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The Rivalry | Xs and O's

Trojans to Be Tested by a Back of Century

November 18, 2002|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC vs. UCLA

Saturday 12:30 pm.

At Rose Bowl

Channel 7

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USC puts several streaks on the line Saturday against rival UCLA.

The seventh-ranked Trojans are coming off a victory over Arizona State that extended their winning streak to five games. They also have defeated the Bruins three times in a row, including a 27-0 victory last season at the Coliseum.

USC's defense intends to continue another impressive streak: No running back has rushed for 100 yards against the Trojans.

Colorado's Chris Brown, who entered the weekend as the nation's leading rusher, gained 44 yards in 14 carries against USC. Oregon State's Steven Jackson, the Pacific 10 Conference's leading rusher, managed only 67 yards in 15 carries, and Oregon's Onterrio Smith was held to 79 yards in 19 carries by a Trojan defense that is allowing only 88.3 yards rushing a game.

UCLA's Tyler Ebell, however, presents USC with perhaps its toughest test of the season.

Ebell, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound redshirt freshman from Ventura, has rushed for 100 yards or more in six consecutive games for the No. 25 Bruins. Last week against Arizona, Ebell gained 124 yards in 22 carries and scored two touchdowns as UCLA stayed in contention for a Rose Bowl berth.

Ebell has rushed for 858 yards this season.

"He's really quick and really shifty," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. "He bounces off tackles and leaves guys standing in a hole."

Despite his size, Ebell runs mainly between the tackles rather than around the ends.

He is especially productive just past the line of scrimmage and produces numerous mid-range gains. Ebell, however, has not shown breakaway speed that would make him a home run threat every time he touches the ball.

Kansas State's Darren Sproules is the most similar back USC has faced. Sproules -- 5-7, 170 pounds -- gained 78 yards in 20 carries in Kansas State's 27-20 victory over the Trojans.

Ebell, said USC defensive tackle Bernard Riley, "is small, so he's going to try and disappear behind those huge linemen. We're so strong and so big up front, we have to swallow him up."

Ebell's height, or lack of it, presents larger defenders with a limited target area. Would-be tacklers cannot achieve ideal angles to knock down a player who identifies with the cartoon character Mighty Mouse.

"You have to really watch his hips," USC safety DeShaun Hill said. "With a bigger back, you can get a better shot. It's tougher because he's so little."

Ebell's best attributes might be his toughness and ability to hold onto the ball. During his senior season at Ventura High in 2000, he fumbled once in 401 carries while rushing for a national-record 4,495 yards. He has not fumbled in 188 carries for UCLA.

Ebell also figures to benefit from the presence of 6-3, 243-pound fullback Manuel White, who returned from a hamstring injury against Arizona and should be even stronger after the Bruins' week off.

USC respects Ebell's ability, but is confident it can keep its streak intact.

"Nobody can get 100 yards against us," Trojan defensive end Kenechi Udeze said. "We're one of the best defensive lines in the country and we have to keep it going. With a good week of preparation, we'll be ready."

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No Big Rush ...

USC has not allowed a player to rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season. A look at each opponent's rushing yards and leading rusher:

GAME 1: USC 24, Auburn 17

Auburn: 38 carries for 140 yards

Carnell Williams 21 carries for 94 yards

GAME 2: USC 40, Colorado 3

Colorado: 35 carries for 37 yards

Chris Brown 14 carries for 44 yards

GAME 3: Kansas State 27, USC 20

Kansas State: 48 carries for 188 yards

Darren Sproles 20 carries for 78 yards

GAME 4: USC 22, Oregon State 0

Oregon State: 29 carries for 61 yards

Steven Jackson 15 carries for 67 yards

GAME 5 Washington State 30, USC 27 (OT)

Washington State: 29 carries for 201 yards

Jermaine Green 6 carries for 92 yards

GAME 6: USC 30, California 28

California: 25 carries for 90 yards

Joe Igber 14 carries for 45 yards

GAME 7: USC 41, Washington 21

Washington: 19 carries for minus 5 yards

Braxton Cleman 8 carries for 12 yards

GAME 8: USC 44, Oregon 33

Oregon: 27 carries for 76 yards

Onterrio Smith 19 carries for 79 yards

GAME 9: USC 49, Stanford 17

Stanford: 40 carries for 78 yards

Kerry Carter 18 carries for 74 yards

GAME 10: USC 34, Arizona State 13

Arizona State: 21 carries for 27 yards

Mike Williams 10 carries for 33 yards

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... At Least Not Yet

Against Arizona, UCLA running back Tyler Ebell became the second player in school history to rush for over 100 yards in six consecutive games during the same season. He is averaging 4.6 yards per carry (858 yards in 188 carries). A look:

UCLA 43, Oregon State 35: 29 carries for 203 yards

Oregon 31, UCLA 30: 26 carries for 119 yards

California 17, UCLA 12: 28 carries for 102 yards

UCLA 28, Stanford 18: 39 carries for 160 yards

UCLA 34, Washington 24: 31 carries for 102 yards

UCLA 37, Arizona 7: 22 carries for 124 yards

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