BERKELEY — While the USC offensive line clearly faltered against Oregon State last Saturday, nearly everyone else wants part of the blame.
Coach Pete Carroll, whose team plays at California today, said he and his assistants have learned from last week and better prepared the team for what the Golden Bear defense might show. Fullback Charlie Landrigan said it was the running backs who need to improve, taking better angles on pass rushers.
Quarterback Carson Palmer also got into the act, saying he plans to get rid of the ball more quickly to keep Cal's rush at bay. Carroll seconded that idea.
"We can't let Carson sit back there," he said. "If we are going to continue to play in close games, the negative plays are the ones that can throw you off kilter.
"Whatever it takes not to take the losses, even if it's throwing the ball away, we have to do it."
The linemen weren't buying any of it.
"I guess there's enough blame to go around," tackle Eric Torres said. "But we have to take responsibility for ourselves."
Two days after California Coach Tom Holmoe announced his pending resignation this week, he took a moment to defend Carroll.
Holmoe was talking about the time required for players to grow accustomed to a new coaching staff when he suddenly mentioned the criticism that Carroll was too soft when he coached the New England Patriots and New York Jets.
"That's [bunk]," Holmoe said. "He can coach.... He's hard to figure out at first. People wonder where he's coming from but you've just got to trust him.
"If he can get to a bowl game this year, USC should be counting their lucky stars."
Norm Katnik will start in place of tackle Jacob Rogers, who missed most of practice this week with a hyperextended elbow. Faaesea Mailo will start at guard....The weather forecast calls for a chance of rain in the Bay Area today. The Trojans prepared this week by practicing at times with wet footballs.
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HOW THEY MATCH UP
When USC has the ball: With all the speculation about linebacker Frank Strong switching to tailback, in no way should Sunny Byrd be counted out of today's game. He was too banged up to practice this week, but Byrd has been like that almost every week since he became a starter--the cost of his straight-ahead style. Quarterback Carson Palmer and his receivers can look for big plays against a defense that has no reason not to gamble with stunts and blitzes.
When California has the ball: Two of the Golden Bears' biggest weapons weren't even in the picture a few weeks ago. In his second game at receiver after switching from cornerback, LaShaun Ward caught four passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona last week. And freshman tailback Terrell Williams has run for more than 100 yards in consecutive games since replacing the injured Joe Igber. Williams will face a USC defense that ranks ninth in the conference against the rush.
Key to the game: Six times this season, Cal has surrendered 21 or more points in a quarter. That's the sort of thing that can cause a team to crumble, especially a winless team whose coach has announced that he is resigning at the end of the season.
Fast fact: The last time a USC game was not televised was against Oregon State in 1997. Before that, the Trojans went 10 years in which every game was on television.
The pick: The Golden Bears have won four of the last five meetings between the teams, but they're too bad a team, with too many weaknesses, and USC has too much on the line to let this game slide. The edge: Trojans.
The line: USC by 131/2