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Moving Up in Poll, but Not in Standings

October 28, 2002|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC's surprising rout of Oregon ended the Trojans' futility against the Ducks and kept them in the hunt for their first Rose Bowl berth since the 1995 season.

It also helped the Trojans move up four spots to No. 11 in the Associated Press poll Sunday.

The win, however, did not affect USC's standing in the Pacific 10 Conference.

USC, 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-10, still trails eighth-ranked Washington State (7-1, 4-0) and 16th-ranked Arizona State (7-2, 4-0), which play Saturday at Pullman, Wash. With an open date this week, about the only thing the Trojans can do to improve their position is root for Arizona State.

USC suffered its only Pac-10 loss against Washington State on Oct. 5, 30-27 in overtime.

"We wish we could have that game back, but we just have to keep winning and let everything else fall into place," senior middle linebacker Mike Pollard said.

Washington State and Arizona State each have four Pac-10 games remaining, USC three.

The schedule appears to favor Washington State, which plays Arizona State, Oregon and Washington at home before concluding the season against UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

Arizona State plays at Washington State, then returns home to face Cal before traveling to USC and Arizona.

After USC plays at Stanford on Nov. 9, the Trojans play host to Arizona State and then meet UCLA at the Rose Bowl before the regular-season finale against Notre Dame at the Coliseum.

"This sets us up pretty well," senior wide receiver Kareem Kelly said of the Trojans' first victory over Oregon in five years and their first win over a ranked Pac-10 team on the road since 1995. "We know we still have a lot of work."

Kelly, who has a sore right ankle, is one of several banged-up Trojans who welcome the off week.

All-American safety Troy Polamalu said last week that he does not expect the pain from a high right ankle sprain to dissipate until the season ends. After helping the Trojans dominate Oregon in the second half, he is certain to benefit from a day off today and three more next weekend.

Offensive tackle Jacob Rogers (knee), defensive end Omar Nazel (sternum and knee), nose tackle Bernard Riley (knee) and Pollard (hip) are other prominent contributors expected to benefit from the break.

"It's a well-needed week off," said Riley, who is playing more snaps in the wake of Shaun Cody's season-ending knee injury against Cal.

USC Coach Pete Carroll said he is not worried about losing momentum during an off week. The Trojans will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with reserves treated to more reps in what Carroll called a "Halloween Bowl."

Carroll is hoping that several young players will establish themselves during the break, just as freshman lineman Winston Justice did in the off week after a season-opening victory over Auburn.

Justice earned a starting role and made his debut in a rout of Colorado. The investment in his development paid dividends again Saturday when he cleared a lane for tailback Justin Fargas on a 15-yard touchdown run.

Carroll is not looking to replace any starters. But several players could earn increased playing time, among them freshman tight end Dominique Byrd, freshman defensive lineman LaJuan Ramsey, freshman fullback Brandon Hancock and redshirt junior receiver D. Hale.

"This is a great opportunity for those kinds of guys to make a move," Carroll said.

Linebacker Matt Grootegoed, who made a team-high eight tackles against Oregon, said the Trojans will require a deep and healthy roster for the stretch drive. USC is riding a three-game winning streak that it hopes will reach eight by season's end.

"If we lost, we would have been in trouble," Grootegoed said. "This was a big win that is going to give us momentum the rest of the season."


Kelly and Oregon wide receiver Keenan Howry broke the Pac-10 record for consecutive games with a reception. Both have caught passes in 43 consecutive games.... Mike Williams' 13 receptions established a USC freshman record. His 226 receiving yards rank second for a freshman and third overall behind R. Jay Soward's school-record 260 in 1996 against UCLA.... Freshman linebacker Oscar Lua suffered a sprained ankle and could be sidelined one or two weeks.

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