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USC

Defensive Line Pulled Its Weight in Opener

September 12, 1997|ROBYN NORWOOD

Big plays by the cornerbacks and linebackers made it easy to overlook a solid debut by the Trojan defensive line in the first game, a 14-7 loss to Florida State.

"That was a surprise to everybody but us. We knew," defensive coordinator Keith Burns said. "Those guys worked their tails off."

The defensive front was supposed to be a question mark after losing tackles Darrell Russell and Matt Keneley from a line that didn't stop the run well last season. But Florida State, breaking in a new tailback with Dee Feaster, managed only 89 yards in 29 carries. Part of the challenge this week will be slowing Michael Black, the Washington State star from Dorsey High who rushed for 102 yards against UCLA.

George Perry, Marc Matock, Cedric Jefferson and Lawrence Larry started on the line for USC, but redshirt freshmen Ennis Davis and Sultan Abdul-Malik and sophomore Aaron Williams all made contributions.

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Offensive guard Chris Brymer had company on the sidelines Thursday in tackle Phalen Pounds, but Pounds is expected to play Saturday despite missing practice because of back spasms. Brymer is out, and his replacement, David Pratchard, is considered good but not as strong. . . . Ken Haslip has looked good at receiver since switching from cornerback, showing better hands and speed than Quincy Woods. It shouldn't be a surprise: Haslip had 20 catches for 344 yards as a senior at Pasadena Muir High and as a track star was nationally ranked in the intermediate and high hurdles. He'll switch from No. 21, which he wore as a cornerback, to No. 13 as a receiver because tailback Malaefou MacKenzie also wears No. 21. . . . Washington State's open date last week allowed quarterback Ryan Leaf, tailback Black and receiver Nian Taylor to recover from ankle injuries. "We were injured with sprained ankles, pulled hamstrings, pulled muscles, sore necks, those kinds of things," Washington State Coach Mike Price said. "If we had played last week, we might not have had some of our better players at 100%. But now they're ready to go. . . . The bye couldn't have come at a better time."

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