No. 2 USC Football--With Possible BCS Championship Game Berth On Line--Hosts Oregon State
Nov. 30, 2003
USC (10-1 overall, 6-1 Pac-10) vs. Oregon State (7-4, 4-3), Saturday, Dec. 6, 1:30 p.m. PST, Los Angeles Coliseum.
It's 'Championship Saturday' in college football and it's a big day for No. 2-ranked USC. The Trojans--the Pac-10 champions for the second year in a row--have already locked up a berth into the Rose Bowl, but a win over Oregon State might propel USC into the BCS' national championship game in the Sugar Bowl. A victory would also give USC the outright Pac-10 title for the first time since 1989 and its best season record since 1979. USC, victorious in its last 7 contests and 18 of its last 19, is riding a 14-game Coliseum winning streak and has won 19 consecutive Coliseum meetings over the Beavers (OSU last won there in 1960). It's the third year in a row that USC has hosted Oregon State. Both teams had a bye last week (it was USC's third bye of the season). In their last games, USC routed UCLA, but Oregon State fell to Oregon. This is USC's latest regular season game since 1980. Coach Pete Carroll's USC squad is nationally ranked in most team statistical categories on both sides of the ball (including total and scoring offense and defense). The Trojan offense has scored 40-plus points in each of the past 6 games, a Pac-10 first. Precocious QB Matt Leinart has been precision-like all year; he is fifth in the U.S. in passing efficiency and is 2 passes away from setting the Pac-10 record for most season attempts without an interception. Among his targets are WRs Mike Williams, an All-American and a fellow sophomore Heisman aspirant who already is closing in on the Pac-10's career TD reception mark, and Keary Colbert, just 7 catches shy of the USC career mark. The Trojan offensive line, led by All-American OT Jacob Rogers, has allowed a league-low 13 sacks and has propelled the Trojan running attack--with young TBs Hershel Dennis, LenDale White and Reggie Bush--to its most productive average in more than a decade. The stingy USC defense, which thrives on turnovers (and scoring off of them), is led by All-American DE Kenechi Udeze and his 'Wild Bunch II' linemates, plus lock-down CB Will Poole. P Tom Malone is the nation's best, but he doesn't get many chances because the Trojan offense is so productive, while PK Ryan Killeen--who already holds the USC season PAT mark--needs 2 field goals to break that Trojan season record. Bowl-bound Oregon State is guided by a familiar face to Trojan fans: Mike Riley, a former USC assistant now in his second go-around as OSU's head coach. Like the Trojans, Oregon State ranks among the Pac-10's top offenses and defenses. TB Steve Jackson, QB Derek Anderson and WR James Newson present problems on offense and MLB Richard Seigler anchors the Beaver defense. The game, televised nationally on ABC, likely will be viewed by the largest in-stadium crowd ever to see a USC-OSU contest...and if so, USC will set a new average home attendance record.
USC is ranked second by AP and USA Today/ESPN. Oregon State is not ranked.
USC leads its series with Oregon State, 55-8-4, dating back to 1914. USC's 85.1% winning percentage against OSU is its best against any Pac-10 team. The Trojans had won a Pac-10 record 26 consecutive games over the Beavers before losing in 2000. USC has posted 17 shutouts in the series (including 2 scoreless ties). In Los Angeles-area games, USC has won 19 in a row over the Beavers (OSU last won in L.A. in 1960) and is 37-4-3 overall (1 loss came in 1916 in Pasadena).
Last year in the Coliseum, No. 18 USC used a dominating defense, plus a pair of touchdown passes from QB Carson Palmer to WR Mike Williams and 3 field goals from PK Ryan Killeen, to shut out high-powered No. 23 Oregon State, 22-0, in the Pac-10 opener for both teams. It was USC's second shutout in its last 3 home games, its first whitewash of Pac-10 foes in back-to-back league games since 1982 and its first shutout in a conference opener since 1976. It also was the first time Oregon State was blanked since USC did so in 1997 and only the second shutout in OSU coach Dennis Erickson's career (pro or college). It was the Beavers' 19th consecutive loss to USC in the Coliseum. The Trojan defense thoroughly throttled OSU, which entered the game second nationally in total offense (499.8) and scoring offense (47.5). The Beavers managed just 131 total yards (only 51 rushing) on 60 plays (2.2 average), 8 first downs, 1-of-15 third down conversions (and 0-of-2 on fourth downs) and 22:05 of possession time. OSU also was sacked 4 times, had 3 turnovers, was penalized 12 times, punted 10 times and never got closer than the USC 24-yard line. In the second half, OSU gained just 33 total yards. USC took a 13-0 lead into halftime after a pair of career-first field goals by Killeen (43 and 42 yards) and an 11-yard Palmer TD pass to Williams (the first scoring reception in Williams' career). The second field goal and the touchdown came after DTs Mike Patterson and Shaun Cody recovered fumbles, respectively. Williams caught a 16-yard scoring toss from Palmer in the third quarter and Killeen hit a 32-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Killeen was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week. USC gained 330 total yards against a Beaver defense that ranked 13th nationally in total defense (257.8). Palmer--who became USC's career total offense leader--was 23-of-41 for 231 yards, WR Keary Colbert had a game-best 6 catches for 67 yards and a trio of Trojans each caught 4 passes: Williams (62 yards), TE Alex Holmes (45 yards) and TB Sultan McCullough (38 yards). McCullough also ran for 50 yards on 19 tries. OSU QB Derek Anderson, who came into the contest second nationally in passing efficiency while averaging 300.2 passing yards, was just 8-of-30 for 80 yards and coughed up both fumbles. TB Steven Jackson, the nation's No. 7 rusher (134.0), was held to 67 yards on 15 carries. Defensively for USC, DE Omar Nazel had a team-best 7 tackles (4 were for losses, with 2 sacks) plus a forced fumble and deflection to earn Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors, S DeShaun Hill had 6 tackles, 3 of LB Matt Grootegoed's 5 stops were for losses and Patterson posted 2 sacks.
USC has clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 football championship (a win over Oregon State would give Troy the title outright, its first since 1989). This is the first time that USC, which was the Pac-10 co-champ in 2002, has won back-to-back Pac-10 titles since 1988 and 1989 (the Trojans also won it in 1987). USC has now won the league title 33 times.
USC is 79-42-4 in all regular season games it has played following byes. Since 1955, the Trojans are 40-13-1 following byes (6 of those losses and the tie were to UCLA).
USC has been ranked in the AP Top 10 for its past 17 games, its longest string since 34 in a row in 1978-80. The Trojans have been in the AP Top 5 in 11 of the last 15 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 10-1, USC is off to its best start since the 1988 team began at 10-1. A win over Oregon State would give USC, at 11-1, its best start since 1979 (11-0-1).
HOME WIN STREAK
The Trojans have captured their last 14 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 Pac-10 leading 14-game home winning streak, USC also has the longest current Pac-10 win streaks for overall games (7), Pac-10 games (6) and road games (4).
IN THE COLISEUM
USC has a 373-122-27 (.740) all-time record in the Coliseum since the stadium opened in 1923.
USC is 34-22-7 (.595) in games in the month of December. This is USC's latest regular season game since a Dec. 6 contest versus Notre Dame in 1980. It is also the first time that USC hasn't ended its regular season against either UCLA or Notre Dame since 1999 (when it hosted Louisiana Tech). The only time USC played Oregon State in December was in 1925 (a 28-0 Trojan victory on Dec. 5).
Ten starters (or projected starters) have missed (or will miss) at least a game in 2003 because of injury: TE Alex Holmes (all 11), LB Oscar Lua (11), CB Kevin Arbet (9), TE Dominique Byrd (5), FB Brandon Hancock (4), LB Matt Grootegoed (3), DE Omar Nazel (2), LB Lofa Tatupu (1) and LB Melvin Simmons (1)...as well as OG John Drake, who broke his ankle last game and is done. 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, Nazel and Drake are out for the year.
USC has no players from the state of Oregon, while the Beavers sport 37 players who hail from California...Oregon State head coach Mike Riley was an assistant at USC from 1993 to 1996...OSU defensive coordinator Mark Banker was a USC assistant coach in 1996...OSU wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander lettered as a wide receiver at USC in 1993 and 1994, then was a USC assistant in 1996 and 1997...USC running back/special teams coach Kennedy Pola's nephew, Joe Polamalu, played football at Oregon State in 1987 and 1988...USC LB-S Dallas Sartz's father, Jeff, played safety at Oregon State...OSU CB Brandon Browner is the son of ex-USC LB Keith Browner (1980-83)...OSU women's volleyball coach Nancy Somera was an assistant at USC from 1991 to 1998 after starting for the Women of Troy for 4 seasons (1985-88). Her husband and Beaver assistant coach, Ben Somera, was an assistant for the USC women in the mid-1990s...OSU women's basketball assistant coach Jualeah Woods played for the Women of Troy from 1991 to 1994.
In terms of difficulty, it might be hard to match USC's 2002 schedule, which was ranked by the NCAA, USA Today/Sagarin and BCS as the nation's toughest--it featured 11 bowl-bound team, including 9 ranked by AP (and only 1 with a losing record) at the time of the game. But Troy's 2003 slate might not be far behind. USC--which has 3 byes in 2003--faces 8 teams that played in bowls last season, including 3 ranked in the final AP Top 20. USC has the nation's 30th 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).
No. 2 USC scored on offense, defense and special teams to rout UCLA, 47-22, before a sold-out Coliseum crowd of 93,172 (the most in the Coliseum since 1993) and a regional ABC-TV audience. It was the Trojans' fifth consecutive win over the Bruins (USC's longest streak in the crosstown series). And it marked just the second time that USC swept traditional rivals UCLA and Notre Dame in consecutive years (the other time was 1978-79). The win, combined with Washington State's loss at Washington later in the day, guaranteed the Trojans at least a berth in the Rose Bowl and a share of the Pac-10 title. The game was over quickly as USC, which opened up a 30-0 lead, scored on its first 4 possessions. First, WR Mike Williams caught a 21-yard TD pass from QB Matt Leinart early in the game, then TB LenDale White ran for a 1-yard score on Troy's next series. Williams caught a 4-yard TD pass from Leinart early in the second quarter before PK Ryan Killeen nailed a 38-yard field goal on USC's next possession. Then, 2 plays after USC's first non-scoring drive of the game, CB Ronald Nunn sacked UCLA QB Drew Olson and forced a fumble in the end zone, which was recovered for a touchdown by DE Kenechi Udeze. Killeen's ensuing PAT kick was blocked and returned for a 2-point defensive extra point by CB Matt Clark to get the Bruins on the board. Killeen connected on a 32-yard field goal late in the half to give Troy a 33-2 lead at intermission (the most first half points in the series since 1979). Midway through the third quarter, CB Marcell Allmond sacked Olson, causing a fumble, and DT Mike Patterson rumbled 52 yards for a touchdown to make it 40-2. After Olson hit TE Marcedes Lewis on a 17-yard scoring toss late in the third quarter, the teams traded touchdowns on kickoff returns: TB Reggie Bush (who was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week) went 96 yards and then TB Maurice Drew returned the favor by going 99 yards (DT Shaun Cody almost scored a 2-point defensive extra point after he intercepted Olson's conversion pass attempt and raced 84 yards before being tackled just short of the end zone). Olson hit WR Joe Cowan on a 2-yard TD pass late in the game against USC's reserves to conclude the scoring. Leinart was 23-of-32 for 289 yards in 3 quarters of action (he had 273 yards in the first half), while Williams caught 11 passes for 181 yards and the 2 scores (all in the first half). TB Hershel Dennis ran for a game-high 69 yards on 12 tries. USC dominated the statistics, getting more first downs (23-16, including 17-2 in the first half) and total yards (444-294, including 346-36 in the first half). UCLA--which lost its fourth game in a row--ran for just 11 yards, converted only 3-of-15 third downs, committed 4 turnovers and had 13 penalties, and Olson (who was 21-of-39 for 266 yards with an interception) was sacked 6 times. LB Dallas Sartz had a game-high 9 tackles and Patterson had 6 stops with a sack.
Three Trojans were named to the 2003 Football Writers Association of America first team: DE Kenechi Udeze, OT Jacob Rogers and WR Mike Williams. That is USC's most All-American first teamers since 1989 (when it had 4) and brings Troy's total to 127.
FUN FACT I
The last time USC had 3 byes in a season was 1996.
FUN FACT II
The crowd for Saturday's game could be the largest to ever see a USC-Oregon State game (the record is 65,430 in 1989 in the Coliseum).
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 27-9 (75.0%) 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 25-4 (86.2%). He is 10-0 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 (210-of-330, 63.6%, 2,951 yds, 30 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).
- --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 season 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).
--Leinart was 23-of-32 for 289 yards and 2 TDs in 3 quarters of action against UCLA (he was 12-of-14 for 171 yards and a TD in the first quarter), while Booty was 2-of-3 for 9 yards before breaking his wrist and Hance was 2-of-6 for 23 yards.
Last year, USC relied on 3 effective senior tailbacks to carry the load: Justin Fargas (who started 5 late-season games and rushed for 715 yards and 7 TDs), Sultan McCullough (a 5-game starter who led the Trojans with 814 yards and 8 TDs, and finished eighth on the school's career rushing list with 2,800 yards) and Malaefou MacKenzie (a 3-game starter at tailback and 7-game starter at fullback who ran for 939 yards and caught 76 passes in his career). In 2003, the only experienced tailback entering the season was promising sophomore Hershel Dennis (127 tcb, 639 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 (123 tcb, team-high 694 yds, 5.6 avg, 12 TD in 2003, plus 4 rec, 11 yds, 2.8 avg and 2 tac), who emerged by midseason as USC's top runner, plus Reggie Bush (76 tcb, 409 yds, 5.4 avg, 3 TD in 2003, plus 10 rec, 224 yds, 22.4 yds, 2 TD and team-best 14 KOR, 393 yds, 28.1 avg, 1 TD 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 694 rushing yards are the most by a USC freshman since Charles White's school frosh record of 858 in 1976 and his 12 rushing TDs is a USC freshman record (breaking Charles White's mark of 10). Bush--nicknamed 'The President'--has had 17 plays of 20-plus yards in 2003 out of 90 touches (rushes of 23, 27, 58 and 20 yards, receptions of 28, 37, 38 and 27 yards, and kickoff returns of 23, 25, 30, 34, 35, 35, 20, 58 and 96 yards). He currently is 11th nationally in kickoff returns (28.1, second in Pac-10). 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 1,777 rushing yards (161.5 per game) and 19 rushing TDs (plus 3 receiving TDs and 1 kickoff return TD). Dennis, White and Bush each are averaging at least 5.0 yards per carry. The last time USC had 3 runners with more than 400 rushing yards in a season was 1991. Bush and White were named to the 2003 Rivals.com Freshman All-American honorable mention squad. Also available are 3 walk-ons: sophomore converted safety Andre Woodert (3 tcb, 19 yds, 6.3 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.
--Dennis had a game-best 69 yards on 12 carries against UCLA, White added 33 yards on 10 ties (with a 1-yard TD) and he caught 2 passes for 3 yards, and Bush had 10 yards on 6 rushes, 32 yards on 2 catches and 105 yards on 3 kickoff returns (including a 96-yard TD, USC's first scoring kickoff return since 1998) and he was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week.
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 and again late in the year. So junior Lee Webb (3 tcb, 1 yd, 0.3 avg in 2003, plus 9 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 (60 rec, 846 yds, 14.1 avg, 7 TD in 2002, plus 2 tcb, 17 yds, 8.5 avg and 1 tac) starts for his fourth season.
- --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) on 5 catches 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) against Washington State, 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.
--Williams had 11 catches for 181 yards with 2 TDs (21 and 4 yards)--all in the first half--against UCLA, while Colbert added 4 grabs for 41 yards.
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 has sidelined him most of 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 19 PR, 179 yds, 9.4 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, but is bothered currently by a back injury), 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). Buchanon has been out recently with a back injury. 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 (11 rec, 174 yds, 15.8 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.
--Smith grabbed 4 passes for 27 yards versus UCLA and Carlson returned 2 punts for 18 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, 1 TD 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. (16 rec, 148 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.
--Guenther had 4 receptions for 37 yards against UCLA.
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). Rogers was named to the 2003 Football Writers All-America first team (the first All-American first team Trojan offensive lineman since Tony Boselli in 1994). 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 (he's now back in the lineup). 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 before breaking his ankle late in the year), 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).
--Rogers, Vandermade, Katnik, Drake and Justice started against UCLA (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 (46 tac, team-high 20 for loss, team-best 12.5 sack, 4 FF, 1 FR for a TD, 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 was named to the 2003 Football Writers All-America first team (the first All-American first team Trojan defensive lineman since Tim Ryan in 1989). He currently is fourth nationally in sacks (1.1, second in Pac-10), fifth in tackles for a loss (1.8, first in Pac-10) and tied for 10th in forced fumbles (0.4, third in Pac-10)...1 of only 2 players ranked in the Top 10 in all 3 categories. His 20 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks in 2003 are the most by a Trojan defensive lineman since Tim Ryan's 28 and 20, respectively, in 1989. He is the first Trojan with double digits in sacks since Willie McGinest in 1992 (16). In the past 6 games, Udeze has 10 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Also back is junior Mike Patterson (49 tac, 12 for loss, 7 sack, 3 FR with 1 returned for a TD 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 (20 tac, 10 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 (7 tac, 1 for loss in 2003) and sophomore converted linebacker Frostee Rucker (24 tac, 4 for loss, 1.5 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, 2 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.
--Two members of the 'Wild Bunch II' scored touchdowns against UCLA--Udeze recovered a fumble in the end zone and Patterson rumbled 52 yards with a fumble--and another almost scored a 2-point defensive extra point (Cody ran 84 yards with an interception, but was tackled just short of the end zone); overall, Patterson had 6 tackles and a sack, Udeze had 4 stops (with 1.5 for a loss, including a sack), Rucker added 2 stops (with a sack), Cody had 2 tackles (1.5 for a loss), Brown had a tackle and Wright had a deflection.
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 (48 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 (team-high 72 tac, 10 for loss, 3 sack, 9 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 (43 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 (25 tac, 0.5 for loss, 1 FF, 1 dfl 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 (he was named USAToday.com's National Player of the Week), 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.
--Sartz had a game-best 9 tackles against UCLA, Ashton started again and added 5 stops and a deflection, Tatupu had 5 stops (0.5 for a loss) and a deflection, and Simmons had 3 tackles.
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 (38 tac, 1 for loss, 1 sack, 3 int, 4 dfl, 3 FF, 1 FR in 2003, plus 8 KOR, 177 yds, 22.1 avg) returned as a starter. The Trojans are 16-1 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, 1 FF in 2003, plus 4 PR, 19 yds, 4.8 avg), who missed all of last season with a broken foot, junior Ronald Nunn (31 tac, 3 for loss, 2 sack, 1 int for a TD, 4 dfl, 1 FF, 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 (58 tac, 3.5 for loss, 1 sack, 3 FF, 2 FR, team-best 5 int, team-high 13 dfl in 2003, plus 5 PR, 26 yds, 5.2 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 12th nationally in deflections (1.6, first 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 (71 tac, 3.5 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 (54 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). Bing was named to the 2003 Rivals.com Freshman All-American first team. 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 (10 tac in 2003), plus 5 walk-ons in seniors Greg Farr (5 tac in 2003) and Forrest Mozart and juniors Chris Bocage (1 tac in 2003), who is out with a knee injury, Matt Lemos (1 tac in 2003) and Kyle Matthews (1 tac in 2003). 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.
--Against UCLA, Leach, Bing and Nunn each had 4 tackles (Bing had 0.5 for a loss and Nunn had a sack and forced fumble), Poole had 3 stops (including a sack), 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and a deflection, Allmond had a sack, a forced fumble, an interception and a kickoff return of 17 yards, and Lemos, Ross, Matthews and Farr each added a tackle.
Sophomore Tom Malone (48.8 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 4 punts shy of having the NCAA-required minimum 3.6 punts per game to be listed. In fact, his 48.8 average is 0.8 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 48.8 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, 22 of his 36 punts have gone at least 50 yards and 20 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 (18-of-22 FG, 54-of-56 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 eighth nationally in scoring (9.8, first in Pac-10) and 14th in field goals (1.6, third in Pac-10). So far in 2003, 29 of his 85 kickoffs have been touchbacks. His 54 PATs in 2003 is a USC season record and his 18 field goals is just shy of 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, in for the placekicks, and Matt Hayward (1 tac in 2003), in for the 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 19 PR, 179 yds, 9.4 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 (5 PR, 26 yds, 5.2 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 (8 KOR, 177 yds, 22.1 avg in 2003) were the kickoff returners in 2003 before Arbet's injury. So joining Allmond now are freshman tailback Reggie Bush (team-best 14 KOR, 393 yds, 28.1 avg in 2003) and Wyatt (3 KOR, 41 yds, 13.7 avg in 2003). Bush currently is 11th nationally in kickoff returns (28.1, second in Pac-10).
- --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 his 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.
--Against UCLA, Killeen made both of his field goals (38 and 32 yards) and 6-of-7 PATs (1 was blocked and returned for a 2-point defensive extra point) and 5 of his 9 kickoffs kept the Bruins within the 20, while Malone averaged 45.0 yards on 3 punts (with a 64-yarder), with 2 pinning the Bruins within the 20.
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 +1.6 in turnover margin (second in the U.S. and first in the Pac-10) by getting 17 interceptions and 19 fumbles (and yielding only 7 interceptions and 12 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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