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For Robinson, the Sequel Has an August Beginning : College football: In earliest USC opener ever, coach starts his second reign tonight against North Carolina.


John Robinson, who tonight at Anaheim Stadium launches his second reign as USC's head football coach, still recalls Sept. 11, 1976.

In his first game as a head coach, his heavily favored Trojans played Missouri at the Coliseum, and, in a shocker, they lost, 46-25.

Robinson was asked the other day if he has flashbacks from that game.

"Only at night," he said.

Robinson ended up getting the ship back on course and his team won its next 11 games, including a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

Tonight at 6, USC will play North Carolina in the Disneyland Pigskin Classic. It's the earliest USC opener ever and, in the Trojans' 101st football season, their first Sunday game.

In preseason polls, USC is ranked 18th by the Associated Press, North Carolina 20th.

Robinson, 58, taking over for departed Larry Smith, jumps back into college football with Division I-A's best winning percentage among active coaches with a minimum of five years. In his 1976-1982 USC tenure, he was 67-14-2, a winning percentage of 82%.

North Carolina Coach Mack Brown, 42, begins his sixth season with the Tar Heels tonight and comes off his best. North Carolina was 9-3 last season and beat Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl.

The Tar Heels have eight offensive and five defensive starters returning. The standouts are expected to be linebacker Bernardo Harris, defensive back Bracey Walker and wide receivers Corey Holliday and Bucky Brooks.

Holliday needs three catches to become North Carolina's career reception leader.

USC's top players are junior offensive tackle Tony Boselli, senior defensive end Willie McGinest and senior wide receiver Johnnie Morton.

The Trojans were 6-5-1 last year, a season that ended in Anaheim Stadium with a 24-7 loss to Fresno State in the Freedom Bowl. Within a week, Smith was gone and Robinson was back. He had taken a year off from coaching after nine years of coaching the Rams.

He has said repeatedly during preseason that he wants a return to traditional USC football values of physical dominance--particularly by offensive linemen--and to a running game in which a Trojan tailback leads the Pacific 10 Conference in rushing.

Which brings us to Dwight McFadden and Scott Fields.

McFadden, 6 feet and 190 pounds, is a senior who backed up departed Estrus Crayton last season and rushed for 465 yards in 126 carries. He started slowly in the team's preseason camp at UC Irvine. Fields, 6-3 and 200 pounds, a sophomore who played on defense and special teams last season, had a great camp.

But in recent drills, McFadden has been solid and will start tonight.

Junior quarterback Rob Johnson, a 57% passer who started last year, is in charge of the offense. He threw 12 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.

USC coaches say this year's passing offense will be up-tempo.

"We want a fast passing game," offensive coordinator Mike Riley said. "We want Rob to take five steps and pass the ball. You won't see our quarterbacks standing back there holding the ball, looking all over the field."

Said Robinson: "What we'll try to do is what Don Coryell and the Chargers started, the 49ers took to the next level and what the Cowboys are doing now--high-percentage passes and a physical running game."

McGinest, 6-6 and 245 pounds, was switched to defensive end from linebacker by Robinson, who says the onetime Long Beach Poly High standout will line up at different points on the defensive line.

Another player who has changed positions is senior Jason Sehorn, who moves from safety to cornerback. He was second on the team in tackles last year, with 80.

But when backup quarterback Reggie Perry was moved to safety, Sehorn was moved to cornerback. Sehorn, like McFadden, started slowly in preseason, but has since secured his position.

A battle for a starting spot at wide receiver opposite Morton took place between junior college transfers Ken Grace and Ed Hervey, with Grace winning.

And at strong safety, Jason Oliver has been tabbed to start ahead of Perry.

Pigskin Classic director Don Andersen says tonight's game is expected to break the four-year-old game's attendance record of 38,363 for Brigham Young and Florida State in 1991. He expects 45,000.

Robinson scoffed at Mack Brown's suggestion that Robinson would have a coaching edge because he coached the Rams in Anaheim Stadium for nine years.

"We're using the visitor's baseball locker room. I don't even know where that is," he said.

Pigskin Classic

OPPONENTS * No. 18 USC vs. * No. 20 North Carolina

1992 RECORDS * USC 6-5-1 * North Carolina 9-3

SITE * Anaheim Stadium

KICKOFF * 6 p.m.

TELEVISION * Channel 5

RADIO * KNX (1070)

PREVIOUS RESULTS 1992 * Texas A&M 10, Stanford 7 1991 * Florida State 44, BYU 28 1990 * Tennessee 31, Colorado 31

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