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Johnson & Johnson Find Cougars Soft as Powder, 23-10 : USC: Quarterback and receiver combine for three scores in victory that puts Oregon in driver's seat.

November 06, 1994|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PULLMAN, Wash. — In the aftermath, talking about the wreckage of Washington State's proud defense, the wrecker himself, Keyshawn Johnson, spoke.

"Their defensive backs are kind of small, and I'm tall, and when I get my body in a position where I have the ball and they can't tackle me. . . . "

Keyshawn Johnson didn't have to say much more.

Pretty simple stuff.

Big guy playing little guys.

In a big-game receiving performance that rivals any by Johnnie Morton, Johnson's All-American predecessor, Johnson scored all the touchdowns and accounted for 145 yards in a 23-10 USC victory over Washington State on Saturday.

USC's fourth victory in a row boosted the Trojans (6-2) to 5-1 in the Pacific 10, with a game next Saturday against Arizona in the Coliseum. Arizona is 7-2, 5-1 after beating California, 13-6.

Oregon, which owns victories over both USC and Arizona, is also 5-1 after a 34-10 victory over Arizona State. The Ducks are in the driver's seat in the Rose Bowl derby, with games remaining against Stanford and Oregon State. If Oregon wins those two, the Ducks go to Pasadena.

But late Saturday afternoon, in a happy USC locker room, no one seemed much focused on Oregon's fortunes. John Robinson's team had made big plays on both sides of the ball and knocked off one of the nation's best defensive teams.

This was one the Trojans enjoyed immensely.

It was achieved before an announced crowd of 36,686, but there seemed to be more no-shows than that in 40,000-seat Martin Stadium. Foul weather had been predicted, but the game was played under clear skies, with temperatures in the mid-40s.

In pregame warm-ups, Cougar fans molded Friday's snow from under their seats into hard snowballs and pelted the Trojans, despite pleas from the public-address announcer to stop.

One of the prime targets was Robinson, who presented himself in full profile before several thousand students, smiling all the while.

"I want to thank the Washington State students for throwing all those snowballs," he said.

"A fat guy like me, standing right in front of them and not one of them could hit me."

Senior quarterback Rob Johnson, playing his first complete game since Sept. 24, had a big day, connecting with the 6-4, 210-pound Keyshawn Johnson eight times for 145 yards and touchdowns plays of 13, eight and 64 yards. Another one of 64 yards was called back on a penalty in the second quarter.

Keyshawn Johnson's three touchdowns tied the USC single-game record for a receiver, held now by five players.

"He killed us," Cougar Coach Mike Price said of Keyshawn Johnson, a junior who has caught 36 passes for 742 yards.

"We thought Ken Grace was going to be SC's great receiver this year, and along comes that guy."

Robinson saluted both his catcher and pitcher.

"Keyshawn won a lot of individual matchups today," he said. "He's become a dominating receiver, a J.J. Stokes or Johnnie Morton kind of player."

Of Rob Johnson's 20-for-31, 327-yard performance (his eighth 300-yard game), Robinson said:

"Rob Johnson played a great football game--great because he showed a lot of courage taking some big hits, for bringing the team back after that touchdown was called back."

Washington State played its usual attacking, aggressive defensive game that shuts down run games, but leaves its 5-foot-10 cornerbacks vulnerable. In other words, they played into his quarterback's hands, Robinson said.

"They put their corners in a position where they have to cover a big, fast receiver all day and that's hard to to," he said.

Typical was the fourth-quarter Johnson & Johnson play that knocked Washington State (6-3, 4-2) out of the Rose Bowl race.

With USC owning a 13-10 lead and 11:09 left, Rob Johnson sent Keyshawn Johnson a high ball that required him to go above two smaller defensive backs, both of whom tumbled to the ground as Johnson made the catch, broke a tackle and completed the 64-yard scoring play.

Rob Johnson walked off the field with arms raised in the touchdown signal, and USC's bench went wild. Soon after, the crowd began filing out the tunnels.

"When a defense pressures you like that, there's all kinds of things a quarterback can do," Trojan offensive coordinator Mike Riley said.

"We didn't have many running yards (68), but they were effective runs--it made them respect the run. And at the same time, it really set up Rob's passes to Keyshawn."

Said Rob Johnson, who was sacked three times and took numerous hits as he threw the ball: "We were frustrated at halftime (USC led, 7-3). We felt the score should have been 28-3. Keyshawn was our big-play guy, he came up huge. He's a big guy who can run and he's mentally tough."

The quarterback sat out half of the Oregon and Stanford games and all of the Oregon State and Cal games with an ankle sprain.

"It hurts," he said of his right ankle. "It'll bug me the rest of the season, but I can play on it,"

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