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White Gives USC Tailback Youth

Freshman rushes for 140 yards and Leinart has a strong second half in a 37-17 victory over Arizona State.

October 05, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. — LenDale White knows there are no guarantees.

When the freshman tailback runs onto the field for USC, he said he does so without expectations.

"The coaches don't promise you 100 carries, or even 10," White said. "That's why you have to make every one of them count."

On a hot Saturday in the desert, White did exactly that.

He rushed for 140 yards in 21 carries and scored two second-half touchdowns as the 10th-ranked Trojans rebounded from last week's defeat with a 37-17 Pacific 10 Conference victory over Arizona State before 56,527 at Sun Devil Stadium.

"Our philosophy today was run the ball hard, run with aggression and set an attitude," said White, who averaged nearly seven yards a carry and produced the most rushing yards by a true freshman in USC history.

The victory improved USC to 4-1 overall, 1-1 in conference play, and kept the Trojans in the hunt for the Rose Bowl and possibly more.

It also helped erase the memory of last week's triple-overtime loss at California, which ended USC's 11-game winning streak and essentially put the Trojans on the brink of elimination from the Rose Bowl race.

No team that started 0-2 in conference play has won the Pac-10 title.

"It's not about the Rose Bowl, it's about getting back to the status in which we felt we were supposed to be held," said defensive end Omar Nazel, who had one of the Trojans' five sacks. "It's about being a man and getting up after you fall."

Matt Leinart, USC's redshirt sophomore quarterback, demonstrated that characteristic throughout the game and helped the Trojans score 27 unanswered points in the second half..

Leinart went into the game nursing a groin strain and sore left knee suffered against Cal. He was forced to leave early in the second quarter against Arizona State because of a bruised right knee and sprained right ankle.

But after X-rays came back negative, Leinart returned to lead the Trojans to a victory.

Leinart's 33-yard touchdown pass to fullback Brandon Hancock with 1:30 left in the third quarter gave USC a 24-17 lead.

"Sometimes, you just have to go out there and play hard and forget about the pain," said Leinart, who completed 13 of 23 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.

USC Coach Pete Carroll, unhappy with his team's feeble rushing attack against Cal, made power running a priority in practice and set the stage for White's opportunity.

"We made a decision to get more physical and be able to pound the football," Carroll said.

White, 6 feet 2, 225 pounds, had gained 70 yards in 17 carries in the first four games. He did not start against Arizona State, but he hurt the Sun Devils almost from the moment he ran onto the field for the last play of USC's first possession -- and he did not touch the ball.

Instead, Leinart faked a handoff to White, and then threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to flanker Keary Colbert for a 7-0 lead.

Arizona State, which ran a no-huddle offense, answered with a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Walter to receiver Skyler Fulton and then took the lead early in the second quarter on a 25-yard field goal by Jesse Ainsworth.

The Trojans tied the score, 10-10, with three seconds left in the half on a 45-yard field goal by Ryan Killeen.

By that time, White had accumulated 59 yards in 11 carries.

"The coaches pounded into our heads this week that we had to establish ourselves as a running team," right guard Fred Matua said. "It was important for us to get some identity."

Running back Loren Wade's one-yard touchdown run with 9:25 left in the third quarter gave Arizona State a 17-10 lead, but White tied the score just over three minutes later when he took a handoff from Leinart, ran into the pile at the line of scrimmage, then broke free around the left end for a 25-yard touchdown.

"I looked up at the Jumbotron and saw somebody chasing me," White said. "I had to tuck the ball so he wouldn't strip it."

Hancock put USC ahead to stay on fourth and one at the Sun Devil 33. The sophomore caught a pass in the right flat, began sprinting toward the end zone and received a crushing block from Colbert en route to his first touchdown.

"I knew pretty much after the snap I was going to be open," Hancock said. "I haven't been in the end zone since high school. It really feels good to be back on the map with that and contribute."

Killeen kicked 28- and 38-yard field goals in the fourth quarter and White added a six-yard touchdown run with 5:12 left to give the Trojans a 20-point lead.

Carroll said the second-half surge reminded him of last season, when the Trojans made a habit of blowing out opponents in the final 30 minutes.

"It shows me that there is a connection with how we've done it in the past," Carroll said. "Come on at halftime, come back and gain control and put it away. That's something we took great pride in last year."

White said he was looking forward to next week's home game against Stanford. However, he is not expecting any special treatment because of his performance.

"I don't know what my role is going to be -- I'll leave that to the coaches," he said. "I'm just happy that I got a chance to help us get back on track."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The High Ground

Single-game rushing leaders under Pete Carroll:

*--* DATE PLAYER NO. YDS OPPONENT Oct. 12, 2002 Sultan McCullough 39 176 California Sept. 9, 2001 Sultan McCullough 25 167 San Jose St Oct. 4, 2003 LenDale White 21 140 Arizona St. Oct. 26, 2002 Justin Fargas 27 139 Oregon Oct. 6, 2001 Sultan McCullough 32 132 Washington Nov. 16, 2002 Justin Fargas 26 125 Arizona St. Nov. 30, 2002 Justin Fargas 20 120 Notre Dame

*--*

NOTE: All-time USC record: 347 yards, Ricky Bell vs. Washington State in 1976

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