Top 5 USC Football Returns To Pac-10 Play At Washington
Oct. 19, 2003
USC (6-1 overall, 2-1 Pac-10) vs. Washington (4-3, 2-1), Saturday, Oct. 25, 12:30 p.m. PDT, Husky Stadium, Seattle, Wash.
Top 5-ranked USC--coming off a huge win at Notre Dame last week--plays its fifth road game of the year as it resumes Pac-10 play at always-challenging Washington. The Trojans have won their last 3 games and 14 of their last 15. The Huskies snapped a 2-game losing streak when they won handily last week at Oregon State. Although USC has won 2 of the last 3 games against UW, Troy has posted only 4 wins in the last 11 meetings. And USC's life in Seattle has been difficult lately: the Trojans haven't won there since 1993 and have lost 9 of their last 13 there. Expect a close game, as Trojan-Husky affairs traditionally are tight. The game features a match-up of 2 of the nation's outstanding Williams wideouts: USC's Mike Williams, who is getting mentioned on Heisman Trophy lists, and UW's Reggie Williams. Throwing to them will be a pair of the Pac-10's top quarterbacks in USC's young Matt Leinart and UW's veteran Cody Pickett. The Trojan defense, which seems to get better as the game goes along, is led by Butkus Award semifinalist LB Matt Grootegoed and the 'Wild Bunch II' line. USC's specialists (P Tom Malone and PK Ryan Killeen) are among the nation's best. The game will be shown live regionally on ABC-TV.
USC is ranked fourth by USA Today/ESPN and fifth by AP. Washington is not ranked.
USC leads its series with Washington, 43-26-4. USC has won only twice since 1995 (going 2-3-1) and only 4 times (with a tie) in the past 11 games. Sixteen of the past 25 meetings have been decided by 12 points or less. Of the 73 games overall, 29 have been decided by a TD or less. In their last 40 meetings since 1960, the Trojan-Husky winner has advanced to the Rose Bowl 23 times (15 by USC). In games in Seattle, Washington leads the series 16-15-4 and Troy has lost 7 of the last 10 there (3 were shutouts) and 9 of the last 13.
Last year in the Coliseum, QB Carson Palmer threw 4 touchdown passes--including 3 to WR Mike Williams--to lead No. 19 USC to a 41-21 victory over No. 22 Washington. It was Troy's most points against the Huskies since 1974. USC scored 27 unanswered points to open up a 34-7 lead after 3 quarters. Late in the first quarter, Palmer threw a 43-yard scoring bomb to Williams to start the scoring. Then, after UW QB Cody Pickett hit WR Paul Arnold with a 5-yard TD toss on the following series, Palmer found WR Keary Colbert on a 61-yard scoring bomb (it was Colbert's longest catch as a Trojan) and PK Ryan Killeen hit a 30-yard field goal to put USC up 17-7 at halftime. USC scored on its first 3 possessions of the second half: 14- and 11-yard Palmer passes to Williams and a 33-yard Killeen field goal. The Huskies made a run early in the fourth quarter on a pair of Pickett TD throws (2 yards to TE Kevin Ware and 27 yards to WR Reggie Williams). TB Justin Fargas scored his first touchdown as a Trojan on a 13-yard run late in the game to conclude the scoring. Palmer was 21-of-34 for 348 yards and his 4 TD aerials equaled a career best. Mike Williams not only tied a USC game record with his 3 TD grabs, but his 9 catches in the game equaled Kareem Kelly's USC freshman mark and his 159 receiving yards--a career high--was his third consecutive 100-yard performance. Colbert finished with 7 receptions for a career-high 146 yards. It was the first time that 2 Trojans had 100 yards receiving in the same game since Kelly and Windrell Hayes did so against Arizona in 1999. Kelly tied a Pac-10 record by catching a pass in his 42nd consecutive game. USC held Washington to 5 yards rushing (the fewest against the Trojans since Oregon had 10 in 1992) and 356 total yards (124 under its average, which was fourth best in the nation). Pickett was 34-of-61 for 350 yards but he threw 2 interceptions. UW's 38 completions were the most ever by a team in a Pac-10 game. TB Braxton Cleman caught 15 passes (a Husky record and USC opponent mark) for 69 yards, while Reggie Williams had 7 receptions for 134 yards. USC S DeShaun Hill and LB Melvin Simmons each had a game-best 7 tackles. LB Matt Grootegoed had his first career interception (setting up a USC TD) and S Troy Polamalu got his sixth career pick (to set up a field goal). It was also the first Trojan-Husky game in the Coliseum since 1998.
In 2001 in the last meeting in Seattle, PK John Anderson kicked a 32-yard field goal at the gun to give No. 11 Washington a 27-24 win over USC in the first meeting between the schools after a 2-year layoff. It was USC's fourth consecutive loss of 2001 (by a total of just 14 points) and dropped the Trojans to 1-4, their worst start since 1958. It was also the Huskies' 12th straight win (and ninth Pac-10 victory in a row). After UW scored late in the first quarter on a 7-yard pass from QB Cody Pickett to FL Todd Elstrom following a Trojan turnover, USC took a 14-7 halftime lead on a 21-yard pass from QB Carson Palmer to FB Charlie Landrigan and then a 22-yard interception return by S Troy Polamalu. The game see-sawed in the second half, starting with Washington tying the score on its opening possession on a 13-yard pass from QB Tyler Barton--who replaced an injured Pickett--to WR Reggie Williams. PK David Davis put USC back ahead on a 40-yard field goal later in the quarter. Anderson's 25-yard field goal tied it up again early in the fourth period and then, after Anderson missed a 35-yard try on UW's next possession, the Huskies took the lead with 5:35 to go on Barton's 14-yard toss to TB Willie Hurst. But USC struck right back to tie it at 24-24 as Palmer hit WR Kareem Kelly on a 58-yard bomb with 3:47 left. The Huskies then drove 49 yards to set up Anderson's game-winner. The statistics were close at halftime, but the Huskies controlled the second half stats, allowing USC to hold the ball only 11:33 while getting more total yards (305 to 115), plays (42 to 23) and first downs (14 to 5) than the Trojans. Overall, Washington had more total yards (441-286), plays (75-55), first downs (22-15) and possession time (32:57-27:03). TB Sultan McCullough ran for a game-high 132 yards on a then-career-best 32 carries. Palmer was 8-of-14 passing for 152 yards with the 2 TDs, including 7-of-7 for 94 yards in the first half. Kelly caught 3 passes for 93 yards. For Washington, Hurst had 102 yards on 19 rushes, Barton was 11-of-20 for 197 yards and 2 scores in relief of Pickett, who went 8-of-14 for 70 yards with a TD, and Williams had 5 grabs for 101 yards (both game highs). Polamalu led USC with 13 tackles (2 for losses).
USC has been ranked in the AP Top 10 for its past 13 games, its longest string since 13 in a row in 1988-89. The Trojans have been in the AP Top 5 in 6 of the last 10 polls.
At 6-1, USC is off to its best start since the 1995 team (Troy's last Rose Bowl squad) also began at 6-1.
HOME WIN STREAK
The Trojans have captured their last 12 home games (with 2 shutouts). That's USC's longest Coliseum win streak since getting 19 in a row during the 1931 through 1933 campaigns.
USC is 14-10-1 in its last 25 games on artificial turf.
USC has 3 players who prepped in Washington--TB David Kirtman of Mercer Island HS, P Tommy Huff of Bellevue HS and TB Sean Kelly of Bellarmine Prep--while the Huskies have 32 California natives...USC women's basketball coach Chris Gobrecht was the winningest coach in Washington history in her 11 years (1986-96) there, where she led the Huskies to 9 NCAA tourneys and 3 conference championships while she was twice named Pac-10 Coach of the Year...Washington athletic director Barbara Hedges was a key administrator in the USC athletic department from 1974 to 1991...Washington women's volleyball coach Jim McLaughlin was the USC men's head coach for 7 seasons (1990-96), guiding the Trojans to the 1990 NCAA title and the runner-up spot in 1991...Washington men's tennis coach Matt Anger was a 3-time All-American at USC and then was an assistant coach for Troy's 1994 men's NCAA championship tennis team...UW assistant sports information director Jeff Bechthold is a USC graduate.
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. USCwhich has 3 byes in 2003faces 8 teams that played in bowls last season, including 3 ranked in the final AP Top 20. USC currently has the nation's 15th most difficult 2003 schedule, according to the current USA Today/Sagarin ranking, and 2 of USC's 2003 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).
No. 5 USC scored its most points ever in South Bend and had its biggest victory margin there in a 45-14 crushing of Notre Dame (its second consecutive 31-point win over the Irish) before a sold-out crowd of 80,795 and a national NBC-TV audience. It was only USC's second win in South Bend in the past 20 years. Troy's 45 points not only was the most anyone scored in Notre Dame Stadium since 1960 (and the second most ever there), but it tied the second-most points USC ever scored against the Irish, home or away, and equaled its largest margin of victory ever against ND. It was the 75th USC-Notre Dame game. USC had 551 yards of total offense (356 passing, 195 rushing) against an Irish unit that was 14th nationally in total defense (293.2), with 340 of that coming before halftime. Five of Troy's 6 TD drives went 80 yards. USC also had a decided edge in first downs (29-16), plays (81-70) and possession time (33:30-26:30). And the Trojan defense allowed ND just 279 yards of total offense, including only 69 in the second half (with minus 5 rushing). QB Matt Leinart threw for 351 yards and 4 touchdowns (tying a Notre Dame opponent record) on 26-of-34 passing (career bests in yards, TDs and completions). He completed his first 7 passes of the game. WRs Mike Williams (9 catches, 112 yards) and Keary Colbert (8 for 120) each had 100-yard games with a TD. The game started off as a shootout, as the teams traded touchdowns on their first 2 possessions. Leinart hit Colbert on an 18-yard scoring pass less than 3 minutes into the game, but Notre Dame answered as TB Julius Jones ran for a 22-yard TD. Then, 4 plays into USC's next series, TB Reggie Bush cut back untouched 58 yards for a TD. But the Irish matched that as true freshman QB Brady Quinn hit TE Anthony Fasano for a 2-yard score. USC then scored on its next drive--a 7-yard Leinart to Williams pass--to start the Trojans' string of 31 unanswered points. First, TB Hershel Dennis caught a 3-yard TD pass from Leinart late in the second quarter to give USC a 28-14 halftime lead. The Trojans then scored on their first two possessions of the second half (a 7-yard Leinart pass to TE Gregg Guenther and a 27-yard field goal by PK Ryan Killeen). Dennis finished the scoring with a 2-yard run late in the game. Bush ran for a game-best 89 yards on just 6 tries (a 14.8 average), while TB LenDale White added 75 yards on 16 carries and Dennis had 38 yards on 10 attempts. LB Melvin Simmons led USC with 13 tackles (3 for losses), while S Darnell Bing had 11 stops and LB Lofa Tatupu had 10 (3 for losses). USC sacked Quinn 4 times (2 each by DE Kenechi Udeze and DT Mike Patterson). Quinn was 15-of-34 for 168 yards, while Jones--who was coming off a school-record 262-yard rushing performance the previous week at Pittsburgh--ran for 84 yards on 18 carries. The score was similar to USC's 2002 win over Notre Dame (in those 2 games, the Trojans outscored Notre Dame, 89-27, while piling up 1,161 yard of total offense).
FUN FACT I
USC head coach Pete Carroll's 1972 senior season at Pacific began with a 13-6 loss at No. 9 Washington. Carroll started at safety in the game and had 8 tackles.
FUN FACT II
With rain always a possibility when playing in Seattle, USC has a 19-21-2 record in all games in which it rained during a major portion of the contest (the last such USC rain game was at California in 2001, a 55-14 Trojan win). Troy is 1-3-1 in the rain at Washington (the win in 1947, the losses in 1938-55-75 and the tie in 1953).
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 23-9 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 21-4 (84.0%). 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, 24, 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 (129-of-208, 62.0%, 1,824 yds, 17 TD, 7 int in 2003) emerged with an ever-so-slight edge--despite never having thrown a pass at USC while seeing brief action in 3 games in 2002--and 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). In fact, there appears to be little dropoff from last season's passing production. In his last 3 games (Arizona State, Stanford, Notre Dame), Leinart has thrown for 900 yards and 9 TDs with just 1 interception on 66.7% passing (56-of-84). He currently is 10th nationally in passing efficiency (155.9, first in Pac-10). Backing him now is heralded freshman John David Booty (2-of-5, 40.0%, 18 yds in 2003), 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. Booty rose to the No. 2 role by mid-season. Also available are juniors Matt Cassel (6-of-13, 46.2%, 63 yds in 2003), Palmer's backup the past 2 seasons who had thrown just 6 passes in his career before this year, and 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). 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 for 235 yards (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).
--Leinart completed 12-of-23 passes for 289 yards and 2 TDs (57 and 33 yards) with an interception despite missing most of the second quarter with a banged up knee and ankle at Arizona State (he played while hobbled during the second half), while Cassel came in as his replacement in the second quarter and was 4-of-10 for 42 yards (Hance came in for the game's final series, but did not throw a pass).
--Leinart was 18-of-27 for 260 yards and 3 TDs (all to WR Mike Williams) in 3 quarters of action against Stanford (in the first half, he was 16-of-20 for 249 yards and all 3 scores), while Booty saw his first collegiate action as he was 1-of-4 for 13 yards while playing the entire fourth quarter.
--Leinart completed 76.6% of his passes (26-of-34) for 351 yards and 4 TDs (career bests for completions, yards and TDs) at Notre Dame (he hit his first 7 throws), while Booty completed a 5-yard pass.
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 (84 tcb, 367 yds, 4.4 avg, 3 TD in 2003, plus 7 rec, 47 yds, 6.7 avg, 1 TD). 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 LenDale White (77 tcb, 392 yds, 5.1 avg, 7 TD in 2003, plus 1 rec, -2 yds, -2.0 avg and 2 tac), who emerged by midseason as USC's top runner, plus Reggie Bush (40 tcb, 239 yds, 6.0 avg, 3 TD in 2003, plus 3 rec, 60 yds, 20.0 yds and 5 KOR, 111 yds, 22.2 avg) and Chauncey Washington (15 tcb, 48 yds, 3.2 avg in 2003, plus 1 rec, 6 yds, 6.0 avg and 3 tac) and, plus frosh Jody Adewale. In the last 3 games, White is averaging 107.7 rushing yards. Dennis and Bush are speedy, darting runners, while Washington and White are known as the 'The Bruise Brothers.' Prep All-American Whitney Lewis (3 tcb, 11 yds, 3.7 avg in 2003, plus 1 rec, 2 yds, 2.0 avg) came to USC as a wide receiver, but so far in 2003 he has mainly played as a running back, first at fullback (usually in motion) and then at tailback. Also available are 3 walk-ons: sophomore converted safety Andre Woodert (1 tcb, -3 yds, -3.0 avg in 2003) 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), Washington gained 8 yards on 3 attempts (he also made 2 tackles on special teams) and Lewis caught a 2-yard pass.
--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).
--White came off the bench to run for 140 yards--the most rushing yards ever by a Trojan first-year freshman--and 2 TDs (25 and 6 yards) on 21 carries at Arizona State (he became just the seventh USC true freshman to rush for 100 yards), while Bush added 27 rushing yards on 4 tries (he also returned a kickoff 23 yards) and Dennis ran for 19 yards on 4 carries (he also caught a 12-yard pass).
--White became the first freshman (true or redshirt) in USC history to have consecutive 100-yard rushing games when he ran for 108 yards on 23 carries (both game highs) with 2 TDs (6 and 3 yards) against Stanford, while Dennis started and had 80 yards on 10 tries and Bush added 34 yards on 6 attempts.
--At Notre Dame, Bush rushed for a game-best 89 yards on 6 carries (14.8 average), including a 58-yard cutback TD run (he was untouched), and he caught a 38-yard pass, while White added 75 yards on 16 carries, Dennis had 38 yards on 10 tries (with a 2-yard TD) and caught 2 passes for 23 yards (with a 3-yard score), Washington ran for 8 yards on 6 attempts and Woodert had a rush for minus 3 yards.
With Malaefou MacKenzie gone, a new fullback must emerge. Sophomore Brandon Hancock (8 rec, 89 yds, 11.1 avg, 1 TD in 2003, plus 1 tac), 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 (2 tac in 2003), who also has played linebacker at USC, assumed the starting job until Hancock returned to the starting lineup in the fifth game. Sophomore David Kirtman (2 rec, 8 yds, 4.0 avg in 2003) sees action as a backup. Walk-on redshirt freshmen Mike Brittingham, a converted safety, and Morgan Craig, a one-time quarterback, also are in the mix.
- --Kirtman had a 3-yard catch against Hawaii (on a key fourth down play).
--Hancock returned to the starting lineup at Arizona State and caught 2 passes for 42 yards (including a 33-yard TD on fourth down), while Webb made a tackle.
--Hancock caught 3 passes for 19 yards versus Stanford.
--Hancock had 3 catches for 28 yards at Notre Dame, while Kirtman added a 5-yard catch.
COLBERT AND WILLIAMS
Even though USC career reception leader Kareem Kelly--he had 204 catches, including 46 last fall, and set an NCAA record by catching a pass in 47 consecutive games--is 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 (37 rec, 558 yds, 15.1 avg, 5 TD in 2002, plus 2 tcb, 17 yds, 8.5 avg) starts for his fourth season. He has caught a pass in 30 consecutive outings. He is third on USC's career receptions ladder with 175 grabs (13th 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 2,509 career receiving yards is 18th on the all-time Pac-10 list. He has 5 100-yard receiving games in his career (2 in 2003). Even if Colbert breaks Kelly's reception mark, Keyshawn-esque sophomore Mike Williams (48 rec, 743 yds, 15.5 avg, 8 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 seventh on USC's career receptions list (129) and has 10 100-yard receiving games in his young career (5 times in 2003). He has caught 22 touchdowns in his 20-game career (and he has had multiple TD games 6 times, including twice getting a USC game record-tying 3 TDs). Only Kevin Williams (25), Johnnie Morton and R. Jay Soward (23 each) have more career TD catches at USC. He is averaging a touchdown every 6.0 times he touches the ball (22 TDs on 133 touches, including his 3 rushes and 1 pass attempt). He currently is fifth nationally in receiving yards (106.1, second in Pac-10 and is tied for 12th nationally in receptions (6.9, third in the Pac-10). His 8 TD catches is most in the Pac-10 in 2003. 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).
--Williams (108 yards) and Colbert (100 yards) each had a 100-yard receiving day (the second they've combined to do that in their careers) at Arizona State, with Colbert grabbing a 57-yard TD (he also ran 6 yards on a reverse).
--Against Stanford, Williams tied a USC game record with 3 TD catches (40, 18 and 3 yards, all in the second quarter) while collecting 7 receptions for 129 yards, while Colbert added 6 catches for 90 yards.
--For the third time in their careers (and second time in 2003), Williams (9 catches, 112 yards) and Colbert (8 for 120) had a 100-yard receiving day, this time at Notre Dame (both also had a TD catch, with Williams getting a 7-yarder and Colbert an 18-yarder).
Williams vaults into Heisman race
By Steve Bisheff, Orange County Register, Oct. 12, 2003
Don't look now, but USC's Mike Williams has vaulted into the middle of the Heisman Trophy race.
Mike Williams for the Heisman? If he wasn't a legitimate candidate before, the Trojans' 6-5, 230-pound sophomore pass catcher certainly is now...In less than a season and a half, this guy has established himself as the finest all-around receiver USC has put on a football field. He is faster than Keyshawn Johnson, bigger and stronger than Lynn Swann and a more complete package than Hal Bedsole...In a way, it would be fitting for him to be in the thick of this thing, because it was Willliams' presence as a go-to receiver that had much to do with teammate Carson Palmer running away with the Heisman last year...Williams was Palmer's 6-5 security blanket. And if you don't believe it, ask Carson. He'll tell you. This season, Williams is serving in the same role for Matt Leinart...Nobody since Bedsole, who was a jumbo-sized, All-American receiver on John McKay's first national championship team in 1962, has broken more tackles after catching the ball than Williams. This is the best football player on a team with justified BCS aspirations. And no, you can't call him just another one of those Williams guys anymore. As of now, he is the only one left who is a serious Heisman candidate.
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WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Mike Williams
Sports Illustrated: 'The Heisman Trophy race is as unsettled as a snow globe on a paint mixer. Among the players who have thrust themselves into contention is Mike Williams. The Trojans star has put some space between himself and the rest of the year's talented receiver crop.'
Mike Ventre, MSNBC.com: 'Is it blasphemous to suggest that Williams deserves Heisman consideration? At a school known for churning up more clods of dirt than a roto-tiller?...Williams' numbers are sick, twisted and perverse--if you're looking at it from the opponents' perspective. From a USC standpoint, they are wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary...And these days there are more defenders around him than there are bodyguards around Kobe Bryant...Some longtime USC observers think Williams may be the best wide receiver ever at the school, because of his unique amalgam of gifts. He is big, fast, smart, sure-handed, runs exact routes and is intensely competitive. Perhaps his value can best be up with one play that the Trojans run regularly, in which the quarterback drops back, fires a line drive laterally to Williams at his wide receiver spot, and Williams proceeds to deke, dodge, fake, fool, squeeze by and knock over anyone in his path. Unlike others at his position, Williams can turn nothing into something with the consistency of a power running back.'
R.J. Oliver, Arizona State cornerback: 'Not only would I pick Mike Williams over anyone else now, but I think he's the best wide receiver in college football in a long time.'
Kyle Veltrop, The Sporting News: 'Someone his size shouldn't have that burst, which is why he is like Terrell Owens.'
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 (11 PR, 111 yds, 10.1 avg in 2003) and converted cornerback Justin Wyatt (3 rec, 20 yds, 6.7 avg in 2003, plus 2 KOR, 38 yds, 19.0 avg and 3 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 (3 rec, 33 yds, 11.0 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, while Carlson had a 5-yard punt return.
--Carlson returned 4 punts for 66 yards (with a 20-yarder) at Arizona State.
--Carlson returned 3 punts for 29 yards versus Stanford, while Wyatt had a 7-yard kickoff return.
--Smith caught a 17-yard pass at Notre Dame, while Carlson returned 3 punts for 11 yards.
USC began 2003 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 is redshirting. In his place, sophomore Dominique Byrd (14 rec, 268 yds, 19.1 avg in 2003) took over and was impressive, but he is out for the season with a mid-season knee injury. Playing often behind (or with) Byrd has been junior Gregg Guenther Jr. (8 rec, 58 yds, 7.3 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, plus 1 tac), 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.
--Byrd caught 2 passes for 68 yards at Arizona State, while Guenther had a 3-yard catch and Katnik made a tackle.
--Byrd had 2 catches for 30 yards against Stanford before going out with a knee injury, while Guenther caught a 5-yard pass.
--Guenther had 2 receptions for 13 yards (with a 7-yard TD) at Notre Dame.
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 contributing 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 (he has seen considerable action in 2003 at tackle and guard), 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).
--Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik and Matua started at Arizona State, with Drake starting for an injured Justice (and Torres saw his first action of the year as Drake's backup).
--Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Matua and Drake started versus Stanford.
--Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Drake and Justice started at Notre Dame (Matua got lots of action off the bench).
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 (19 tac, 5.5 for loss, 3 sack, 2 FR, 1 int for a TD in 2003) and junior Kenechi Udeze (29 tac, team-high 10.5 for loss, team-best 7.5 sack, 3 FF, 1 dfl, 1 blk FG in 2003). Udeze, a 2-year starter, set a USC record with his Pac-10 leading 6 forced fumbles in 2002 (he has 12 forced fumbled fumbles in his career). He currently is tied for 15th nationally in sacks (0.9, second in Pac-10). In the past 2 games, Udeze has 5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Also back is junior Mike Patterson (34 tac, 10 for loss, 5 sack, 2 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 (12 tac, 5.5 for loss, 4 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 (2 tac in 2003) and sophomore converted linebacker Frostee Rucker (12 tac, 1.5 for loss, 0.5 sack, 1 int, 1 dfl, 1 FF, 1 FR in 2003), who sat out last year after transferring from Colorado State, and at tackle are soph LaJuan Ramsey (5 tac, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sack, 1 FF in 2003) and redshirt freshman Travis Tofi (3 tac, 1 for loss, 1 dfl, 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 out with a shoulder injury), Lawrence Jackson and Alex Morrow, while the tackles are prep All-Americans Sedrick Ellis (he's sidelined with a foot injury) and Manuel Wright (2 tac, 1 for loss in 2003), 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 (1.5 for losses, with 0.5 sack) and blocked a field goal.
--At Arizona State, Udeze had 6 tackles (1 for a loss), Patterson had 5 stops (2.5 for losses, with 0.5 sack), 2.5 of Cody's 4 tackles were sacks, Nazel had 2 tackles (with a sack) and Rucker and Ramsey each had a tackle (Rucker also forced a fumble).
--Udeze had 3 sacks for 22 yards (among his 4 tackles), plus forced 2 fumbles which USC recovered (to set up field goals) and blocked a field goal against Stanford to help him win Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors, while Patterson had 4 tackles (1 for a loss) and recovered a fumble (he returned it 16 yards), Nazel, Brown and Wright each had 2 stops (1 of Wright's was for a loss), Rucker had a tackle and Tofi deflected a pass.
--At Notre Dame, Udeze had 6 tackles (2.5 were for losses, with 2 sacks), forced a fumble and deflected a pass, while Patterson (with 2 sacks) and Nazel (with 0.5 for a loss) each had 3 tackles, and Rucker and Cody each had 2 stops (Rucker also recovered a fumble).
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 (40 tac, 4.5 for loss, 1.5 sack, 1 dfl, 1 FR, 2 FF in 2003) returns on the strong side and senior Melvin Simmons (34 tac, 6 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 1 of 11 semifinalists for the 2003 Butkus Award (the only Pac-10 selection). 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 47 tac, 9 for loss, 3 sack, 5 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 backed by junior Daniel Urquhart (20 tac in 2003), a converted defensive end. Then there's 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 (4 tac in 2003) and sophomore Dallas Sartz (17 tac, 1.5 for loss in 2003), who can also play safety, plus walk-on sophomore Collin Ashton (9 tac in 2003). Prep All-American Thomas Williams, along with Salo Faraimo (7 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 (with 0.5 sack), Urquhart had 3 stops and Ashton had a tackle.
--Urquhart started for an injured Tatupu at Arizona State and posted a team-best 10 tackles, while Grootegoed added 9 stops (2 for losses), Simmons had 3 and Ashton had 1.
--Sartz came off the bench to post a team-high 7 tackles (1 for a loss) against Stanford (he also played briefly at safety for the second week in a row), while Grootegoed and Faraimo each had 4 stops, Simmons, Tatupu and Ashton each had 2 (Simmons had 1 for a loss), and Otani had 1.
--Simmons had a team-best 13 tackles (2 for losses) at Notre Dame, while Tatupu added 10 stops (2.5 for losses), Sartz had 7 (0.5 for a loss), and Grootegoed (slowed by an ankle sprain), Faraimo and Ashton each had 1.
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 (23 tac, 1 int, 3 dfl, 1 FF in 2003, plus 6 KOR, 136 yds, 22.7 avg) returned as a starter. The Trojans are 12-1 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 (16 tac, 1 for loss, 1 sack, 2 dfl, 2 FR with 1 for a TD in 2003) and sophomore William Buchanon (3 tac, 1 dfl, 1 int 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 (39 tac, 2.5 for loss, 1 FF, team-best 3 int, team-high 9 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. Poole currently is tied for fifth nationally in deflections (2.0, first in Pac-10) and tied for 25th in interceptions (0.4, tied for fifth in Pac-10). 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 (40 tac, 1 for loss, 2 dfl, 2 int with 1 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 (40 tac, 2 for loss, 1 FR, 1 int, 2 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 (3 tac, 1 dfl in 2003) 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 (9 tac in 2003), plus 5 walk-ons in seniors Greg Farr (2 tac in 2003) 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.
--At Arizona State, Leach and Poole each had 8 tackles and a deflection (Leach also had an interception), Allmond and Bing each had 6 stops (1 of Bing's was for a loss), Nunn had 3 tackles (1 for a loss), a deflection and a fumble recovery, and Ross had a tackle.
--Nunn had 5 tackles and a deflection against Stanford, Poole had 4 stops, 3 deflections and an interception, Allmond, Walker, Bing and Ross each had 3 tackles (Walker had a deflection), Leach had 2 stops and Farr had 1.
--Bing posted 11 tackles and a deflection at Notre Dame, while Poole had 7 (0.5 for a loss), Leach added 6 (0.5 for a loss), Allmond had 2, and Nunn (with a deflection), Ross and Farr each had 1.
Sophomore Tom Malone (48.9 avg in 2003) has proven to be one of the nation's top punters. He currently leads the nation in punting (48.9, first in Pac-10)for the fourth consecutive weekand 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 48.9 punting average is way above Jim Wren's USC season record of 45.6, set in 1996 (and close to the Pac-10 season record of 49.3 set by UCLA's Kirk Wilson in 1956). So far in 2003, 18 of his 28 punts have gone at least 50 yards and 17 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 (12-of-14 FG, 34-of-34 PAT in 2003, plus 2 tac) is in his second year as the placekicker. He currently is 11th nationally in scoring (10.0, second in Pac-10) and tied for 14th in field goals (1.7, second in Pac-10). So far in 2003, 19 of his 52 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 (11 PR, 111 yds, 10.1 avg in 2003)--and kickoff returner--soph tailback Hershel Dennis--from last season are back (Carlson had 177 yards and Dennis had 151 in 2002). But in 2003, senior cornerback Kevin Arbet (4 PR, 19 yds, 4.8 avg in 2003)who led USC in punt returns in 2001 (225 yards)handled the chore before being sidelined with an injury, so Carlson and sophomore wide receiver Justin Wyatt (1 PR, 0 yds, 0.0 avg in 2003) have taken over. Arbet and senior cornerback Marcell Allmond (6 KOR, 136 yds, 22.7 avg in 2003) were the kickoff returners in 2003 before Arbet's injury. So joining Allmond now are Wyatt (2 KOR, 38 yds, 19.0 avg in 2003) and freshman tailback Reggie Bush (5 KOR, 111 yds, 22.2 avg in 2003).
- --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). --Killeen hit all 3 of his field goals (45, 28 and 38 yards) and all 4 of his PATs, as well as having 5 touchbacks on 8 kickoffs at Arizona State (he was named Pac-10 Player of the Week for his performance), while Malone averaged 45.2 yards on his 5 punts (1 pinned ASU within the 20). --Against Stanford, Killeen nailed all 3 of his field goals (20, 26 and 37 yards) for the second consecutive week and hit all 5 of his PATs (plus 4 of his 9 kickoffs were touchbacks), while Malone averaged 50.7 yards on his 3 punts (2 pinned the Cardinal within the 20). --Killeen hit all 6 of his PATs and a 29-yard field goal (plus 4 of his 8 kickoffs were touchbacks) at Notre Dame, while Malone's only punt was partially blocked.
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 +1.1 in turnover margin (tied for 12th in the U.S., second in the Pac-10) by getting 11 interceptions and 11 fumbles. 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.