice started versus BYU, with Drake getting some time.
- Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Matua and Justice started against Hawaii, with many backups also seeing action.
- Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Matua and Justice started at California (Drake also played some).
Simply put, USC's defensive line is the best in the nation. Nicknamed the 'Wild Bunch II' in honor of USC's famous 1969 defensive front (Al Cowlings, Jimmy Gunn, Willard Scott, Tody Smith, Charlie Weaver and Tony Terry), 4 key veterans - each could win 2003 post-season honors - return from a unit that was sixth in the country last fall versus the rush (allowing just 83.2 yards per game) and let only 4 of 13 offenses run for more than 100 yards (no individual ever rushed for 100 yards). More than half of USC's 43 sacks last season were by defensive linemen. Both ends returned: senior Omar Nazel (12 tac, 4 for loss, 2 sack, 1 FR, 1 int for a TD in 2003) and junior Kenechi Udeze (13 tac, 4 for loss, 2.5 sack in 2003). Udeze, a 2-year starter, set a USC record with his Pac-10 leading 6 forced fumbles in 2002. Also back is junior Mike Patterson (22 tac, 4.5 for loss, 2.5 sack, 1 FR in 2003), who started 10 times at nose tackle (where he is in 2003) and 3 at defensive tackle last fall. His 4 fumble recoveries topped the Pac-10 in 2002. Although tackle Bernard Riley - he had 19 career starts, including the last 7 games of 2002, when he posted 25 tackles - is gone, a familiar face has re-assumed that defensive tackle spot. Junior Shaun Cody (6 tac, 3.5 for loss, 1.5 sack, 1 dfl, 1 blk FG in 2003), a 2001 Freshman All-American first teamer, started the first 6 games of 2002 before tearing knee ligaments. He missed spring drills, but is fully recovered this fall. Among the returning squadmen pushing for time at end are junior Van Brown and sophomore converted linebacker Frostee Rucker (8 tac, 1.5 for loss, 0.5 sack, 1 int, 1 dfl in 2003), who sat out last year after transferring from Colorado State, and at tackle are soph LaJuan Ramsey (4 tac, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sack, 1 FF in 2003) and redshirt freshman Travis Tofi (3 tac, 1 for loss, 1 sack for a safety in 2003). Then there's junior walk-on Jay Bottom (2 tac in 2003) at end. Six new players enrolled at USC this fall as freshmen. The ends are prep All-Americans Chris Barrett (he's bothered by a shoulder injury), Lawrence Jackson and Alex Morrow, while the tackles are prep All-Americans Sedrick Ellis and Manuel Wright, plus Ryan Watson.
- The 'Wild Bunch II' was dominant at Auburn, as Patterson had 7 tackles (1 for a loss) to earn Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors, Cody had 3 stops (1.5 for a loss, with a sack) and a deflection, Ramsey had 2 tackles for a loss (with a sack) and a forced fumble, Rucker had 2 tackles and a deflection, Udeze had 2 tackles (0.5 for a loss) and Nazel had a sack and fumble recovery.
- Against BYU, Patterson had 7 tackles (with 1.5 sacks), Rucker added 6 stops (including 1.5 for loss, with 0.5 sack), Nazel had 5 tackles (2 for a loss, with a sack) and returned a point-blank interception 16 yards for a TD, Udeze had 4 stops (1.5 sacks) and Ramsey had 2 stops (0.5 sacks).
- Udeze (with a sack), Tofi (with a sack for a safety) and Patterson had 3 tackles each against Hawaii, while Nazel (1 for a loss) and Bottom each added 2 stops, and Rucker grabbed an interception on a tipped pass at the Rainbow 4-yard line.
- At California, Patterson had 5 tackles, including 2 for losses (with a sack), and recovered a fumble, Nazel also had 5 stops, Udeze added 4 tackles (1 for a loss) and Cody made 3 stops (2 for losses, with 0.5 sack) and blocked a field goal.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT THE 'WILD BUNCH II'
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville: '(Quarterback Jason Campbell) didn't have a chance. He was running around for his life. We just couldn't get any rhythm going. You could just feel our offensive line didn't feel good about being able to block those guys.'
Tom Dienhart, The Sporting News: 'Southern California has the nation's best defense. No doubt, Oklahoma's defense is formidable, but the Trojans' unit is better. It starts with the best line in the nation, aptly named the 'Wild Bunch II.'
USC is solid at the outside linebacker spots, as junior Matt Grootegoed (26 tac, 3 for loss, 1.5 sack, 1 dfl, 1 FR, 2 FF in 2003) returns on the strong side and senior Melvin Simmons (16 tac, 3 for loss, 2 FR, 1 dfl in 2003) is back on the weak side. Grootegoed, a 2-year starter and 2003 post-season honors candidate who has a knack for always being around the ball, is currently tied for 11th nationally in forced fumbles (0.7, tied for first in Pac-10). He won All-Pac-10 first team honors in 2002 when he led the Trojans in tackles (81), tackles for a loss (16.5) and sacks (8). Simmons was USC's No. 2 tackler last fall (71). But there's a new middle linebacker now that Mike Pollarda 2-year starter who had 49 stops last yearhas departed. The starter is sophomore Lofa Tatupu (team-high 35 tac, 6.5 for loss, 3 sack, 3 dfl, 1 int for a TD in 2003), who sat out last season after transferring from Maine, where he started in 2001 (he is the son of ex-USC and NFL fullback Mosi Tatupu). He is currently seventh nationally in tackles for loss (2.2, third in Pac-10) and tied for 10th in sacks (1.0, tied for fifth in Pac-10). He is backed by junior Daniel Urquhart (10 tac in 2003), a converted defensive end, and sophomore Oscar Lua, who tore knee ligaments prior to the Orange Bowl and missed spring practice (he had surgery on his other knee early this fall and is sidelined). Other linebackers from last year's roster looking to get in the mix are junior Bobby Otani (3 tac in 2003) and sophomore Dallas Sartz (3 tac in 2003), who can also play safety, plus walk-on sophomore Collin Ashton (5 tac in 2003). Prep All-American Thomas Williams, along with Salo Faraimo (2 tac in 2003), joined the linebacking corps this fall as freshmen. Walk-on junior Marco Chavez, who spent part of 2002 at Hawaii, will redshirt this year after transferring.
- Tatupu had a game-best 12 tackles (3.5 for losses of 19 yards, including 2 sacks) at Auburn while making his first career start, while Grootegoed added 5 stops (with a sack) and forced a fumble, Simmons had 3 tackles, Urquhart had 2 and Faraimo and Ashton each had 1.
- Tatupu had a game-high 11 tackles (with 2 for a loss, including a sack) and a deflection against BYU, while Grootegoed added 9 stops, a fumble recovery and a deflection, Simmons had 4 tackles and a fumble recovery, Urquhart had 2 tackles and both Ashton and Faraimo had 1.
- Tatupu (1 for a loss, with a deflection) and Grootegoed (1 for a loss, with a forced fumble) each had 4 tackles against Hawaii, while Otani, Sartz (playing safety) and Urquhart added 3 stops apiece and Ashton had 2.
- At California, Simmons had 9 tackles (3 for losses), recovered a fumble and broke up a pass, Tatupu had 8 stops, a deflection and returned an interception 26 yards for a TD, Grootegoed had 8 tackles (1 for a loss, with 0.5 sack), Urquhart had 3 stops and Ashton had a tackle.
While the biggest holes to fill on USC's defense were in the secondary, the situation wasn't as dire as it might have appeared. Granted, the Trojans lost 3 quality starters in 2-time All-American strong safety Troy Polamalu (the 2002 Thorpe Award finalist was a 3-year starter who amassed 278 tackles and 6 interceptions in his career), free safety DeShaun Hill (he had 54 stops and a team-best 8 deflections last season) and cornerback Darrell Rideaux (he notched 46 tackles, 7 pass break-ups and 2 picks in 2002). Most critically, the void left from the loss of Polamalu's leadership cannot be discounted. Only senior cornerback Marcell Allmond (12 tac, 1 int, 2 dfl, 1 FF in 2003, plus 4 KOR, 97 yds, 24.3 avg) returned as a starter. The Trojans are 9-1 when he starts in the secondary. The one-time starting wide receiver also was a top-flight hurdler on USC's track squad. There were plenty of experienced options to fill the 3 open secondary spots. In fact, 3 players had starting experience at cornerback: senior Kevin Arbet (5 tac, 1 for loss, 1 dfl, FF in 2003, plus 4 PR, 19 yds, 4.8 avg), who missed all of last season with a broken foot, junior Ronald Nunn (7 tac, 1 FR for a TD in 2003) and sophomore William Buchanon (1 tac in 2003). Arbet - who started 4 times in 2000 and was an All-Pac-10 first teamer as a special teams player in 2001 - won the job going into 2003 and started the first 2 games, but his foot injury flared up and has sidelined the rest of this year. So Will Poole (20 tac, 2 for loss, 1 FF, 2 int, 5 dfl in 2003), a senior who started at Boston College in 2000 before earning J.C. All-American laurels last fall and then enrolling at USC this fall, has taken his place. He is backed by Nunn and Buchanon. Nunn started USC's first 3 contests in 2002 before tearing knee ligaments (he missed most of 2003 spring drills) and then Buchanon started the next 3 games (after converting from wide receiver) before giving way to Allmond. The new starting free safety is junior Jason Leach (24 tac, 0.5 for loss, 1 dfl, 1 int for a TD in 2003), who started twice at strong safety last fall for an injured Polamalu, including in the Orange Bowl. He led Troy in interceptions in 2002 with 4. Taking over Polamalu's strong safety spot is freshman Darnell Bing (20 tac, 1 for loss, 1 FR, 1 int, 1 dfl in 2003), who originally signed with USC in 2002 after a prep All-American career at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High but did not qualify for admission then (he enrolled at Troy this past spring). Other cornerbacks back from last year's group are sophomore John Walker and walk-on sophomore Alex Gomez. Identical twin freshmen cornerbacks Brandon Ting (1 tac in 2003) and Ryan Ting, who were 2002 prep All-Americans, graduated a semester early from high school and enrolled at USC this past spring (Brandon can also play safety). Battling for action at safety from last year's squad are sophomore Mike Ross (4 tac in 2003), plus 5 walk-ons in seniors Greg Farr and top special teams player Forrest Mozart and juniors Chris Bocage (1 tac in 2003), who is out with a knee injury, Matt Lemos and Kyle Matthews. This fall, joining the fray were 3 incoming freshmen who were prep All-Americans: safety-cornerback Desmond Reed, safety Terrell Thomas and cornerback Eric Wright (Thomas and Wright are out with injuries).
- At Auburn, Leach had 8 tackle, Bing had 4 stops, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, Arbet had 4 tackles (1 for a loss) and a deflection and also returned 2 punts for 11 yards, Poole made 3 stops and had a deflection in the nickel package, and Allmond and Nunn each made a tackle.
- Allmond had 4 tackles, an interception and a deflection against BYU and Poole also had 4 stops (1 for a loss), an interception and a deflection, while Bing had 3 tackles and a deflection, Leach also had 3 stops, and Arbet, Ross and Brandon Ting each had 1 tackle.
- Poole had a game-high 9 tackles against Hawaii (with 2 deflections and a forced fumble) while making his first USC start, Nunn returned a fumble 38 yards for a TD to go along with his 4 tackles, Leach returned an interception 25 yards for a TD to go with his 3 tackles, Bing and Allmond each had 4 stops, Ross had 3 tackles, and Buchanon and Bocage added 1 tackle each.
- Leach had a game-high 11 tackles (with a deflection) at California, while Bing added 9 stops (1 for a loss), Poole had 7 tackles (1 for a loss), a deflection and an interception (in the end zone), Allmond had 3 stops, a deflection and a forced fumble and Nunn had 2 tackles.
Sophomore Tom Malone (49.6 avg in 2003) has proven to be one of the nation's top punters. He currently leads the nation in punting (49.6, first in Pac-10) and is aiming to become only the second Trojan to lead the country in punting (Des Koch did so in 1952 with a 43.5 average). His 49.6 punting average is way above Jim Wren's USC season record of 45.6, set in 1996. So far in 2003, 13 of his 20 punts have gone at least 50 yards and 14 have pinned opponents within the 20-yard line. He earned Freshman All-American second team notice last fall when nearly half of his 62 punts pinned opponents within the 20-yard line and 12 traveled at least 50 yards (including a 72-yarder). He is backed by a pair of walk-ons, senior Tommy Huff and sophomore Zach Sherwood. Junior Ryan Killeen (5-of-7 FG, 19-of-19 PAT in 2003, plus 1 tac) is in his second year as the placekicker. So far in 2003, 6 of his 27 kickoffs have been touchbacks. He was only supposed to handle the kickoff duty last year, but took over the placekicking job during the third game of 2002 and was impressive. His 16 field goals were 3 shy of the USC season record, he hit his last 30 PATs (and missed just 2 out of 49 all year), he led Troy in scoring (95 points) and 27 of his 89 kickoffs were touchbacks. Walk-on freshman Mario Danelo pushed him throughout 2003 fall camp. Both of USC's snappers - seniors Joe Boskovich (placekicks) and Matt Hayward (punts) - are back. It's the fourth season in that role for Boskovich, a one-time walk-on who earned a scholarship this spring, and the third year for Hayward. Both have been near flawless in their careers. Walk-on freshman Will Collins can also snap. Sophomore punter Tom Malone returns as the holder on all placekicks, with junior quarterback Matt Cassel the backup. USC's top punt returner - sophomore wide receiver Greig Carlson (1 PR, 5 yds, 5.0 avg in 2003) - and kickoff returner
- At Auburn, Malone boomed 7 punts for a 45.1 average (including 5 within the 20-yard line and 3 that went 50-plus yards, with a 70-yarder and then nailing his last one out of bounds at the Auburn 2), while Killeen was perfect on his field goals (28, 42 and 35 yards) and both PATs, as well as having 2 touchbacks on 6 kickoffs.
- Malone rocketed 5 of his 6 punts more than 50 yards (including a 59-yarder) against BYU for a 52.0 average and 5 of his boots pinned the Cougars within the 20-yard line (he was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week), while Killeen hit all 5 of his PATs.
- Killeen hit his only field goal (a 24-yarder) and all 8 of his PATs against Hawaii, while Malone averaged 53.7 yards on 3 punts (with a 69-yarder).
- At California, Malone averaged 50.5 on his 4 punts (2 pinned the Bears within the 20) but had a punt blocked, while Killeen hit all 4 of is PATs and nailed a 33-yard field goal with 16 seconds to play in regulation to force the game into overtime (but he missed a 29-yarder in the third overtime period).
USC's assistant coaching staff stayed relatively intact from 2002, with some slight positional changes. Tim Davis, who last year handled the offensive guards and centers, took over the entire line. Rocky Seto, a Trojan graduate assistant last fall, is now a full-time coach in charge of the safeties. Ed Orgeron, USC's defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, this year added the title of assistant head coach. Dennis Slutak is the only newcomer on the staff; the one-time Florida State punter and North Carolina State graduate assistant is a graduate assistant working with the special teams.
STATS OF NOTE
USC has been effective in the takeaway department during head coach Pete Carroll's 3 seasons. In 2003, USC is +1.5 in turnover margin (tied for 10th in the U.S., second in the Pac-10) by getting 7 fumbles and 8 interceptions. USC's +1.33 turnover margin over Carroll's first 2 regular seasons (2001 and 2002) was the best in the nation and its +69 takeaways during that span were third most (slightly behind Virginia Tech's +71 and Tulane's +70). In 2002, the Trojans had 36 takeaways (19 fumbles and 17 interceptions) and ranked fifth nationally in turnover margin (+1.4). In 2001 (including the bowl), Troy had 35 takeaways (20 picks, 15 fumbles) and ranked fifth in the nation in turnover margin at +1.3. USC's ball security was impressive, too, those first 2 seasons: only 19 turnovers in 2001 and just 18 in 2002.