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USC REPORT

Polamalu Says He Is Ready to Play

October 17, 2002|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

A season-ending knee injury to tackle Shaun Cody was a blow to USC's defense, but the Trojans are close to getting another starter back.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu, who missed last week's game against California because of a high right ankle sprain, dived for passes during practice Wednesday and said he will play Saturday against Washington at the Coliseum.

"I don't think I'd be practicing if I wasn't going to play," he said. "I'm ready to go. I'm doing everything I can."

Coach Pete Carroll said he expects Polamalu to play but was unsure if he would start. Sophomore Jason Leach started in place of Polamalu against Cal and had an interception, his team-leading third of the season.

"He's finding a way to gimp around out there," Carroll said of Polamalu, who was injured Oct. 5 against Washington State. "We need to chill him down in the next couple of days, give him some time to rest and get ready for the game. But he's ready to play. I don't know how much, though."

Though he was limping slightly, Polamalu ran hard during practice, engaged in light contact and went to the ground in an attempt to bat away a pass.

"I went all out today, just like everybody else," he said.

How much Polamalu can play Saturday will likely be a game-time decision, Carroll said.

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Wide receiver Kareem Kelly sat out practice for the third consecutive day and said he might not be able to play against Washington because of a sprained right ankle.

"It's a 50-50 chance," he said.

Kelly watched practice without the protective boot he had worn the two previous days. He plans to run today to test the ankle.

If Kelly cannot play, freshman Mike Williams would get more playing time alongside starting flanker Keary Colbert.

"He can play more if he needed to," Carroll said of Williams. "We just won't rotate as much."

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Before last week, Justin Fargas was splitting carries with Sultan McCullough at tailback. But with McCullough rushing 39 times for 176 yards against Cal, Fargas had only one carry Saturday.

Though he's staying positive, Fargas said he realizes carries will be difficult to come by with McCullough emerging as the Trojans' go-to back.

"Being a competitive person, it's hard," said Fargas, a senior who anticipated having a big season after sitting out a year following his transfer from Michigan.

"But I understand it's for the best of the team. Sultan played a great game. I just have to keep competing."

*

No USC fullbacks touched the ball against Cal, and Carroll said senior Chad Pierson remains questionable because of a sore Achilles' heel.... This will be Washington's first game away from Husky Stadium in 48 days, dating to the opener at Michigan on Aug. 31. The Huskies have played five consecutive home games.

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