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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 13 | NOTES

Mitchell and Poli-Dixon Consider Early Departure

November 19, 2000|BILL SHAIKIN and DAVID WHARTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The Bruins have talked cautiously of a national championship run next year, keyed by four returning skill players--quarterback Cory Paus, tailback DeShaun Foster and receivers Freddie Mitchell and Brian Poli-Dixon. However, in the wake of Saturday's 38-35 loss to USC, neither Mitchell nor Poli-Dixon were willing to commit to return.

Mitchell, a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award as top receiver in college football, has said all year he would return for his senior season. He wavered Saturday.

"I still have eligibility left, but I don't know," Mitchell said. "I can't make that decision yet."

By catching four passes for 140 yards Saturday, Mitchell set a UCLA season record with 1,314 receiving yards. Danny Farmer set the old mark of 1,274 in 1998.

Poli-Dixon, also a junior, said he planned to send a letter to the NFL inquiring about where he might be picked in the draft, just in case the league projects him for a high and lucrative spot.

"I'm definitely going to send the letter. It would be dumb not to do that," Poli-Dixon said. "But I'll probably come back."

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Now it can be told: USC Coach Paul Hackett spent all week scheming to have his team run onto the field in cardinal jerseys.

USC and UCLA used to play the rivalry with both teams wearing their dark, or home, uniforms. But an NCAA rule ended that, mandating that the visiting team wear white.

Hackett was prepared to break the rule--he went so far as having the home jerseys brought along--but discovered at some point before kickoff that his team would lose all three of its first-half timeouts for this fashion infraction.

"As much of a high as it would have been," he said, "we couldn't do it."

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When the winning field goal fluttered through the uprights, Darrell Rideaux might have been the most relieved player on the field. Moments earlier, the USC cornerback committed a personal foul that gave UCLA new life and led to the touchdown that tied the score.

Rideaux was penalized for getting into a shoving match with Poli-Dixon.

"Obviously, there were some comments made," Rideaux said. "I did what I thought was the right thing to do, which was to shove him away from me. But it wasn't the right thing."

Hackett yelled at the sophomore as he came off the field after that play. But Rideaux got sympathy from offensive lineman Brent McCaffrey, who was called for a similar penalty earlier in the game.

"It's USC-UCLA," McCaffrey said. "It's a street fight."

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The Bruins appear headed for either the Aloha or Oahu bowls, though the Sun Bowl in El Paso will remain a possibility for at least another week, in part depending upon the outcome of next week's Arizona-Arizona State game. . . . For the first time this season, the Bruins scored first. The defense got the credit, as safety Marques Anderson recovered a fumble in the end zone. . . . With a sellout crowd of 80,227, UCLA set a total attendance record by drawing 470,961 to seven home games this season. . . . USC linebacker Markus Steele tried to play after sitting out two games because of a sprained ankle but lasted only about 10 plays in the first half.

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Fox Sports Net 2 missed a little more than three minutes of the start of the game. The network joined the game with 11:45 remaining in the first quarter right after the Kings scored an empty-net goal in their 6-4 victory over Colorado.

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Staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this story.

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