Advertisement

Kansas State Corner Plays All the Angles

September 20, 2002|ROB FERNAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Terence Newman has waited a year for this, a chance to make Kareem Kelly choke on his words.

Mind you, Newman doesn't have anything malicious planned for USC's senior receiver. The Kansas State cornerback just wants to show that Kelly's assessment of him last season was perhaps a bit disrespectful.

After Kansas State had held on for a 10-6 victory over USC at the Coliseum, Kelly was asked about his one-on-one battles with Newman, who'd led the Wildcats with six tackles and three pass breakups.

"He was good. He wasn't great," said Kelly, who had seven catches for 75 yards. "I had read a lot of stuff about him. I made plays on him. I go against Pac-10 corners that are better than that."

A Kansas State coach saw the quote, highlighted it and left the article on Newman's chair in the Wildcat locker room. It quickly became Newman's favorite piece of bulletin-board motivation.

"I thought I did a pretty good job on [Kelly], so what he said kind of hurt me," Newman said. "It made me look forward to this game all summer. I really marked this one on my calendar."

So, with Kelly's words ringing in his ears, Newman will set out to run rings around 11th-ranked USC when the Trojans play No. 25 Kansas State on Saturday at Manhattan, Kan.

Considering that Newman ranks among the nation's most athletic and versatile players, that's not an enviable position for USC.

Through three games, Newman has scored three touchdowns, one each on a kickoff return, a punt return and a reception; has intercepted two passes, and has twice been named Big 12 Conference player of the week--once for defense, once for special teams.

A candidate for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, Newman personifies perhaps better than any other player the jack-of-all-trades ability of the award's namesake, Jim Thorpe. Also a track star, Newman is the defending Big 12 champion in the 100 meters with a school-record time of 10.2 seconds.

"He's an incredible athlete," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. "He's fast. He's aggressive. He's confident. He's a good technique guy. He's caught touchdown passes playing wide receiver, runs kicks back for touchdowns and he's one of their best players on defense.

"We'll do what we have to do. We have a plan for him."

Newman's plan is to keep Kelly from making any big catches.

"Hopefully, I'll do a better job on him than last year," he said. "He was one of the best receivers I played against, but I want to hold him to [fewer catches] than he had last year."

Newman's talents aren't limited to pass coverage. He can take over a game in any number of ways with his explosive speed.

Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder dubbed him "Two-Play Terence" after Newman scored two touchdowns in a span of one minute 26 seconds in the Wildcats' 68-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 7.

On his first and only play of the season at receiver, Newman sprinted past single coverage and caught a scoring pass from Marc Dunn that covered 51 yards. After Kansas State stopped Monroe at its two-yard line, Newman returned a punt 40 yards for another touchdown and a 28-0 first-quarter lead.

Snyder says what makes Newman an elite player is that he doesn't rely solely on his speed to make plays.

"He has demonstrated that he can do the things that good football players do, with or without world-class speed," Snyder said.

Of course, being fast never hurts. He is averaging 43.7 yards on three kickoff returns, among them a 95-yard touchdown dash last week in a 63-13 victory over Eastern Illinois, and is averaging 20.3 yards on six punt returns. He ranks second on the team in all-purpose yards with 311.

Defensively, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior says he has never been better.

"I feel I've improved a lot," Newman said. "Last year, it took me three games to get my first interception. This year, I had one in each of the first two games. That's helped me relax a little bit and play my game."

That could translate into a frustrating game for Kelly, or any other USC receiver who lines up against Newman. Given a year to mull things over, Kelly has upgraded his appraisal of the Kansas State standout.

"He's a great corner," Kelly said this week.

Informed that Newman had taken exception to his comments about him last year, Kelly said, "I wasn't taking anything away from him. If that's what it's going to take for him to get up come Saturday, then so be it. But I know it's going to be a challenge out there for us."

Newman indicated he had nothing to say to Kelly.

"I like to play my game and not talk a lot of trash on the field," he said. "I let my game do the talking."

As Kansas State's opponents can attest, it speaks volumes.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|