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Trojans Looking to Show Off Their Better Half

USC, 4-2 at midway point of schedule, wants to turn it up down the stretch, starting today against Washington.

October 19, 2002|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC was a second-half team during the first half of its schedule.

The Trojans won in the final minutes against Auburn, never let up after the break against Colorado, threatened until the final seconds against Kansas State, clamped down on Oregon State, came up just short against Washington State and overcame California.

The Trojans have emerged 4-2 overall, 2-1 in the Pacific 10 Conference and ranked 19th in the Associated Press poll.

Coach Pete Carroll and his players say the Trojans need faster starts and a streak of more convincing finishes as they begin the second half of their schedule today against No. 22 Washington (4-2, 1-1).

"We need to start playing with more consistency," defensive end Kenechi Udeze said.

A victory over the Huskies would keep USC in the race for its first Pac-10 title since 1995. A loss would all but eliminate the Trojans from contention.

The Trojans are looking to repeat last season's second half, when they won their last five Pac-10 games. That will be a challenge for a team that has won consecutive games only once this season.

"This is a must-win for us," senior middle linebacker Mike Pollard said. "Usually, we play great then come back and lose a close one. That can't happen. We have to be a championship team every week."

USC faces a Washington team that blew a chance to knock off Michigan on the road in its opener before playing five consecutive home games. Cal upset Washington two weeks ago and the Huskies barely got past Arizona last Saturday.

"We had high expectations at the start of the season, but for some reason we have not reached those expectations," Coach Rick Neuheisel said.

Washington, led by quarterback Cody Pickett and wide receiver Reggie Williams, ranks second in the nation in passing offense at 380.5 yards a game and fourth in total offense at 480.3.

But the Huskies are ninth in rushing at 99.8 yards a game. Washington has never finished a season averaging fewer than 100 yards rushing.

"We didn't emphasize it enough because we did get enamored with the ability to throw the ball down the field," Neuheisel said. "Ultimately, we have to have some guys make some plays."

USC is coming off a 30-28 victory over Cal in which the Trojans overcame an early 18-point deficit.

Senior tailback Sultan McCullough, who rushed for 176 yards in a career-high 39 carries against Cal, is no stranger to Washington. Last season, McCullough gained 132 yards in 32 carries in the Trojans' 27-24 loss at Seattle. The Huskies won on a last-second 32-yard field-goal by John Anderson, who has made 12 of 16 field-goal kicks this season.

McCullough, no longer sharing the position with Justin Fargas and Malaefou Mackenzie, faces a defense that ranks second in the Pac-10 against the run, giving up 85.8 yards a game.

USC quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 670 yards in the last two games and will operate against a secondary that is giving up a conference-worst 281.8 yards a game.

Freshman wide receiver Mike Williams will probably make his first start, replacing senior Kareem Kelly, who will have a reduced role because of a sprained right ankle.

Junior Eric Torres will start at left tackle in place of Jacob Rogers, who suffered a sprained right knee against Cal.

All-American safety Troy Polamalu returns to the starting lineup for USC's conference-leading defense after having sat out the Cal game because of a high ankle sprain. Polamalu made 13 tackles and returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown last year against the Huskies.

The Trojans, however, will be without sophomore defensive tackle Shaun Cody, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Cal. Sophomore Mike Patterson moves from nose tackle to Cody's spot and senior Bernard Riley will play in Patterson's spot.

Junior Marcell Allmond will make his first start at cornerback in place of redshirt freshman William Buchanon.

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