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College Football | USC NOTES

Kelly Angling for a Return Engagement

November 30, 2002|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Kareem Kelly returned two punts last week against UCLA and hopes to get more opportunities today when sixth-ranked USC plays seventh-ranked Notre Dame at the Coliseum.

Kelly, a senior wide receiver, opened the season as the Trojans' punt returner, but was replaced by Greig Carlson midway through a 27-20 loss at Kansas State on Sept. 21.

Carlson has provided a sure-handed presence, though he is averaging only 4.6 yards for 22 returns.

Kelly asked special teams coach Kennedy Pola to give him another chance and he averaged 7.5 yards on his returns in the second half against UCLA.

"I told him to rehire me," Kelly said.

Kelly said his speed would provide the punt-return unit with another dimension.

"Whatever they feel is best for the team is fine with me, but I think I'm capable of breaking one," he said.

Kelly needs three receptions to tie USC's career record of 201 set by Johnnie Morton in 1990-93. Kelly has caught a pass in 46 consecutive games.

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John Henderson, a USC assistant athletic director who is in charge of game management, said a large contingent of security personnel would be on hand to prevent fans from coming onto the field after the game. He said the presence was not a reaction to last week's postgame incidents at Ohio State, North Carolina State, Washington State and California.

"It's nothing more than what we would normally do for home games against UCLA or Notre Dame," he said. "We encourage all fans to celebrate in the stadium bowl. We haven't had any major problems."

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USC will play host to several out-of-state recruits and also expects a large number of local players to attend a game it considers to be a showcase.

"It's a great opportunity to see what this tradition is all about and see our team play," Coach Pete Carroll said. "Hopefully, everything works out [in the game] and helps us out in recruiting as well."

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USC quarterback Carson Palmer needs one touchdown pass to tie the school's season record of 29 set by Rob Johnson in 1993. Palmer is five shy of the Pacific 10 Conference record of 33 set by Ryan Leaf of Washington State in 1997.

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Notre Dame and USC began their series in 1926. The Fighting Irish lead, 42-26-5.

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