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Special Teams Still Nothing Special


CORVALLIS, Ore. — It sounds like a broken record: USC had another bad game on special teams.

It wasn't only the missed field goal by kicker David Newbury, who missed two field goals against Colorado and an extra point against San Jose State.

There were also critical penalties on two punts, one that gave the ball back to Oregon State and another that pinned USC deep in its own territory.

"We really need to focus on that," linebacker Zeke Moreno said. "Every week it has been some part of our special teams."

Despite Newbury's misses in recent games, his teammates did not criticize him. Coach Paul Hackett said he would stand by his preseason edict to stick with his kicker.

Hackett did, however, question the aggressive decision to try for a punt block in the first quarter, a play in which safety Troy Polamalu ended up roughing the kicker.

"Obviously we have got to rethink that whole philosophy," Hackett said.


The Oregon State defense, which came into the game ranked third in the nation, forced four turnovers and put a stop to two of USC's biggest offensive weapons.

The Beavers held tailback Sultan McCullough to 33 yards, well below his average of 118. McCullough had to leave the game because of a twisted knee in the third quarter.

Receiver Kareem Kelly fared no better, catching only one pass for 11 yards.

"I can't explain it," Kelly said.

Oregon State strong safety Terrence Carroll explained it for him: "We just knew we had to keep playing aggressive 'D' and keep flying to the ball. The key to our defense is that we run to the football and, as long as we keep doing that, we're going to be solid."


With Kelly kept in check most of the night, USC got some production from its other receivers.

Marcell Allmond tied a career-high with five receptions for 75 yards. Matt Nickels continued to show that he might have the best hands on the team.

The senior receiver, who came into camp without a scholarship, helped keep USC in the game in the first half.

First came his touchdown catch. Then, with the crowd roaring and the Trojans pinned close to their goal line, he reached high to catch a 23-yard pass for a first down.


Neither the Trojans nor the Beavers can lay claim to the longest run of the first half. That belonged to an opossum that wriggled onto the field during a lull.

The critter started near Oregon State's end zone, cut left and headed upfield. The scramble continued for what seemed like minutes as the crowd cheered louder and louder.

Finally, the opossum reached the other end zone. The crowd cheered. USC Coach Paul Hackett gave the signal. The stadium scoreboard showed a slow-motion replay.

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