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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 10 | NOTES

Problems Continue on Kicks

October 29, 2000|DAVID WHARTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When USC missed extra-point and field-goal attempts in previous games, it was often because of a bad snap or a kick that sailed too low, bouncing off the linemen's backs.

In Saturday's 28-16 loss to California, the Trojans encountered a new type of problem.

In the first quarter, James Smith came flying off the edge to block John Wall's extra-point attempt. Later in the quarter, when the Trojans sent in their new long-range specialist, David Bell, Smith did the same thing, blocking a 42-yard field-goal attempt.

"In this instance, it was not the holder, it was not the snapper and it was not the kicker," Coach Paul Hackett said. "They got through on the right side twice with the same scheme."

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Cal defensive end Andre Carter came into the game as one of the best pass rushers in the Pacific 10 Conference and now USC knows why.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound senior had 2 1/2 sacks, including a hit that jarred the ball loose from USC quarterback Carson Palmer in the second quarter.

But Carter had plenty of company. Linebacker Scott Fujita had two sacks, defensive backs Dewey Hale and Nnamdi Asomugha one each.

"They were coming after us, bringing a lot of pressure," Palmer said. "We couldn't seem to pick them up."

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Cal officials thought that punter Nick Harris was within 62 yards of the NCAA record for all-time yards but discovered before game time that he was, in fact, 423 short.

Harris went a long way toward closing the gap, punting for 272 yards in seven tries. Even more impressive, he pinned USC inside the 20-yard line four times.

"The field position ended up getting us," Hackett said.

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USC linebacker Markus Steele suffered a high ankle sprain and, according to preliminary reports, could be sidelined for two games.

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More misadventures on special teams:

After Cal scored on its opening drive, the Golden Bears kicked off to Frank Strong, who ran to the 11-yard line where he was promptly surrounded by a handful of teammates.

It's an old trick play that shows up mostly at high school games.

After forming a huddle, the players scattered in different directions. Tailback Sultan McCullough ended up with the ball, but didn't fool the Cal defenders, who tackled him on the 18-yard line. McCullough limped off the field and missed his team's first possession.

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