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Trojans Can't Afford to Forget Cardinal Rule

November 09, 2002|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

PALO ALTO — The Rose Bowl or, possibly, another BCS bowl game beckons.

The regular-season stretch run includes games against surprising Arizona State, rival UCLA and rejuvenated Notre Dame.

But if No. 10 USC is to realize any of its major bowl game aspirations, the Trojans cannot afford to stumble today in a Pacific 10 Conference game against struggling Stanford.

"We can't look past anybody -- especially Stanford," Trojan wide receiver Kareem Kelly said. "That's a team that some of us have never won a game against."

USC, which defeated Oregon for the first time in five years two weeks ago, has not defeated Stanford since 1998.

But Stanford's winning streak against USC was achieved under Coach Tyrone Willingham, who guided the Cardinal back to national prominence before he was hired by Notre Dame last Dec. 31.

Buddy Teevens has not enjoyed similar success since arriving from Florida, where he was the assistant offensive coordinator to pass-happy Steve Spurrier.

Stanford is 2-6 overall and 1-4 in conference play. San Jose State and Arizona are the only teams the Cardinal has defeated.

A school with a long tradition of strong-armed quarterbacks ranks last in the Pac-10 in passing and ninth in scoring. The Cardinal is third in the conference in rushing but is averaging only 22.5 points and has not scored more than 18 in any of its last five games.

"It doesn't matter," sophomore defensive end Kenechi Udeze said. "Stanford's a team that would like nothing better than to spoil things for us. We can't let that happen."

It happened against the Cardinal in each of the last three seasons.

In 1999, USC blew a 21-0 first-quarter lead and lost, 35-31, at the Coliseum.

Two years ago, Stanford scored 12 points in the final 5:22 and won, 32-30, when quarterback Chris Lewis connected with Jamien McCullum on a 20-yard touchdown pass play with no time left at Stanford Stadium.

Last season, in the fourth game on USC's schedule, Stanford built a 21-0 lead and held on for a 21-16 victory at the Coliseum.

"Last year, we played them a couple games after losing to Kansas State," USC middle linebacker Mike Pollard said. "I'm not going to say we didn't know what we were doing, but there was uncertainty. Now we know what we have to do to reach our goal."

USC (6-2, 4-1) looked sure of itself two weeks ago against Oregon when the Trojans amassed 608 yards in a 44-33 victory at Eugene. Quarterback Carson Palmer possibly vaulted into the Heisman Trophy race by passing for a school-record 448 yards and tying a school record with five touchdown passes.

A bye allowed numerous players with nagging injuries to heal or improve their condition going into today's game.

"I don't think there's a player on our team who didn't benefit from the break," said Kelly, who is still nursing a sprained right ankle.

Coach Pete Carroll said the Trojans spent the week preparing to face Lewis at quarterback. The redshirt junior sat out the last two games because of a bruised shoulder, but he is expected to play against a Trojan team that features several former Long Beach Poly High teammates.

Redshirt freshman Kyle Matter from Newhall started the last two games and redshirt sophomore Ryan Eklund also played.

"If Chris Lewis is playing, they can use every aspect of that offense, and that makes it very difficult," Carroll said. "His ability to be effective getting out of the pocket and making good decisions is something we're concerned about."

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They Need a Stop

USC leads the series against Stanford, 53-24-3, but the Cardinal has defeated the Trojans four times in the last six games. A look at the last 10 meetings:

*--* Year Winner Site Score 2001 Stanford Coliseum 21-16 2000 Stanford Palo Alto 32-30 1999 Stanford Coliseum 35-31 1998 USC Palo Alto 34-9 1997 USC Coliseum 45-21 1996 Stanford Palo Alto 24-20 1995 USC Coliseum 31-30 1994 USC Palo Alto 27-20 1993 USC Coliseum 45-20 1992 Stanford Palo Alto 23-9

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