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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / 1996

Trojans' Allred Hangs 10 on Cougars

USC: Tight end who caught six passes all of last season becomes Otton's favorite target at Astrodome.

September 22, 1996|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HOUSTON — What is the favorite pass play of USC tight end John Allred? Better pay attention now because this is pretty technical stuff.

"It's the 10-yard, turn out, push your guy and break away for the ball," Allred said.

And so it was Saturday in the air-conditioned comfort of the Astrodome, where for one afternoon Tailback U. became Tight End U.

Instead of three yards and a shard of carpet, the best USC offensive play this game was a short pass to the tight end. It worked better than ever before in USC's 26-9 victory over Houston before a cozy crowd of 21,035.

Allred caught 10 passes, a USC record for a tight end. This is especially noteworthy when that person prefers planting defenders in the playing field to catching passes and also happens to be a 6-foot-5, 250-pound surfer who travels around campus on a jacked-up skateboard.

It's an intriguing combination, all right. Wax in one hand and a football in the other, a wetsuit for a jersey.

Allred said Coach John Robinson hasn't tried to curtail either the surfing or the skateboarding.

"He probably thinks I'm clumsy enough on the field," Allred said.

Hardly. Robinson actually considers Allred one of the most fundamentally sound blockers at any position he ever has coached.

"He's a great blocker, not a good one," Robinson said.

Besides, that's safer for a coach to talk about than, say, maybe trying to ask Allred to cut back on his surfing.

"I've got no chance to ask that," Robinson said.

It's probably a good thing Robinson hasn't tried. Allred spends so much time in the surf off Del Mar he should have barnacles. And in the summer, he and his brother Richard, Jeff Diltz of USC, former Trojan Tyler Cashman and a few others took off for a surfing contest in Costa Rica.

Richard Allred organized the event that featured long-boarders, and the pass-catching tight end knew once again that this was his preferred form of relaxation.

"I'm not going to stretch it and say there's a connection between surfing and football," Allred said. "It's just a fun time, going out with the guys, just sitting there waiting for the sun to come down."

The USC tight end usually is there waiting for somebody to throw him the football. Last year as a junior backup to Johnny McWilliams, Allred caught only six passes, or four fewer than he snagged Saturday.

There was no plan to throw the ball to the tight end so much, but quarterback Brad Otton said the Trojans simply took what the Houston defense gave them.

Allred dropped the first pass thrown his way, but he kept USC's first scoring drive alive when he caught a nine-yard pass to the Houston 12-yard line on fourth and six.

He wound up with nine more and a place in the record books.

"Great," Allred said. "Hopefully someone can break it. Maybe me."

Maybe, but Joe Cormier's record of nine receptions by a USC tight end lasted 13 years.

No one seemed too surprised about all those passes Allred caught. Otton said that Allred has to be considered another weapon now. Offensive coordinator Mike Riley said Allred is as dependable as, well, the tide coming in.

It's really nice to hear your peers say nice things about you, Allred said, but he tries not to buy into the praise too much. Instead, he'll just go about the less glamorous part of business, the blocking part.

"I don't care if I catch passes," Allred said. "I just love to block. I'd rather block than catch.

"You get a guy coming at you and you put him on his back, there's no better feeling than dominating like that," he said.

Well, maybe one. Minutes after coming up with the best performance a USC tight end ever had, Allred had made his plans to celebrate.

"I'll be surfing," he said.

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