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NOTES/ THE RIVALRY/ No. 7 USC 52, No. 25 UCLA 21

USC Makes Ebell Feel Abandoned

November 24, 2002|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

A defiant Tyler Ebell said he wasn't given a fair chance to extend his streak of 100-yard rushing games because UCLA was forced to abandon the run.

Just another Bruin talking nonsense, USC defensive end Omar Nazel said after the Trojans contained the freshman tailback en route to a 52-21 victory Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

"Well, he's nobody to us," Nazel said of Ebell, who was limited to 56 yards in 12 carries, ending his streak of 100-yard games at six. "He's just a regular old running back."

Stopping Ebell was a great source of pride for the 9-2 Trojans, who have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.

They limited UCLA to 40 net yards rushing in 33 carries (1.2-yard average) and recorded five sacks, two by Kenechi Udeze. USC has held its last six opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Ebell was the first freshman and only the second player in UCLA history to rush for at least 100 yards in six consecutive games.

Saturday, though, he was just another back who found little room to maneuver against the Trojan defense, which began the game ranked eighth in the nation against the run.

"He felt like he was going to come out here and take over this game, like he was [Colorado running back] Chris Brown or something," Nazel said. "But as you could see, he's just like all the other running backs we've faced. He's just as susceptible as everybody else."

Auburn tailback Carnell Williams came closest to reaching the 100-yard mark against USC, rushing for 94 yards in the opener Sept. 2 at the Coliseum.

Ebell, who needs 86 yards against Washington State on Dec. 7 to become only the third freshman in Pacific 10 Conference history to rush for 1,000 yards, wasn't all that impressed with the Trojan defense. He hinted that things might have been different had the Bruins not fallen behind early.

"Their defense was OK," Ebell said. "We just had to abandon the running game. They definitely were fast. But as far as being as good as they think they are, they're not."


USC safety DeShaun Hill said the Trojans emphasized stopping the run, then pressuring UCLA's freshman quarterbacks, Drew Olson and Matt Moore.

That resulted in several blitzes, including an effective one by Hill, who tackled Olson for a 23-yard loss and caused a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Melvin Simmons at the 50-yard line early in the third quarter.

"I disguised it the best I could," Hill said of the blitz. "As soon as they hiked the ball, I hit my gap and it was wide open. [Olson] saw me and tried to get rid of the ball early, so I put my arm up and blocked him from moving his arm forward."


Jason Leach set the tone for the game when the USC safety forced a fumble by UCLA's Tab Perry on the opening kickoff.

Grant Mattos recovered the ball for USC at the Bruin 34, and on the next play Carson Palmer passed to Kareem Kelly for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead after only 16 seconds had elapsed.

Leach, aware that kickoff coverage has been among USC's weakest areas, said he was determined to make a big play.

"Kickoff [coverage] the whole year has been kind of soft," he said. "We haven't been doing our job. I said, 'We've got to do this. We've got to get off to a good start.' "


Bruin defensive tackle Rodney Leisle played for the first time since Oct. 5 and had one tackle. Last week Leisle said his foot injury still gave him pain and he probably would not play.

Sean Phillips, starting at defensive tackle for the first time in two years, led the Bruins with seven tackles.

Defensive end Dave Ball's sack streak ended at eight games. UCLA had only one sack, by linebacker Brandon Chillar.


USC center Norm Katnik suffered a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter and was replaced by senior Derek Graf. Katnik's availability for the Notre Dame game Saturday at the Coliseum has yet to be determined.


Perry had a boot on his left ankle after the game and said it appears to be a high ankle sprain, an injury that could keep him out of the Washington State game.


One of the loudest ovations of the day came after Sunny Byrd got his first carry of the season in the fourth quarter. "I heard that," Byrd said. "It got me pumped up."

Byrd, a senior, was pressed into service as the Trojan tailback last season because of injuries. He carried 20 times for 40 yards in last season's 27-0 victory over UCLA.

With plenty of healthy tailbacks this season, Byrd has been a reserve fullback and special teams player.

Byrd, however, lined up at tailback with the game in hand and carried three times in a row for a total of 11 yards. Two plays later, freshman Hershel Dennis replaced him and scored the first touchdown of his career on a 38-yard run.


Marcell Allmond, who made the transition from receiver to cornerback during training camp and started for the first time on Oct. 19 against Washington, got the first interception of his career when he picked off an Olson pass in the third quarter.

"When the ball is in the air, I know how to go get it," he said.


Staff writers Steve Henson, Gary Klein and Robyn Norwood contributed to this report.

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