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Trojans Clobber Cougars

College football: Soward scores two touchdowns, defense has six interceptions in 42-14 victory on road.


PULLMAN, Wash. — With temperatures in the 40s at Martin Stadium on Saturday, you could practically see the USC players breathe a sigh of relief in the cold night air.

The Trojans' 42-14 victory over Washington State put their season back on track, or at least restored some sanity after the sickening blow of last week's loss to Cal after blowing a 21-point lead.

This time, USC turned a 14-14 tie in the second quarter into a 28-point victory in front of 31,178, some of whom stuck it out into the fourth quarter despite a drizzle that started before halftime.

"As I just told the team, we learned a very painful lesson last week," Coach Paul Hackett said. "It's nice to see the way we responded. There are so many good teams we'll face. You have to play right to the end. I thought we played all the way to the end [tonight]."

As for any Washington State comeback, there was nothing doing, despite a shaky moment or two for the Trojans. USC didn't allow a point in the final 41 minutes.

USC's season-long quarterback drama took another turn when freshman quarterback Carson Palmer played more than half the game--completing eight of 16 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.

Palmer came on with 6:41 to play in the first half after starter Mike Van Raaphorst did probably the best impression of Cade McNown he could muster--becoming ill in the second quarter.

Van Raaphorst went inside before halftime and stayed inside when the team came out for the second half because he was vomiting, the third time this season he has been ill for a game.

Van Raaphorst also was sick before the Purdue game and the Florida State game--missing part of the pregame warm-up before the Seminole game--and wasn't effective either time. Though Coach Paul Hackett doesn't think Van Raaphorst seems like the nervous-type, it's certainly looks like he either has occasional cases of nerves or very bad luck. The quarterback completed nine of 15 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game.

"It was something aggravated by a hit," Hackett said of his starting quarterback's latest bout of nausea. "He had a hit on a slant play just before the half. All of a sudden, he was on the sideline throwing up. He's felt bad ever since."

Would this latest episode prompt Hackett to turn to Palmer?

"We've got to see what the situation is with Mike," the coach said. "This is a mystery. I'll let the doctors tell me."

USC managed without their No. 1 quarterback as the offense benefited from the return of tailback Chad Morton and what is becoming its usual boost from defense and big plays:

* Linebacker Chris Claiborne intercepted two passes, stepping in front of a receiver in the second quarter to pick off one of Paul Mencke's passes and carry it back 25 yards for a touchdown, as USC took a 14-7 lead 33 seconds into the second quarter. It was Claiborne's second interception return for a touchdown--the other was for 40 yards against Oregon State.

* Tailback Petros Papadakis scored on a 53-yard run, a rerun of his performance last week, as USC took a 21-14 lead with 6:08 left in the half.

* R. Jay Soward scored one of his two touchdowns on a nifty 26-yard reverse, making a nice cut to the inside at about the 10-yard line to score as USC went up, 35-14, with 9:16 left in the third.

* Antoine Harris caught a 66-yard pass from Palmer to set up a six-yard touchdown run by Morton as USC went ahead, 42-14, with 14:35 left in the fourth.

* As Washington State threatened to score late in the game, after Ifeanyi Ohalete intercepted a pass and then fumbled it away, USC cornerback Ken Haslip intercepted Paul Mencke's pass in the end zone.

* And, with three minutes left, USC's Daylon McCutcheon made his first interception of the season.

Washington State quarterback Paul Mencke, making his first college start, had six passes intercepted. He completed 16 of 41 for 174 yards.

USC, 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Pacific 10 Conference, wasn't perfect, but the Trojans will take it.

Things looked shaky early in the game, especially when DeJuan Gilmore shredded USC's defense for a 35-yard touchdown run less than five minutes into the game. On second and long, Gilmore simply ran up the middle.

USC also lost the ball on a Cougar onside kick in the first half, but it didn't result in a score.

The usually reliable Trojan defense had faltered in the Cal game, and for a little while this looked like a continuation of it. But the Trojans righted themselves.

They can move on, after a game that would have been disastrous if they had lost.

Washington State fell to 3-4 overall, 0-4 in the Pac-10, a season after playing in the Rose Bowl.

USC, which most face high-powered Oregon this week in Eugene with the Ducks coming off their overtime loss to UCLA, needs two victories in its last five games to qualify for its first bowl appearance in three seasons.

(Usually only six victories are required, but eligibility requires a winning record, so USC, which is playing 12 games, needs seven.)

The road ahead isn't easy for USC, with three of its final five games on the road--at Oregon, Stanford and UCLA. The Trojans play Washington and Notre Dame at the Coliseum.

But the schedule looks a lot better after the victory over the Cougars.

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