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COLLEGE FOOTBALL DAILY REPORT / USC

Special Teams Still a Question Mark

October 31, 2000|DAVID WHARTON

Two-thirds through the season, USC coaches remain unsure of how to fix their faltering special teams.

"We're trying to get the right combination of kids in there," assistant coach Dan Ferrigno said Monday. "I don't know exactly who that is yet."

Last Saturday's loss to California was marked by poor blocking on field goal and extra-point attempts. The Trojans also surrendered a number of long punt returns, most notably Jemeel Powell's 83-yard dash for a touchdown.

The punt coverage team was hurt by injuries to Darrell Rideaux and Ifeanyi Ohalete, starting defensive backs who also serve on special teams, Ferrigno said.

He added: "We put some guys in there and weren't pleased with the result."

Earlier this season, Coach Paul Hackett said he wanted his most talented players--namely his starters--on special teams. Now he isn't so sure.

"Maybe we will use our starters less," he said. "We're wearing out some of those guys who have to play a huge number of plays. Maybe we use the younger guys, get them into a flow."

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Powell's big night--four returns for 138 yards--continued a trend: For the fourth time in five weeks, an opponent has been named Pacific 10 Conference player of the week for his exploits against USC.

Oregon State tailback Ken Simonton started the string in late September with 234 yards and three touchdowns. Next came Arizona cornerback Michael Jolivette, who intercepted two passes. Then Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington passed for 382 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, after a one-week break, the Pac-10 honored not only Powell but also Cal defensive end Andre Carter for their performances at the Coliseum.

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Next in line for USC is Arizona State, a team that has juggled its lineup because of injuries at quarterback and tailback and one that suffered a tough 56-55 loss to Oregon in overtime last Saturday.

Still, the Sun Devils (5-3, 2-3) are one win away from qualifying for a bowl invitation.

"My sense tells me that they will bounce back," Coach Bruce Snyder said of his players on Monday. "We've had plenty of problems that, if we would have come apart, we would have done it long ago."

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