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BRAGGING RIGHTS . . . : Trojans Say They Wanted Win More Than Bruins Did

November 22, 1987|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

A year ago at this time, they were carrying Ted Tollner out on a shield, or at least hoping he might fall on his sword in some corner somewhere.

But this is the Larry Smith Era at USC, so when Athletic Director Mike McGee introduced Smith at his postgame press conference, here is what McGee thought of the occasion:

"It is an unbelievable honor,' McGee said.

Times sure have changed at USC. Let's see, according to Troy Time, it's the Rose Bowl again.

And you do know about the Trojan watch? Wind it up and it loses a touchdown. That happened three times to USC, which would score a touchdown and have to watch as it was called back because of a penalty.

But USC still pulled out a 17-13 victory over UCLA in the Coliseum Saturday, which proved one thing to linebacker Marcus Cotton.

"Obviously, we wanted it more than they did," Cotton said of UCLA. "They had just written us off. But they never had it, not even in the beginning.

"I just really had the feeling they didn't even want it," Cotton said. "Nobody played hard for them. By the second quarter, I knew we were going to win. I figured everything would come out all right."

So Harriman Cronk, the president of the Rose Bowl, stood there in the USC dressing room and presented Smith with a bouquet of roses.

The Bruins? They'll get a bunch of leis hung around their neck at the Aloha Bowl. USC said aloha and goodby to UCLA as well as adios the Sun Bowl. And if you think the Bruins were upset about USC's victory, how about the Sun Bowl people?,

Jimmy Rogers of the Sun Bowl watched the game in the press box, ready to invite USC as soon as they lost, his face blanching with each Trojan touchdown. Now, he's been forced to scramble.

There is some talk about asking Minnesota to play Oklahoma State, but the 6-5 Gophers have lost four of their last five. Yeah, that sure looks like a great match-up.

"I honestly don't know who'll ask now," said Rogers. Last night it was reported that the Sun Bowl was trying to get Ohio State to reconsider its no-bowl pledge.

Even if the Sun Bowl had no backup, Smith did. The Trojans finished the game with two freshmen tailbacks, Scott Lockwood and Ricky Ervins, after losing Steven Webster to a knee injury on the last play of the second quarter.

Lockwood and Ervins ran 21 times between them for 60 yards and while those numbers aren't of Gastonion proportions, they were good enough.

Ervins may be a freshman in eligibility, but he is in graduate school as far as confidence goes.

"When those touchdowns were called back, all it meant to us was that we knew we could move the ball on them," Ervin said.

"Everyone could tell that UCLA wasn't up for it," he said. "I think they took themselves out of the game. We believed we could win."

It didn't look that way for a while.

In the second quarter, Rodney Peete threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Ken Henry that was annulled by a delay of game penalty.

In the third quarter, Peete picked up Ervin's fumble and threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Randy Tanner that was called back because of an ineligible receiver downfield.

And in the fourth quarter, freshman defensive back Mark Carrier ran an interception back 72 yards for a touchdown, but that was also nullified because of an illegal block.

The Trojans blew another touchdown when they let the 25-second clock run down to almost nothing, took a time out and then saw Ryan Knight fumble at the UCLA one-yard line. That was in the second quarter with UCLA leading, 10-0, but even then the Trojans felt that the Bruins played as though they were behind.

"The only time they played hard was at first, but we were physical and they were finesse," said Tanner. "We knew that by the second half, we would wear them down and kick their rear ends.

"All those touchdowns that were called back, we knew once we cut out the mistakes, we'd keep putting it in the end zone. They were flat and we made them flatter by driving the ball on them.

"I mean it wasn't like they were doing anything to stop us, it was what we were doing to ourselves," he said. "Eventually, it was destiny that we were going to score some."

Outside the USC dressing room, the Trojan band serenaded the players, who sprayed each other with soft drinks, exchanged high fives and congratulated each other in loud voices.

"Hey, we're into it," said Carrier.

And for the second time in the last four years, they're into the Rose Bowl, too.

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