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COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 10 | NOTES

Soward Injury Not Serious--or So He Says

November 08, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI and DAVID WHARTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

PALO ALTO — USC receiver R. Jay Soward, who left Saturday's game early in the first quarter because of a sprained right ankle, indicated that he did not think it was serious enough for him to sit out USC's next game in two weeks against UCLA.

"Yeah, that was for the TV," Soward said of his apparent pain after the injury, "so UCLA would say, 'Oh, he's not playing this year.' "

In a slightly more official pronouncement, USC officials said that X-rays showed that there was no serious damage to Soward's ankle.

On the play, Soward--who had been limited to only four receptions the previous two games--caught a pass from Carson Palmer, broke a tackle on the sideline, then had Cardinal safety Simba Hodari fall on his lower right leg. Soward lay on the field for several minutes before being taken off.

He was carted to the locker room in the second quarter, then returned to the sideline in a sweatsuit.

"I'm not sure," USC Coach Paul Hackett responded when asked about Soward's future status. "It's a fairly severe ankle sprain.

"There was something about him tonight. I thought he was going to have a great night. But he twisted it. . . . This is just an ankle sprain, thank goodness for that."

Hackett said that one of the reasons he called a relatively conservative offensive game--38 runs and only 26 passes--was because of Soward's absence.

"He's such an integral part of everything we do," Hackett said. "I just hope now with the bye that he can rest."

*

After Saturday's victory gave USC a 5-2 record in Pacific 10 Conference play, Hackett said the Trojans are very much players in the Rose Bowl race.

"I think at 6-2 [if the Trojans beat UCLA] we have a chance to have a piece of the championship," Hackett said. "Now, maybe I'm out of my mind. But our focus is very simple: Four letters, UCLA.

"And we wanted to get this position where we would be able to make a difference in the conference. And I think we're in that position."

And about guaranteeing bowl eligibility with a seventh victory?

"The bowl situation in my opinion will take care of itself," Hackett said. "USC has always been a very attractive bowl team because we have such great fans. I'm more focused on UCLA and the conference right now."

*

USC kicker Adam Abrams, who missed three field-goal attempts in the previous two games, was successful from 37 and 40 yards on Saturday, and eased the pressure his coach was very publicly placing on his shoulders. "I think Adam knew the pressure was on him and from the very beginning he did it," Hackett said. "We went ahead and let Adam do it. And I think that really is important. Him getting his confidence right now is just key." . . . In the only other announced USC injury, backup tight end Lonnie Ford came out of the game in the second quarter because of a sore left ankle and his status is uncertain. . . . Hackett said that he wasn't trying to run up the score at the end of the game when he called a pass play on fourth down that Carson Palmer completed to Larry Parker for 27 yards to the Stanford two-yard line. Two plays later, Petros Papadakis scored on a running play to increase USC's lead from 18 points to 25 with 15 seconds to play. "I didn't want to punt it," Hackett said. "We were too far to run it. So we went ahead and threw it deep and we finally hit one. Every opportunity [Palmer] gets, every chance he gets to snap the ball, he's going to get it. That has to be the approach we take. . . . He's now played two whole games as a starter."

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