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Schedule Might Cheer Up Team

October 16, 2000|DAVID WHARTON

The mood was predictably somber as USC players gathered Sunday for team meetings. With their season at the midway point--and their record at 3-3--Coach Paul Hackett had a simple message.

"We have to put the first half of the season behind us," he said. "Our goal now is to get to a bowl game and win it."

Postseason play might seem distant to a team that has lost three consecutive games and remains winless in conference. Still, the Trojans have their next four games against unranked opponents.

They also have a relatively healthy roster, with no injuries reported from Saturday's game against Oregon.

"That's the best news I can give you," Hackett said.


Of concern to the Trojans right now is the play of quarterback Carson Palmer, who completed 43% of his passes Saturday and threw an interception after USC had recovered a fumble in Oregon territory.

After watching films of the game, Hackett defended Palmer on that play, saying his intended receiver was pulled down by a defender after the ball was in the air. There was no such interference on several instances when the quarterback overthrew receiver Kareem Kelly.

"It was tough," Palmer said after the game. "Our timing was a little off."

Quarterback play is of particular interest to Hackett, who coached the likes of Joe Montana and Danny White during various stints as an assistant in the NFL. He suspects Palmer struggled to find a rhythm Saturday because the Trojans started the game by emphasizing the run.

The coach plans to address the problem in practice this week.

"We've been struggling to throw the ball deep" he said. "We're going to put an added focus on that."

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