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USC's Task Today Will Be to Slow Down Washington

September 27, 1986|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

After two games, Washington has shown that it isn't much of a second-half football team. The Huskies have outscored their opponents by only a 26-21 margin.

But there's a flaw in that statistic. The Huskies only had to show up for the second half in those games, since they had already flattened Ohio State and Brigham Young in the first half by respective scores of 24-0 and 42-7 on their way to lopsided wins of 40-7 and 52-21.

Thus, when USC plays sixth-ranked Washington today at the Coliseum, the Trojans' immediate goal will be to try to stay in contention until halftime.

Ohio State and BYU apparently aren't as strong as they have been in recent years, but that doesn't detract from Washington's fast start.

"They have the best offensive attack I've seen since I've been in the conference," USC Coach Ted Tollner said.

Washington's defense isn't too shabby, either. The Huskies have forced seven turnovers in two games, and all seven have produced touchdowns or field goals.

Coach Don James has a skilled quarterback in Chris Chandler and a big-play receiver in Lonzell (Mo) Hill. They have teamed for four of Washington's six touchdown passes.

Tollner said USC won't be able to overplay any phase of the Husky offense because James has a 240-pound fullback, Rick Fenney, who keeps defenses honest by pounding away inside.

Washington also has proven big-play people on defense--tackle Reggie Rogers, middle guard Steve Alvord, linebacker Steve Roberts and free safety Tim Peoples.

Finally, Washington also has Jeff Jaeger, perhaps the premier field goal kicker in the country. Jaeger has 68 field goals and needs just 12 more to break the NCAA record of 79 set by former UCLA kicker John Lee. He could be the difference in a close game, if the Huskies ever have one.

It seems strange that USC and Washington are meeting in a conference opener in September. Their games are usually reserved for November, with a Rose Bowl bid often riding on the outcome.

A loss for either team today won't drastically alter the Rose Bowl race this early in the season, but it will be a significant hurdle passed for the winner.

It has been generally assumed that five teams--Washington, UCLA, USC, Arizona and Arizona State--will contend for the Pacific 10 title, with Stanford a possible sleeper.

The Trojans are 2-0, like the Huskies, but they haven't shown they are truly a quality team. USC beat mediocre--if that--Illinois, 31-16, in the opener, then faltered offensively for 3 1/2 quarters before rallying to defeat Baylor, 17-14, on Don Shafer's 32-yard field goal as time expired last Saturday at Waco, Tex.

Tollner is far from discouraged, though.

"As disappointing as we were in our lack of productivity for 3 1/2 quarters, we somehow found a way to win," he said. "That made everyone come out feeling good about our ability to fight and win. We also know how much we struggled and how fortunate we were to win, and that keeps your players' attention of not thinking we've arrived at a level that would enable us to win a championship."

Against Baylor, quarterback Rodney Peete completed only 3 of his first 16 passes, then clicked on 7 of 9 when the Trojans rallied midway through the fourth quarter.

So, it's difficult to get a reading on the Trojans. They beat Illinois with some big plays and had a 7 1/2-minute offense against Baylor.

The running game hasn't been productive, though. Rotating tailbacks Ryan Knight and Aaron Emanuel are averaging only three yards a carry. But Tollner said they can't be faulted.

"They were running hard, but we just didn't give them a chance," he said.

By contrast, the Huskies have ideal statistics. They're averaging 203 yards rushing and 207.5 passing, with Chandler completing 62.7% of his passes.

The Trojans know all about Chandler, who drove the Huskies 98 yards to a game-winning touchdown against USC last year with only 56 seconds remaining.

Peete, who started for the first time last season against Washington as a redshirt freshman, hasn't been as proficient. He has completely only 40.8% of his passes for 303 yards and has added another 69 yards rushing on scrambles.

"I have a great deal of confidence in Rodney," Tollner said. "As much as he struggled against Baylor, the guy has got an air about him when something is on the line. He'll get it done.

"He's a very poised young man who is not playing nearly as capably as he can. He's a much better passer than he has shown."

It would seem that the best of Peete and the other Trojans must surface today if USC is to keep pace with Washington.

Trojan Notes A crowd of 60,000 is anticipated for today's game, which will be televised by WTBS, a cable network, starting at 4 p.m. . . . USC Coach Ted Tollner said fullback Todd Steele, who sprained his left knee against Baylor, probably will play, but redshirt freshman Leroy Holt will start. . . . Reggie Rogers, Washington's 268-pound defensive tackle, wears a black armband with the number 20 on it. That's in honor of his brother, Don, the former UCLA star defensive back, who died of a cocaine overdose June 27. . . . Considering the caliber of the opposition, Washington is off to the most impressive start in the school's history. That's discounting the 1925 season, though, when the legendary Enoch Bagshaw's team beat Willamette, 108-0, and the team from the battleship Oklahoma, 59-0, in the first two games.

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