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Players Get Their Irish Up

November 24, 2000|DAVID WHARTON

With no hope of a bowl game, with their coach expected to be fired after the season, USC players have reasons to be downhearted. Instead, they have tried to remain loose as they prepare for Notre Dame on Saturday.

"Guys are just going out to win the game," tailback Petros Papadakis said. "Why not?"

Even Coach Paul Hackett agreed.

"I don't think there's anything to worry about anymore," he said. "All of a sudden, you relax and say let's go play."


The Trojans ended a short Thanksgiving practice with Hackett giving a speech in honor of the seniors.

"We talked about them and what they've accomplished," he said. "They've really accomplished a lot."

Despite two disappointing seasons, the seniors have played in a bowl game and defeated Notre Dame and UCLA twice in their careers, a point that elicited applause from the rest of the team.

Saturday, they have a chance to add to the list.

"It's our last game," defensive end Sultan Abdul-Malik said. "It's going to be real emotional."


Markus Steele took it easy in practice, his ankle sore from trying to run the day before. He has resisted taking shots for the pain but is feeling a little desperate about playing against Notre Dame.

The senior linebacker said he will get in the game early and go for as long as he can bear it.

"At least give me three quarters," he said.

Offensive lineman Trevor Roberts remains in a similar position, missing practice this week, resting his injured foot. But tailback Sultan McCullough, suffering from turf toe, is expected to start.

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