No. 2 USC Football Hosts UCLA In Annual Crosstown Rivalry
Nov. 16, 2003
USC (9-1 overall, 5-1 Pac-10) vs. UCLA (6-5, 4-3), Saturday, Nov. 22, 12:30 p.m. PST, Los Angeles Coliseum.
It's the 73rd meeting in this classic crosstown rivalry between USC and UCLA, with the winner getting year-long bragging rights and possession of the Victory Bell. The 92,000-seat Coliseum--where Troy has won its past 13 games--is sold out. The No. 2-ranked Trojans are looking to do something they've never done: beat UCLA for 5 years in a row. If they do, it will be just the second time ever that USC has swept their 2 traditional foes--the Bruins and Notre Dame--in consecutive years. Troy, coming off a shutout victory at Arizona and riding a 6-game winning streak (USC has won 17 of its last 18), needs a win to stay in the hunt for the national championship. UCLA, which has dropped its past 3 games, is angling for a post-season berth, too. USC features a high-powered offense that has scored over 40 points in the past 5 games and cranked out 400-plus yards of total offense in the last 6 contests. Troy's offense is nationally ranked in 4 statistical categories and leads the Pac-10 in rushing. Directing this unit is QB Matt Leinart, who has emerged among the nation's elite players (he has a 4-to-1 TD-interception ratio and hasn't thrown a pick in his last 165 passes, a school record). WR Mike Williams, another sophomore who is one of college football's top performers and already the USC career record holder in TD catches, is about to crack the 1,000-yard receiving barrier for the second year in a row. Fellow WR Keary Colbert is approaching the USC career reception record. Then there's a group of exciting young runners and an experienced line featuring All-American candidate OT Jacob Rogers. The Trojan defense--which is listed in 4 national stat categories and has forced 32 turnovers--is guided by DE Kenechi Udeze and his Wild Bunch II linemates, as well as the impressive play of CB Will Poole. USC's specialists must be dealt with, too: Tom Malone is the best punter in the nation and PK Ryan Killeen ranks among the nation's Top 15 scorers and field goal kickers. UCLA will counter with one of nation's tougher defenses--keyed by Lombardi Award finalist DE Dave Ball (Udeze and Ball are the Pac-10's premier sackmeisters)--and an offense that showcases FL Craig Bragg and some promising young skill position players. Bruin coach Karl Dorrell will be coaching in his first USC-UCLA game, but he's no stranger to the rivalry as he played in this series. The Trojans will have their third bye of 2003 the following week. Lots of Lexus Gauntlet points will be on the line this weekend, as USC's top-ranked women's volleyball and men's water polo teams host UCLA before the gridiron showdown. The football game will be televised live regionally by ABC-TV.
USC is ranked second by AP and USA Today/ESPN. UCLA is not ranked.
USC leads the series with crosstown rival UCLA, 38-27-7 (dating to 1929). It has been a series of streaks recently: the Trojans have won the last 4 games after UCLA's 8-game winning stretch (the longest streak by either team in the series), with 6 of those losses coming by a touchdown or less, and before that USC had a 4-game unbeaten run over the Bruins. In games in the Coliseum, USC holds a 34-20-7 edge.
Last year in the Rose Bowl, No. 7 USC dominated No. 25 UCLA from the opening kickoff while posting a 52-21 victory. It was Troy's fourth win in a row over the Bruins (only the second time it has done that) and, combined with Washington State's loss later in the day, gave the Trojans at least a share of the Pac-10 title. It was USC's most points against UCLA since scoring 52 in 1930 (the second game in the series) and biggest margin of victory over the Bruins since a 35-point win in 1979. It took USC just 16 seconds to get on the board as the Trojans scored on their first 3 possessions. After WR Grant Mattos recovered a Bruin fumble on the opening kickoff (caused by S Jason Leach), QB Carson Palmer lofted a 34-yard TD pass to leaping WR Kareem Kelly on the first play. After UCLA had to punt after its first series, Troy took 5 plays to get in the end zone again, a 51-yard Palmer bomb to WR Keary Colbert. A snap over the punter's head on UCLA's next possession set up a 1-yard TD run by TB Justin Fargas (following a 22-yard scramble by Palmer where he somersaulted to the 1-yard line). The Bruins got on the board early in the second quarter on a 7-yard run by FB Manuel White, but USC countered after DT Mike Patterson recovered a Bruin fumble at the UCLA 14 as Palmer hit TB Malaefou MacKenzie on a 2-yard scoring toss to go up 28-7. In the second half, Troy scored 3 more touchdowns (Colbert's 34-yard reverse, Palmer's 3-yard pass to TE Gregg Guenther and TB Hershel Dennis' 38-yard fourth down burst) and a 27-yard field goal by PK Ryan Killeen (following Patterson's second fumble recovery) to go up 52-7 before UCLA scored twice in the final 3 minutes off of the Trojan reserves and walk-ons (a 10-yard pass from QB Matt Moore to White and a 14-yard aerial from QB John Sciarra to TE Marcedes Lewis). Palmer, who hit his first 7 passes for 128 yards (with a pair of TDs), was 19-of-32 for 254 yards and the 4 scores (with no interceptions for the third consecutive game). In the process, he set Pac-10 career records for passing yardage, completions and attempts. WR Mike Williams had a game-high 6 catches for 66 yards to set the Pac-10 freshman receiving yardage mark. Kelly (94 yards) and Colbert (84 yards) each had 4 grabs. Dennis had a game-best 57 yards on 8 rushes, while Fargas added 41 yards on 16 carries. USC put up 468 yards of total offense (271 passing, 197 rushing), its seventh straight outing with 400-plus yards. The Trojans limited UCLA to 290 total yards (just 40 on the ground), 27:49 of possession time and 4-of-12 on third downs (and 0-of-2 on fourth downs). The Trojans had 5 sacks and came up with 5 turnovers (the others were a fumble recovery by LB Melvin Simmons and an interception by CB Marcell Allmond). LB Matt Grootegoed had a game-best 8 tackles, Simmons added 6 and all 4 of DE Kenechi Udeze's stops were for losses (with 2 sacks). For UCLA, QB Drew Olson was 8-of-17 for 121 yards, Moore was 7-of-11 for 64 yards and Sciarra was 4-of-5 for 65 yards. TB Tyler Ebell, who came in with 6 straight 100-yard games, was held to 56 yards on 12 attempts, while White had 45 yards on 7 tries. White (56 yards) and SE Craig Bragg (91 yards) each had 5 receptions. The game marked the first time since 1993 that both teams were ranked.
In 2001 in the last meeting in the Coliseum, USC thoroughly dominated No. 20 UCLA, 27-0. It was USC's first shutout in the crosstown series since 1947 (and its first of any team since 1998) and just the eighth overall whitewash in the 71-game rivalry. It was also the biggest margin of victory in the series since 1979. The Trojans, who became bowl eligible with the victory, posted their third consecutive win over the Bruins. It was also USC's fourth straight win in 2001 (and fifth in 6 games) after beginning the season at 1-4 and UCLA's fourth loss in a row after starting off 6-0. The victory was so complete that the Trojans held UCLA to USC-opponent season lows in first downs (10), rushing yards (28), total yards (114, USC's fewest allowed since holding Oregon to 112 in 1988) and plays (55). UCLA's 28 rushing yards were its fewest against USC since gaining 23 in 1956 and its 86 passing yards were its fewest versus Troy since getting 86 in 1975 (the ground and air yardage was also UCLA's lowest in 2001). UCLA averaged just 2.1 yards per play, converted only 2-of-11 third downs and held the ball just 27:01. The Bruins penetrated USC territory on just 3 of their 12 drives and got no closer than the 22-yard line (that fourth quarter drive ended on CB Kevin Arbet's interception at the 2). USC set the tone early, driving 80 yards in 8 plays on the game's opening possession for a touchdown, a 4-yard pass from QB Carson Palmer to WR Keary Colbert (it was set up by TE Kori Dickerson's career-long 66-yard reception of a Palmer third down aerial). Then, as the first quarter ended, CB Antuan Simmons made an amazing through-the-legs interception of a pass from QB Cory Paus that bounced off WR Brian Poli-Dixon and returned it 36 yards for a TD (the third scoring pick of his career). After S Troy Polamalu blocked P Nate Fikse's punt on UCLA's ensuing series (it was Polamalu's third blocked punt of 2001 and fourth of his career), PK David Davis made it 17-0 with a 20-yard field goal. TB Chris Howard raced a career-long 34 yards for a TD late in the third quarter (the first offensive touchdown UCLA had allowed in the third quarter in 2001) and then, after Polamalu intercepted Paus 2 plays later, Davis hit another 20-yard field goal early in the final quarter to close out the scoring. Palmer completed 14-of-23 passes for 180 yards (he was intercepted once, a short pass at the goal line late in the first half), with 3 throws each to Dickerson (for a career-best and game-high 92 yards), TE Alex Holmes (37 yards) and Colbert (26 yards). Howard had a game-best 49 yards on 8 carries, while FB Sunny Byrd added 40 yards on 20 carries out of the tailback spot. USC DT Shaun Cody made a game-high 8 tackles (3 for losses, with 2 sacks) and recovered a fumble. Polamalu was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. Paus was 7-of-15 for 45 yards with 2 interceptions and was sacked 5 times before being replaced after the third quarter by QBs Scott McEwan (3-of-8 for 29 yards and a pick) and Ryan McCann (3-of-4 for 12 yards). Bruin WR Craig Bragg had a game-leading 6 receptions, but for just 29 yards, while TB Manuel White (subbing for ineligible TB DeShaun Foster, the Pac-10's leading rusher and scorer) had only 23 yards on 9 attempts.
USC has been ranked in the AP Top 10 for its past 16 games, its longest string since 34 in a row in 1978-80. The Trojans have been in the AP Top 5 in 9 of the last 13 polls. The last time USC was ranked as high as second by AP before this season was late in the 1988 season, when it was second.
At 9-1, USC is off to its best start since the 1988 team began at 10-0.
HOME WIN STREAK
The Trojans have captured their last 13 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.
OTHER WIN STREAKS
Besides its 13-game home winning streak, USC also has the longest current Pac-10 win streaks for overall games (6), Pac-10 games (5) and road games (4).
IN THE COLISEUM
USC has a 372-122-27 (.740) all-time record in the Coliseum since the stadium opened in 1923.
Nine starters (or projected starters) have missed at least a game in 2003 because of injury: TE Alex Holmes (all 10), LB Oscar Lua (10), CB Kevin Arbet (8), TE Dominque Byrd (4), FB Brandon Hancock (3), LB Matt Grootegoed (2), LB Lofa Tatupu (1), DE Omar Nazel (1), LB Melvin Simmons (1). And 2002 starting OT-OG Eric Torres was slowed returning from an Orange Bowl injury and has only played as a reserve this season. Holmes, Lua, Arbet, Byrd and Nazel are out for the year.
USC running backs coach/special teams coordinator Kennedy Pola--who will be celebrating his 40th birthday on Saturday--was a graduate assistant coach at UCLA in 1992 and 1993...USC OG Fred Matua is a cousin of former UCLA defensive lineman Manu Tuiasosopo (1976-78)...UCLA assistant coach Gary Bernardi was a USC assistant (198792)...UCLA LB Nick Carey is the son of former USC S-QB Mike Carey (1976-77)...USC men's basketball coach Henry Bibby played on 3 UCLA NCAA title teams (197072), earning All-American honors in 1972...USC men's and women's water polo head coach Jovan Vavic was a Bruin men's assistant in 1991...USC women's rowing head coaches Kelly and Zenon Babraj previously were head coaches at UCLA, Kelly guiding the women (1986-91) and Zenon the men (1987-91); Kelly also rowed for the Bruins for 2 years...Ted Gleason, who coaches the USC men's and women's golfers, captained the UCLA men's squad in 1993...USC women's basketball director of operations and marketing Patrick Auerbach is a former UCLA yell leader...USC assistant track coach John Henry Johnson was a decathlete at UCLA in the late 1980s...USC head trainer Russ Romano spent 1997 at UCLA...UCLA women's basketball coach Kathy Olivier was a USC assistant for 3 years (1984-86), including on Troy's 1984 NCAA championship team.
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 2003faces 8 teams that played in bowls last season, including 3 ranked in the final AP Top 20. USC currently has the nation's 22nd most difficult 2003 schedule, according to the current USA Today/Sagarin ranking. 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, as 4 of its next 5 games were on the road (including its annual tilt with non-conference rival Notre Dame). The Trojans played at California, Arizona State, Washington and Arizona, and hosted 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).
QB Matt Leinart and WR Mike Williams hooked up on 3 touchdown passes and TB LenDale White ran for 2 more to lead No. 2 USC to a dominating 45-0 whitewash at Arizona before 39,201 fans and a national TBS Superstation cable audience. It was the first time in 146 games (dating to 1991) that Arizona was shut out. It was also USC's biggest margin of victory since a 55-point win over Hawaii in 1999, its highest scoring shutout since a 61-0 win over California in 1994 and its most decisive win over Arizona since a 71-point victory in 1928. USC, which was coming off a bye, built a 35-0 halftime lead. White scored on a 1-yard run on USC's first drive, then Leinart hit Williams on a 15-yard scoring toss on the Trojans' second series. The Leinart-Williams duo connected twice more in the second quarter for 22- and 26-yard TDs before TE Gregg Guenther made a spectacular one-handed grab of a 20-yard TD pass from Leinart late in the half. USC finished its scoring late in the third quarter on a 36-yard field goal by PK Ryan Killeen (who set a USC season record for PATs) followed by a 43-yard White run. USC's control over Arizona was complete. The Trojan offense had season bests in total yards (587), passing yards (367), first downs (32), plays (85) and possession time (35:42). USC's defense limited the Wildcats to 195 total yards (just 50 on the ground) and 10 first downs on only 60 plays. Arizona converted just 2-of-15 third downs. Leinart was 22-of-30 for 296 yards and 4 TDs (he was taken out midway through the third quarter) while setting a USC record for consecutive passes without an interception. Williams, who caught 11 passes for 157 yards and the 3 scores (all game highs), set a Trojan career record for TD catches. White had 90 yards on 15 carries with the 2 TDs and set a USC freshman mark for most rushing touchdowns. WR Keary Colbert had 7 receptions for 76 yards, TB Reggie Bush ran for 64 yards on 11 tries (he also had a 58-yard kickoff return), TB Hershel Dennis added 52 yards on 10 attempts and QB John David Booty was 3-of-6 for 63 yards. S Jason Leach made 12 tackles (2 for losses) and LB Collin Ashton (who became just the second walk-on to start in at least the past 20 years) added 8 stops. CB Will Poole had 2 interceptions, while CB Marcell Allmond had an interception and a fumble recovery. Arizona QB Kris Heavner was 11-of-30 for 129, but was picked off 3 times.
FUN FACT I
With a win over UCLA, USC will have swept the Bruins and Notre Dame in consecutive years for just the second time ever (the only other time that has happened was in the 1978 and 1979 seasons).
FUN FACT II
USC is 4-0 against UCLA when the Trojans are ranked second or better by AP (wins in 1962-68-72-88).
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 26-9 (74.3%) 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 24-4 (85.7%). He is 9-0 in November. His teams already have posted 4 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 (187-of-298, 62.8%, 2,662 yds, 28 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--if any--dropoff from last season's passing production (see table below). He is 1 of 10 semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien Award (nation's top quarterback) and he is even showing up in various media Heisman Trophy contender projections. In his last 6 games (Arizona State, Stanford, Notre Dame, Washington, Washington State), Leinart has thrown for 1,738 yards and 20 TDs with just 1 interception on 65.5% passing (114-of-174). He has thrown at least 2 TDs in his last 9 games and at least 3 TDs in his last 5 contests. His current streak of 165 consecutive passes without an interception--stretching over the past 5-and-a-half game--broke Palmer's USC record (147 in 2002) and is approaching the Pac-10 season (198 by UCLA's Cory Paus in 2001) and career (216 by USC's Brad Otton in 1994-95) standards. He currently is fifth nationally in passing efficiency (164.1, first in Pac-10) and 23rd in total offense (262.6, second in Pac-10). His 195 completions is 10th on the USC season list and 13th on the Trojan career ladder. His 28 TD passes is third on the USC season list (tied for eighth on the Pac-10 chart), just 5 behind Palmer's 2002 record of 33 (which also tied a Pac-10 mark). His 2,626 yards of total offense is seventh on the USC season chart. He has passed for more touchdowns (28) than any sophomore in USC history, he is the first USC soph to have back-to-back 300-yard passing games and he is just the fifth USC soph to have thrown for 2,000 yards in a season (joining Palmer, Rodney Peete, Todd Marinovich and Rob Johnson). Backing him now is heralded freshman John David Booty (5-of-11, 45.5%, 81 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 junior Brandon Hance (2-of-3, 66.7%, 21 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 Matt 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, as well as tying an Irish opponent record for TD passes) at Notre Dame (he hit his first 7 throws), while Booty completed a 5-yard pass.
--For the second week in a row, Leinart threw for 351 yards, 4 TDs and no interceptions, this time on 19-of-29 passing (65.5%) at Washington (he was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week), while Booty got in for the final series.
--Leinart was 17-of-31 for 191 yards and 3 TDs and no interceptions against a Washington State defense that was fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense (he was 6-of-7 for 93 yards and the 3 scores in the second half).
--At Arizona, Leinart was 22-of-30 for 296 yards and 4 TDs (he was taken out midway through the third quarter) while setting a USC record for consecutive passes without an interception, while Booty was 3-of-6 for 63 yards and Hance hit his only attempt (an 8-yarder).
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Matt Leinart
Tony Mejia, CBS Sportsline.com: 'Could the Trojans have consecutive Heisman winners? Why not. USC has positioned itself for a run at a national championship, and that is in no small part due to the job Leinart has done replacing Carson Palmer.'
Collegefootballnews.com: 'Talk about peaking, Matt Leinart is quickly growing into a superstar just when the Trojans need him most.'
Stewart Mandel, SI.com: 'Has anyone else noticed how USC quarterback Matt Leinart has caught fire at about the same point in the season that Carson Palmer did last year?...If Leinart continues this level of play, the Trojans could be on their way back to the BCS. The scary thing is, unlike Palmer, who by the time he fully grasped Norm Chow's offense was off to the NFL, Leinart has two years left after this one.'
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 (115 tcb, 570 yds, 5.0 avg, 4 TD in 2003, plus 8 rec, 57 yds, 7.1 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 was a terrific trio of prep All-Americans in LenDale White (113 tcb, team-high 661 yds, 5.8 avg, 11 TD in 2003, plus 2 rec, 8 yds, 4.0 avg and 2 tac), who emerged by midseason as USC's top runner, plus Reggie Bush (70 tcb, 399 yds, 5.7 avg, 3 TD in 2003, plus 8 rec, 192 yds, 24.0 yds, 2 TD and team-best 11 KOR, 288 yds, 26.2 avg and 1 FR) and Chauncey Washington (19 tcb, 65 yds, 3.4 avg in 2003, plus 1 rec, 6 yds, 6.0 avg and 3 tac) and, plus frosh Jody Adewale. White has a trio of 100-yard games in 2003, 1 shy of tying Charles White's 4 in 1976, his 661 rushing yards are the most by a USC freshman since Charles White's school frosh record of 858 in 1976 and his 11 rushing TDs is a USC freshman record (breaking Charles White's mark of 10). Bush--nicknamed 'The President'--has had 15 plays of 20-plus yards in 2003 out of 79 touches (rushes of 23, 27, 58 and 20 yards, receptions of 28, 37 and 38, and kickoff returns of 23, 25, 30, 34, 35, 35, 20 and 58). Dennis and Bush are speedy, darting runners, while White and Washington are known as the 'The Bruise Brothers.' Combined in 2003, USC's 4 young tailbacks who have seen action--Dennis, White, Bush and Washington--have 1,665 rushing yards (166.5 per game) and 18 rushing TDs (plus 3 receiving TDs). The last time USC had 3 runners with more than 300 rushing yards in a season was 1991. 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).
--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.
--Bush had 270 all-purpose yards at Washington (132 on 5 receptions--the most receiving yards ever by a Trojan running back--with TDs of 60 and 37 yards, plus 81 on 12 rushes and 57 on 2 kickoff returns), while Dennis had a game-high 98 rushing yards on 14 carries (he also had a 10-yard catch), White had 29 yards on 9 carries with a 21-yard TD (plus he had a 10-yard reception) and Washington had 18 yards on 4 carries.
--Against a Washington State defense ranked third nationally in rushing defense (68.1), White ran for a game-best 149 yards--the most by a USC freshman (true or redshirt) and breaking his true freshman record of 140 set a month earlier at Arizona State--on 12 carries (a 12.4 average) with a TD, including non-scoring runs of 66 and 44 runs, while Dennis added 53 yards on 7 tries (with a 24-yard TD) and Bush had 15 yards on 7 attempts (he also had 62 yards on 3 kickoff returns and recovered a fumble on a bad punt snap).
--At Arizona, White had a game-best 90 yards on 15 carries and scored TDs on runs of 1 and 43 yards to set the USC season rushing TD record, while Bush added 64 yards on 11 tries and also had a 58-yard kickoff return and Dennis had 52 yards on 10 rushes.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Reggie Bush
Steve Kelley, Seattle Times: 'Bush is one-of-a-kind. A freshman so good, so versatile, USC's coaching staff is just beginning to see all the ways he can be used. When he touches the ball, defensive coordinators hold their breath. Every play called for him can be a game-breaker. Every touch can be something you'll never forget...Bush zig-zags through defenses as if he has a sixth sense for the location of the next sliver of daylight. He cuts as sharply as a Ferrari in a chicane. He shimmies like a dancer in a music video. A football field is 53 yards wide, and there are plays where Reggie Bush seems to use every inch from sideline to sideline...'The President' is carving exquisite, artful-dodger runs through desperately grasping and gasping defenses. Re-awakening the echoes of all the great Trojans tailbacks who preceded him. Hail to the Chief.'
Dennis Dodd, CBS Sportsline.com: 'They call him 'The President.' They might soon be calling him The King...He is that rare back with the speed and strength to run through the line and the ability to make defenders miss in space when he goes out for a pass...The only reasons he won't get Heisman consideration is he is too young for voters and still has to share time with a deep stable of backs. He is a symbol for what USC was, is and will be.'
Randy Youngman, Orange County Register: 'Even if he got to carry or catch the ball on every down, I would never get tired of watching Reggie Bush, USC's electrifying freshman running back. Bush has so many open-field moves, he's more elusive than 'The Fugitive.' Now you see him, now you don't...touchdown, Trojans!'
Arash Markazi, Daily Trojan: 'Reggie Bush looks like a creation from a video game--an almost unreal character created by a kid who finds all the secret codes to make his player faster, quicker and better than everyone else on the field...He always makes the impossible seem possible. The scary thing for USC's opponents is that this creation isn't imaginary. He's not from a video game. He's a living, breathing human joystick who terrorizes defenses with his blinding speed and ankle-breaking shimmies...His speed borders on blinding and his knack for eluding defenders borders on ridiculous.'
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT LenDale White
Todd Harmonson, Orange County Register: 'It's too early to anoint White as the next great tailback at USC...but his quiet confidence and thunderous running style are enough to inspire Trojan imaginations. Fans with decent memories compare him to Ricky Bell. Offensive linemen who must make their blocks or risk having him run into their backs point to Justin Fargas.'
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT WHITE AND BUSH
Luke Winn, SI.com: 'This duo--along with Hershel Dennis--is liable to become for the Trojans what Carnell Williams et al couldn't be at Auburn: the best backfield in the nation. Bush has unlimited potential and a better shot of emerging as a Heisman back. White is the more physical runner and is putting up big numbers. 'Tailback U' will once again be apropos in L.A.'
With Malaefou MacKenzie gone, a new fullback must emerge. Sophomore Brandon Hancock (1 tcb, -2 yds, -2.0 avg in 2003, plus 11 rec, 152 yds, 13.8 avg, 2 TD and 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 (3 tcb, 1 yd, 0.3 avg in 2003, plus 8 tac, 1 FF), 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 (5 tcb, 23 yds, 11.5 avg in 2003, plus 2 rec, 8 yds, 4.0 avg) 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.
--Hancock caught a 52-yard TD pass at Washington.
--Hancock caught a 5-yard pass against Washington State and had 1 carry for minus 2 yards.
--Kirtman ran for 23 yards on 5 tries at Arizona, while Webb had 1 yard on 3 carries and Hancock caught a 6-yard pass.
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 (56 rec, 805 yds, 14.4 avg, 7 TD in 2002, plus 2 tcb, 17 yds, 8.5 avg) starts for his fourth season. He has caught a pass in 33 consecutive outings. He is third on USC's career receptions ladder with 194 grabs (tied for ninth 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 2,756 career receiving yards is 10th on the all-time Pac-10 list. He has 5 100-yard receiving games in his career (2 in 2003). His 56 catches in 2003 is tied for 11th on the USC season list. Even if Colbert breaks Kelly's reception mark, Keyshawn-esque sophomore Mike Williams (69 rec, 986 yds, 14.3 avg, 12 TD in 2003, plus 1-of-1 passing for 23 yds and 3 tcb, 26 yds, 8.7 avg and 1 tac) is poised to shatter the standard before his career concludes. A semifinalist for the 2003 Biletnikoff Award, he is listed as a Heisman Trophy contender by various media outlets. He already is seventh on USC's career receptions list (150) and has 11 100-yard receiving games in his young career (6 times in 2003). He has 26 touchdown catches in his 23-game career, setting the USC career TD reception record 3 games before the end of his sophomore season (the Pac-10 career TD reception mark is 32 by Stanford's Ken Margerum in 1977-80). He has had multiple TD games 7 times, including 3 times getting a USC game record-tying 3 TDs). He is within range of breaking his (2002) and Johnnie Morton's (1993) USC record for season TD catches (14). He is averaging a touchdown every 6.1 times he touches the ball (26 TDs on 157 touches, including his 5 rushes and 2 pass attempts). He needs 14 receiving yards in 2003 to become just the second Trojan (joining Keyshawn Johnson) to have a pair of 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He currently is 12th nationally in receptions (6.9, third in the Pac-10) and 14th in receiving yards (98.6, third in Pac-10). His 12 TD catches are the most in the Pac-10 in 2003. His 69 catches in 2003 is fifth on the USC season ladder. His 150 career catches is 32nd on the Pac-10 list and his 2,240 career receiving yards is 37th on the Pac-10 chart. 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 time 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).
--At Washington, Williams led USC with 6 catches (for 43 yards), while Colbert caught 3 passes for 91 yards, including a 20-yard TD.
--Colbert had a team-high 9 catches for 80 yards (with a 13-yard TD), while Williams added 4 grabs for 43 yards (including a 13-yard TD), plus he completed a scrambling 23-yard pass and had 2 runs for 9 yards (on backwards passes).
--At Arizona, Williams had 11 catches for 157 yards and 3 TDs (15, 22 and 26 yards)--all game bests--while setting the USC career record for touchdown receptions, while Colbert added 7 grabs for 76 yards.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Mike Williams
Steve Bisheff, Orange County Register: '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.'
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.'
Jim Rhode, Los Angeles Times: 'Mike Williams is college football's best receiver...Williams does it all. He catches balls long, short and in between, working the sideline and over the middle as well. He hauls in seemingly unreachable passes like Go-Go Gadget, drags defenders around like Ben-Hur, serves as a defender magnet so others such as Keary Colbert can steal away against single coverage and provides a security blanket for Leinart...The Biletnikoff Award should be signed, sealed and delivered to Williams right now.'
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.'
California defensive coordinator Bob Gregory: 'He causes huge, major problems...It's not like you can just tell a corner to go and cover him. Because of how big he is, you can't do much on him one-on-one. And if you put another guy on him, your run defense suffers because you take a guy out of the box.'
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Kent Baer: 'He's got deceptive speed. He's a long-strider and you don't realize he's faster than most receivers...The only thing that jumps out how to defend him is to try to keep two guys on him. But is there anything physically we can do? Not really.'
Kyle Veltrop, The Sporting News: 'Someone his size shouldn't have that burst, which is why he is like Terrell Owens.'
Keary Colbert, USC wide receiver: 'He's so big, a lot of people don't realize how much quickness he has. He is big, but he also has the ability to separate from the defense on his routes...People just think that because he's big, he's going to muscle. But he does things a little guy does.'
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Keary Colbert
Richard Cirminiello, Collegefootballnews.com: 'Mike Williams gets so much well-earned pub that it's made fellow wideout Keary Colbert the most underrated receiver in college football...Think Detroit Lions circa 1996. He's a lot like former Trojan Johnnie Morton was to Herman Moore.'
Mike Williams, USC wide receiver: 'He's really fast and he catches the ball better than anybody I've ever seen at this level. When you have a fast guy who can catch the ball and run really good routes and he works hard, that's pretty much the recipe for a good receiver...He doesn't get the credit or recognition he deserves. But he doesn't care. He just goes out and plays ball. He's such a good example and such an impact guy with the things he does off the field. He's not a big rah-rah guy. He's not a big talker. But he carries himself well.'
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT WILLIAMS AND COLBERT
Bill Doba, Washington State head coach: 'Williams is as good as they come in the country, but you can't forget Colbert. If you do, you'll be in trouble.'
Ken Goe, Portland Oregonian: 'Mike Williams casts such a long shadow, it's easy to forget about Keary Colbert, who unobtrusively works the other side of the field. Easy, but deadly, because Colbert can destroy a defense, too. In a conference full of superlative receiving tandems, the Williams and Colbert duo is the best. Williams already is a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare, imposingly tall, with hands the NFL covets. Double-cover the flashy Williams and the secondary opens wide for Colbert. Double-cover both, and the Trojans' running game springs free...Pick the poison.'
Todd Harmonson, Orange County Register: 'USC's dynamic duo simply makes the most of its opportunities in one of the most balanced offenses in the nation, exploiting the weaknesses of opposing defenses with size and strength to be sure, but also with impressive skill. Williams is the one who has captured the college football world's imagination, because 6-foot-5 players aren't supposed to be able to do the things he does, and sophomores certainly shouldn't dominate the way he has...As much as Colbert often is relegated to the role of the trusty sidekick, he actually is every bit the co-star. No one seems to notice him until he is in the end zone, again.'
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 (1 tac in 2003) 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 (2 rec, 27 yds, 13.5 avg in 2003, plus 2 KOR, 24 yds, 12.0 avg), sophomores Greig Carlson (team-best 17 PR, 161 yds, 9.5 avg in 2003) and William Buchanon (3 tac, 1 dfl, 1 int in 2003), who came to USC as a receiver before moving to cornerback in 2002 (he switched back to receiver by this mid-season), and sure-handed redshirt freshman Chris McFoy (2 rec, 23 yds, 12.5 avg in 2003). Carlson, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship this spring, was USC's top punt returner in 2002 (177 yards). 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 (7 rec, 147 yds, 21.0 avg, 1 TD in 2003, plus 1 tcb, 8 yds, 8.0 avg). Prep All-American Whitney Lewis (3 tcb, 11 yds, 3.7 avg in 2003, plus 3 rec, 27 yds, 9.0 avg) came to USC as a wide receiver, but so far in 2003 he has also played as a running back, first at fullback (usually in motion) and then at tailback (he's back to receiver now). Also enrolling this fall was prep All-American Desmond Reed, who was a safety-cornerback until moving to offense in mid-season.
- --Smith (7 yards) and Wyatt (5 yards) each had a catch at Auburn, the first of their careers.
--Justin Wyatt had 2 catches for 15 yards versus BYU, while Smith had an 8-yard run on a backwards pass and Lewis caught a 2-yard 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, while Lewis had 11 yards on 3 carries.
--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.
--Mitchell caught a 6-yard pass and returned a kickoff 6 yards at Washington, while Carlson had 17 yards on 2 punt returns.
--Smith had 2 catches for 60 yards against Washington State, including a 55-yard catch-and-run for a TD, while Carlson returned 2 punts for 13 yards.
--Smith (54 yards) and Lewis (25 yards) each had 2 catches at Arizona, while Mitchell (21 yards) and McFoy (8 yards) each had 1 catch and Carlson had 2 punt returns for 20 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 was junior Gregg Guenther Jr. (12 rec, 111 yds, 9.2 avg, 2 TD in 2003, plus 1 blk FG), who started once last fall and now has assumed the starting role this season. 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. Junior Matt Cassel (6-of-13, 46.2%, 63 yds in 2003), Carson Palmer's backup at quarterback the past 2 seasons who had thrown just 6 passes in his career before this year, moved over to tight end this mid-season (he made a similar mid-season move to wide receiver in 2001).
- --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.
--Guenther had a 7-yard catch at Washington.
--Guenther had 2 catches for 26 yards against Washington State.
--Guenther's only catch at Arizona was a spectacular one-handed 20-yard TD.
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 3-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 4-year starter, returned at left guard (he also has started at center in his career), while reliable center Norm Katnik, another 3-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, captured the starting job at Wilson's right guard spot for the first half of 2003. 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, even emerging as a starter the second half of this season), 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).
--Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Drake and Justice started at Washington (Matua saw time off the bench).
--Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Drake and Justice started versus Washington State (Matua came in off the bench).
--Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Drake and Justice started at Arizona (Matua saw time 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 (25 tac, 6.5 for loss, 4 sack, 2 FR, 1 int for a TD, 1 dfl in 2003) and junior Kenechi Udeze (42 tac, team-high 18.5 for loss, team-best 11.5 sack, 4 FF, 2 dfl, 1 blk FG in 2003). Nazel is sidelined with a thumb injury he suffered midseason. Udeze, a 3-year starter, set a USC record with his Pac-10 leading 6 forced fumbles in 2002 (he has 13 forced fumbled fumbles in his career). He is 1 of 6 finalists for the 2003 Hendricks Award (given to the nation's top defensive end). He currently is tied for third nationally in sacks (1.2, second in Pac-10), tied for fifth in forced fumbles (0.4, second in Pac-10) and tied for sixth in tackles for loss (1.8, first in Pac-10)...the only player ranked in the Top 10 in all 3 categories. He is the first Trojan with double digits in sacks since Willie McGinest in 1992 (16). In the past 5 games, Udeze has 9 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Also back is junior Mike Patterson (43 tac, 11 for loss, 6 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 (18 tac, 8.5 for loss, 6 sack, 1FF, 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 (6 tac, 1 for loss in 2003) and sophomore converted linebacker Frostee Rucker (22 tac, 3 for loss, 0.5 sack, 1 int, 1 dfl, 1 FF, 2 FR in 2003), who sat out last year after transferring from Colorado State (he's taken over for the injured Nazel), 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 (5 tac, 1 for loss, 1 dfl 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).
--Rucker started at Washington for Nazel and had 8 tackles (1 for a loss), while Udeze had 5 tackles (2.5 for losses, with a sack), plus had a forced fumble and deflection, and Cody and Patterson each had 2 tackles (Cody had 1 for a loss).
--Against Washington State, each of the starters had a sack--Nazel had 5 tackles (with a sack) and a deflection, Patterson had 4 stops (with a sack), Udeze had 3 tackles (including 3 for losses, with 2 sacks) and Cody had 3 tackles (including 2 for losses, with a sack) and a forced fumble--while Brown added a tackle, Rucker had a fumble recovery and Wright had a deflection.
--At Arizona, Udeze had 5 tackles (with 2.5 for losses, including a sack), Brown, Patterson and Wright each had 3 stops (Brown had 1 for a loss), Rucker started for an injured Nazel and made 2 tackles (0.5 for a loss) and Cody had 1 stop.
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.'
Pat Haden, NBC-TV: 'Mike Patterson is like hair in the sink. He just kind of clogs things up.'
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 (45 tac, 8 for loss, 2 FR, 3 dfl in 2003) is back on the weak side. Grootegoed, a 3-year starter and 2003 post-season honors candidate who has a knack for always being around the ball, was 1 of 11 semifinalists for the 2003 Butkus Award (the only Pac-10 selection) and 1 of 12 semifinalists for the 2003 Lombardi Award. He's been bothered recently by an ankle sprain. 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). Simmons has been slowed recently by a bruised leg. But there's a new middle linebacker now that Mike Pollard--a 2-year starter who had 49 stops last year--has departed. The starter is sophomore Lofa Tatupu (co-team-high 67 tac, 9.5 for loss, 3 sack, 8 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 (he's been sidelined with a shoulder injury). 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 (6 tac in 2003) and sophomore Dallas Sartz (34 tac, 3 for loss, 2 dfl in 2003), who has subbed lately for an injured Grootegoed (he can also play safety), plus walk-on sophomore Collin Ashton (20 tac, 0.5 for loss, 1 FF in 2003). Prep All-American Thomas Williams, along with Salo Faraimo (10 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.
--Simmons had 8 tackles (2 for losses) at Washington, while Tatupu added 6 stops (0.5 for a loss) and a deflection, Sartz started for an injured Grootegoed and also had 3 tackles, and Ashton, Faraimo and Otani each had 1.
--Against Washington State, Tatupu had a game-best 11 tackles (with a deflection), Sartz started again for Grootegoed (who didn't play) and had 9 stops and a deflection, Simmons had 3 tackles and 2 deflections, Ashton had 2 stops and Faraimo had 1.
--With Grootegoed and Simmons not available for the Arizona game because of injuries, Ashton started for Simmons and had 8 tackles (0.5 for a loss) and forced a fumble (he was just the second walk-on to start at Troy in at least the past 20 years, joining D. Hale), while Tatupu had 3 stops and a deflection, Sartz had 2 tackles (1.5 for loss) with a deflection and Faraimo and Otani each had 1 stop.
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 (37 tac, 2 int, 4 dfl, 2 FF, 1 FR in 2003, plus 7 KOR, 160 yds, 22.9 avg) returned as a starter. The Trojans are 15-1 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 (27 tac, 2 for loss, 1 sack, 1 int for a TD, 4 dfl, team-high 3 FR with 1 for a TD in 2003) and sophomore William Buchanon (3 tac, 1 dfl, 1 int in 2003). Arbetwho started 4 times in 2000 and was an All-Pac-10 first teamer as a special teams player in 2001won the job going into 2003 and started the first 2 games, but his foot injury flared up and has sidelined him the rest of this year. So Will Poole (56 tac, 2.5 for loss, 1 FF, team-best 5 int, team-high 12 dfl in 2003, plus 4 PR, 29 yds, 7.2 avg), 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 16th nationally in interceptions (0.5, fifth in Pac-10) and 20th in deflections (1.6, second in Pac-10). He is backed by Nunn, while Buchanon moved back over to wide receiver by this mid-season. 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 (co-team-high 67 tac, 3 for loss, 4 dfl, 1 FR, 1 FF, 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 (50 tac, 2 for loss, 1 FR, 2 int, 5 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 sophomores John Walker (3 tac, 1 dfl in 2003) and Justin Wyatt (8 tac in 2003, plus 3 rec, 20 yds, 6.7 avg and 3 KOR, 41 yds, 13.7 avg), who began his career as a corner but moved to wide receiver in 2003 spring drills (he switched back to cornerback this mid-season), and walk-on sophomore Alex Gomez. Identical twin freshmen cornerbacks Brandon Ting (1 tac in 2003) and Ryan Ting (1 tac in 2003), 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 (4 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 2 incoming freshmen who were prep All-Americans: safety Terrell Thomas and cornerback Eric Wright, but both 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 (he also returned 2 kickoffs for 51 yards) 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 (Allmond also had a 33-yard kickoff return), Ross had 3 tackles, and William 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 (Allmond had 2 kickoff returns for 39 yards and 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.
--At Washington, Poole had a team-best 9 tackles (and a deflection), Leach added 8 stops and a deflection, Allmond had 6 tackles and forced a fumble, Nunn had 4 stops, returned an interception 57 yards for a TD and recovered a fumble, Bing had 3 tackles and a deflection, Wyatt had 2 stops and Ryan Ting had 1.
--Against Washington State, Allmond had 8 tackles (and a 24-yard kickoff return), Nunn had 7 (1 for a loss), Leach had 6 stops and recovered a fumble, Bing had 5 tackles, an interception (in the end zone) and a deflection, Wyatt and Poole had 3 stops (Poole also had a deflection) and Farr had 1 tackle.
--Leach had a game-best 12 tackles (2 for loss) at Arizona, plus forced a fumble and had a deflection, while Poole had 2 stops, 2 interceptions, a deflection and 4 punt returns for 29 yards, Bing had 2 stops and a deflection, Farr had a tackle, Allmond had an interception, a fumble recovery and a deflection and Nunn had a deflection.
Sophomore Tom Malone (49.2 avg in 2003) has proven to be the nation's top punter. He is 1 of 10 semifinalists for the 2003 Ray Guy Award. He led the nation in punting for 5 consecutive weeks this midseason and would still be the leader, but because of the efficiency of USC's offense he is 3 punts shy of having the NCAA-required minimum punts per game of 3.6 to be listed. In fact, his 49.2 average is 1.5 yards above the current national leader! He 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 49.2 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, 21 of his 33 punts have gone at least 50 yards and 18 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 (16-of-20 FG, 49-of-50 PAT in 2003, plus 2 tac) is in his second year as the placekicker. He is 1 of 20 semifinalists for the 2003 Lou Groza Award. He currently is 11th nationally in scoring (9.7, first in Pac-10) and tied for 14th in field goals (1.6, third in Pac-10) and. So far in 2003, 27 of his 76 kickoffs have been touchbacks. His 49 PATs in 2003 is a USC season record and his 16 field goals is close to the Trojan season mark of 19 (set by Quin Rodriguez in 1990). 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 tight end-quarterback Matt Cassel the backup. USC's top punt returner--sophomore wide receiver Greig Carlson (team-best 17 PR, 161 yds, 9.5 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 punt returning chore before being sidelined with an injury, so Carlson, senior cornerback Will Poole (2 PR, 29 yds, 7.2 avg in 2003) and sophomore cornerback-wide receiver Justin Wyatt (1 PR, 0 yds, 0.0 avg in 2003) have taken over. Arbet and senior cornerback Marcell Allmond (7 KOR, 160 yds, 22.9 avg in 2003) were the kickoff returners in 2003 before Arbet's injury. So joining Allmond now are freshman tailback Reggie Bush (team-best 11 KOR, 288 yds, 26.2 avg in 2003) and Wyatt (3 KOR, 41 yds, 13.7 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.
--At Washington, Malone's only punt traveled 54 yards, while Killeen hit 1-of-3 field goals (a 20-yarder) and 4-of-5 PATs (1 was blocked).
--Against Washington State, Killeen hit both of his field goals (30 and 21 yards) and all 5 of his PATs while 5 of his 8 kickoffs pinned the Cougars within the 20 (with 2 touchbacks), and Malone averaged 51.0 yards on his 3 punts.
--At Arizona, Killeen set USC's season PAT record when he connected on all 6 of his PATs (he also nailed his only field goal, a 36-yarder) and 6 of his 8 kickoffs were touchbacks, while Malone's only punt went 47 yards.
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 second in the U.S. and first in the Pac-10) by getting 16 interceptions and 16 fumbles (and yielding only 7 interceptions and 10 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.
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