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Grootegoed Has Point to Prove


Linebacker Matt Grootegoed intends not only to help USC defeat California on Saturday but to be around for the entire game.

Last year, Grootegoed suffered a season-ending broken leg in the second quarter against the Golden Bears in USC's 55-14 rout at Berkeley. Grootegoed was injured as he tried to stop tailback Terrell Williams.

"I was blitzing and his leg hit my knee," Grootegoed said Thursday. "I thought it was just a bone bruise or something. Then I tried to get up, and that wasn't happening.

"I want to show them I'm back."

Grootegoed is second on the team with 29 tackles, among them five for losses totaling 28 yards.


Cal is fourth in the nation in turnover margin at plus-13 and has scored 70 points off turnovers.

Trojan quarterback Carson Palmer said Coach Pete Carroll is well aware of the numbers.

"He's really been stressing that we have to make them drop the ball and throw picks, and we have to hold on it and not make mistakes," said Palmer, who has had four passes intercepted.


Safety Troy Polamalu did not practice because of a high ankle sprain, but he said he would probably play in some capacity Saturday.

Polamalu tracked the defense and made suggestions to teammates during drills.

"Coach Carroll says, 'You're working harder now than you did when you were healthy,' " Polamalu said. "I'm just trying to stay focused and prepared as if I'm playing in a game."

Carroll said Polamalu's status would be a game-time decision.

"It's still very iffy for him," Carroll said. "We won't know till we get to the stadium after warmups."


During a simulated overtime possession at the end of practice, freshman tackle Winston Justice shoved freshman linebacker Dallas Sartz after a play and was penalized 15 yards.

"That was a gift showing how they can't lash out and make statements on their own for whatever reason that penalizes our football team," Carroll said.

A few plays after the penalty, Ryan Killeen, who missed two field-goal attempts and an extra-point try in last week's overtime defeat against Washington State, kicked a 43-yard field on the last play of practice.


Junior cornerback Marcell Allmond got some work with the first unit on kickoff returns.... Senior fullback Chad Pierson sat out most drills because of a sore left Achilles but said he expected to be ready to play Saturday.... Chicago Cub pitcher Mark Prior, who signed for $10.5 million after he was drafted out of USC in 2001, strolled past Howard Jones Field as practice began. Prior said he is taking two classes this semester and is close to finishing a business degree.

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