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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / 1996 | GAME REPORT: UCLA 48, USC
(OT) 41

Trojans May Have More Pain

November 24, 1996|JIM HODGES and EARL GUSTKEY and STEVE SPRINGER

Can USC get off the deck from a 48-41 overtime loss to UCLA--a loss Trojan seniors called the most painful they'd experienced--and be competitive against Notre Dame next Saturday?

The question was put to quarterback Brad Otton, who was X-rayed Saturday night for possible broken ribs after he was hit by UCLA's Weldon Forde.

"I'm all right, I'll be ready," he said.

"This team may not have had enough big plays this year, but we make up for it in heart. We'll bounce back. We'll be ready."

Any chance he has a broken rib or two?

"I hope not," he said.

Senior linebacker Sammy Knight, whose 74-yard interception return gave the Trojans a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, said when asked about Notre Dame: "We'll get it back. We're going to play the best game of our season against Notre Dame."

*

Freshman R. Jay Soward set a single-game USC record with 260 yards, breaking Johnnie Morton's mark of 229, set against Washington State in 1993. It is also an NCAA record for a freshman, breaking Darnay Scott's mark of 243 yards, set for San Diego State against Brigham Young in 1991.

Soward's gains included touchdowns of 19, 60 and 78 yards, plus non-scoring receptions of 66 and 30 yards. All but the 78-yard touchdown reception came on third-down plays, one--the 66-yarder--on third and 21 in the game's opening series.

*

The way UCLA receiver Jim McElroy had it figured, once Otton was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter, the Trojans were finished.

Backup quarterback Matt Koffler, who had thrown only nine passes this season before Saturday, didn't impress McElroy.

"I knew he would choke under pressure," McElroy said. "He had never been in a situation like this before."

According to McElroy, Koffler wasn't alone in that department.

"Soward really choked," McElroy said of the record-setting freshman, who dropped a pass in the second overtime possession.

*

USC offensive coordinator Mike Riley confirmed after the game that he will interview for the vacant Fresno State head coaching position.

"I'll talk to them, but that's all I want to say about it now," he said.

*

UCLA's Skip Hicks, who had practiced lightly because of flu all week, gained 116 yards in 20 carries and went over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.

Hicks had 1,034 yards, and the two touchdowns he scored Saturday gave him 20 and extended his school record.

Hicks was benched early in the game in favor of freshman Keith Brown after dropping a pass from McElroy in the only gimmick play tried by the Bruins. In it, Hicks took a handoff from Cade McNown, gave it to McElroy and went out into the left flat, where he was open for a long gain but dropped the ball.

*

McNown was 29 of 47 for 356 yards, the second-best game of his career. He threw for 395 yards against Arizona State earlier in the season.

In two seasons, McNown has completed 298 of 581 passes for 4,122 yards, sixth in school history. The sophomore finished the season with 2,424 passing yards.

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