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USC-UCLA REPORT

Full House Makes It Big Dot for Carroll

November 22, 2003|Gary Klein and Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writers

The last time USC played UCLA at the Coliseum, it marked the first time that Coach Pete Carroll really understood the significance of the Trojans' home stadium.

USC's 27-0 victory over the Bruins in the 2001 regular-season finale was played before a crowd of 88,588.

"That was the first really big-time feel that we had and gave me a sense of what it could be like at the Coliseum," Carroll said.

Today's game between the second-ranked Trojans and UCLA has been sold out for weeks.

USC played Notre Dame before a capacity crowd of 91,432 at the Coliseum last season on its way to an Orange Bowl victory over Iowa. Carroll counts those two games and USC's victory in this season's opener at Auburn as milestone-type games.

"There's some dots on the screen there that were really significant," Carroll said. "[The 2001 UCLA game] was the first big one."

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If USC beats UCLA today, it will extend the Trojans' winning streak over the Bruins to five games and assure that UCLA's seniors -- players such as defensive linemen Dave and Mat Ball and Rodney Leisle, linebacker Brandon Chillar and flanker Ryan Smith -- leave school without having beaten USC.

"It's pretty embarrassing, especially when [UCLA] won eight straight before we got here," Smith said. "We feel like we've let down the players from the past. It's extremely frustrating. I don't want to leave this place without beating our cross-town rivals."

Few give UCLA a chance to end the streak today. The Trojans are 22-point favorites, a spread that infuriated some Bruins this week.

"We're out to prove something, to end the season the way we should, with a win," Leisle said. "They're a great team, but it's going to be a tough game that comes down to the last minute.... If each guy wins each individual battle, we can win. If that doesn't happen, it's going to be a long game."

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USC sophomore fullback Brandon Hancock, who will not play because of a sprained left knee, was named to the Pacific 10 Conference's All-Academic first team.... USC leads the series with UCLA, 38-27-7. The Trojans are 34-20-7 against the Bruins at the Coliseum.

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