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No.8 USC VS. ARIZONA STATE Today at the Coliseum, 4
p.m., TBS

Clarity Now Begins at Home

Trojans getting an edge from the Coliseum, and they want to keep it going against Sun Devils.

November 16, 2002|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

The crowds that fill more than half of the cavernous Coliseum will never be mistaken for the rowdy throngs at Oregon's Autzen Stadium, Washington State's Martin Stadium or Washington's Husky Stadium.

But USC's historic home is currently one of the toughest places in the Pacific 10 Conference for opposing teams to win.

Eighth-ranked USC takes a seven-game home winning streak into today's homecoming game against Arizona State. It is the Trojans' longest home streak since they won 10 consecutive games during the 1987-88 seasons. Six of the seven victories were against Pac-10 opponents.

"It's such an important element of your program to control," Coach Pete Carroll said of the dominance at home. "You can talk about it, sell it and take pride in it. Having a little string going is huge and you build on that.

"The players are jacked about doing something here and keeping it going."

The winning streak started last season with a 48-17 victory over Arizona State on Oct. 13. The Trojans finished the season by winning four of their last five regular-season games, including home victories over Oregon State and UCLA.

USC, 7-2 overall and 5-1 in Pac-10 play, opened this season with a nonconference victory over Auburn at the Coliseum. The Trojans also defeated Oregon State, California and Washington at home.

USC has drawn an average of 58,940 in the 92,000-seat stadium this season. More than 65,000 are expected today and the Notre Dame game on Nov. 30 is already sold out.

"Other teams come in thinking it's not going to be loud, but sometimes it gets going in there on the big third downs and the crowd gets into it," senior offensive lineman Zach Wilson said. "If we keep playing as well as we have been and keep this home streak going, no one is going to want to face USC at the Coliseum."

Today's game is USC's first at home since Oct. 19, when the Trojans defeated Washington, 41-21, the first of three consecutive games in which they scored more than 40 points.

Quarterback Carson Palmer played his way into Heisman Trophy consideration during the stretch as USC stayed on track for a possible berth in the Rose Bowl or other bowl championship series game.

Palmer completed 22 of 32 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-17 victory over Stanford last week and became the school record-holder for career touchdown passes with 62.

Arizona State (7-4, 4-2 in Pac-10), led by sophomore quarterback Andrew Walter and junior defensive end Terrell Suggs, won its first four conference games before giving up a combined 99 points in consecutive losses to Washington State and California.

Walter has passed for more than 400 yards four times this season. He threw for a conference-record 536 yards in a 45-42 victory over Oregon on Oct. 19, and 477 yards in a 55-38 loss to Cal last week.

Walter established a school single-season record of 2,992 passing yards, breaking the mark of 2,878 yards set by Danny White in 1973.

"I'd compare him to what Drew Bledsoe probably looked like as a young kid," Carroll said. "Just a fantastic natural arm. They know what they've got and they're going with it."

Suggs leads the nation with an NCAA-record 19.5 sacks.

With games against UCLA and Notre Dame coming up, Palmer said the Trojans cannot look past the Sun Devils.

"If they win this game and the next, there is a shot they could go to a better bowl than we can," Palmer said. "They've got some good players and they play well together, so it's not a pushover game."

Carroll said the Trojans are counting on a spirited homecoming crowd to help them extend their winning streak at the Coliseum and continue one of the most promising seasons in years.

"Fans are up and they are getting after teams when they're coming in and out of the tunnel," Carroll said. "I'm hoping that continues to be a factor for us."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Home-Humming

Since last season, USC has won seven in a row at the Coliseum, hoping to make it eight against Arizona State today. The last seven home games:

*--* DATE OPPONENT, SCORE NOTABLE Oct. 19 Washington, 41-21 Palmer throws for 348 yards and four TDs Oct. 12 California, 30-28 McCullough carries 39 times for 176 yards Sept. 28 Oregon St., 22-0 Defense holds Beavers to 131 yards Sept. 2 Auburn, 24-17 Palmer scores winning TD with 1:26 left Nov. 17, 2001 UCLA, 27-0 Humiliated Bruins held to 114 yards Nov. 3, 2001 Oregon St., 16-13 Palmer's OT touchdown run wins it Oct. 13, 2001 Arizona St., 48-17 Second-quarter surge leads way

*--*

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