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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 9 | USC NOTES

Players Say They'll Take Heat

October 22, 2000|DAVID WHARTON and THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

After their loss to Stanford on Saturday, the USC players knew they would hear reporters asking questions about their coach getting fired.

They knew because Coach Paul Hackett warned them. He told them not to worry, he would handle all such inquiries. Still, several players made a point of coming to his defense.

"Coach Hackett says he'll take the heat but it is the players' [fault]," linebacker Markus Steele said. "The coaches can only teach you so much. You have to do the rest. You have to execute."

Said tailback Petros Papadakis: "I don't judge the head coach. Paul Hackett's our head coach, he's our leader, and I have full faith that he will get this thing turned around."

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Stanford receiver DeRonnie Pitts and his teammate, running back Kerry Carter, had career days on Saturday.

Join the crowd.

A string of opponents have recorded personal bests against the Trojans this season. The list includes Colorado tailback Marcus Houston, Oregon State tailback Ken Simonton and Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington.

Pitts caught a career-high 13 passes, which also tied the record for receptions by a USC opponent. Carter had a career-high 123 rushing yards and tied a USC opponent record by scoring four touchdowns.

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Stanford had two passes intercepted, was penalized 10 times for 88 yards and missed two key conversions.

Said Stanford Coach Tyrone Willingham: "But we found a way to win. To come up with such big plays takes a special kind of personalities."

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The Trojans were hurt once again by poor special teams play--and it wasn't only kicker John Wall missing two extra points.

Mike MacGillivray had several short punts, beginning with 27-yarder in the first quarter, a 30-yarder early in the second quarter and his final attempt of the day, which fluttered only 23 yards, setting up Stanford's game-winning drive.

"We punted into the wind very poorly," Hackett said. "That was a huge advantage for them."

USC's kick return team also suffered an embarrassing miscue in the second quarter when Kevin Arbet fielded a kickoff at the eight-yard line and was knocked off his feet by teammate Frank Strong.

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