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GAME DAY

Protecting Kegel a Concern

USC SCOUTING REPORT: Washington State (3-6, 1-5) at USC (4-5, 1-5)

November 11, 2000|DAVID WHARTON

Washington State Coach Mike Price seems a little worried about protecting his quarterback in today's game at the Coliseum.

Last week, USC's defensive line secured a double-overtime victory against Arizona State by sacking the quarterback, forcing an intentional-grounding penalty and recovering a fumble.

Now Price's offense faces that pass rush with an inexperienced quarterback, Matt Kegel, and a line weakened by injuries.

"We're paper thin," Price said. "Man, I didn't want that to get out because I didn't want Matt Kegel's mom to know about it."

*

The Trojans have quarterback concerns too: Carson Palmer has added to his team's turnover woes by fumbling the ball on several occasions when he has been sacked from behind.

"It's an easy play for the defender to just slap the ball out of your hand," he said.

While some of the blame rests with the offensive line, Coach Paul Hackett believes his redshirt sophomore quarterback will become better at tucking the ball in at the last moment.

"There's a sense of that guy coming that you develop with experience," he said. "Carson does not have a lot of experience. He has to have that sixth sense."

*

As has been the case lately, Petros Papadakis is expected to play today but only in goal-line situations.

The senior tailback continues to struggle with soreness in his right foot, which was broken and surgically repaired last season. Before last Saturday's game, he received a painkilling injection but, after scoring on a one-yard dive late in the first half, could go no longer.

"I get on the sideline and the thing feels like it's going to fall off," he said.

Papadakis, who leads the Trojans with eight rushing touchdowns, insists he will finish the final three games. He has been practicing only one afternoon a week, saving himself for Saturdays.

As soon as the season ends, doctors will perform one of two scheduled surgeries on his foot.

* Time: 3:30 p.m.

* Site: Coliseum

* TV: Channel 9.

* Radio: XTRA (690).

* When USC has the ball: Center Eric Denmon has made steady progress in recovering from an ankle sprain but isn't likely to return to the starting lineup until he is 100%, especially with the line performing so well on run blocking. The Trojans rank third in the conference in rushing offense. Meantime, Washington State has practiced cautiously after playing three overtime games in the last month. "You need to address it," Coach Mike Price said. "You need to make sure you get lots of rest and drink lots of fluids and get off your feet and not wear them out on the practice field but get them fresh for the game."

* When Washington State has the ball: The Cougars have gotten plenty of production from their passing game but not much on the ground. While Dave Minnich leads the team with 553 yards, don't be surprised to see No. 2 running back Deon Burnett in the game. Against USC last season, Burnett rushed for 96 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run. He has struggled because of injuries but Price said, "He's still a good player and we still want to play him." USC's defense is expected to get healthier with the return of cornerback Darrell Rideaux, who has recovered from an ankle sprain. Linebacker Markus Steele will miss his second game in a row, which means inexperienced Aaron Graham gets another start in the middle.

* Key to the game: USC's defensive line needs to pressure inexperienced quarterback Matt Kegel in hopes of rattling him early. If Washington State's passing attack gets revved up, the Trojans will find themselves in another offensive shootout.

* Fast fact: With the series record at 50-6-4, USC has a better winning percentage against Washington State than against any other team in the Pacific 10 Conference. But the last time these teams met in the Coliseum, in 1997, Ryan Leaf threw a 51-yard touchdown pass with 4:18 remaining to upset No. 23 USC, 28-21.

* Line: USC by 11.

HOW THEY COMPARE

USC and Washington State

24.7 Scoring 27.2

25.6 Points allowed 30.7

240.9 Passing 254.7

163.0 Rushing 124.0

403.9 Total offense 378.7

218.4 Passing defense 228.1

118.0 Rushing defense 165.6

336.4 Total defense 393.7

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