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College Football | USC REPORT

Carroll Can't Kick About Coverage

September 13, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC enjoyed many proud moments last season, but seldom did they occur on opponents' kickoff returns.

The Trojans ranked ninth in the Pacific 10 Conference in kickoff-return coverage, giving up 24.1 yards a return. Coach Pete Carroll had so little confidence in the team's ability to stop a big play, he often ordered pooch kicks that gave opponents advantageous field position.

Kickoff-return coverage has improved significantly through two games this season. The Trojans are giving up 18.7 yard a return, which ranks second among Pac-10 schools.

"You're only as good as the next time you kick it, but that really shows progress," Carroll said. "That's been something that's just been kind of a real pain in the butt for the first two years. So, so far, we're still kicking it deep."

USC could be challenged today by Hawaii's Ross Dickerson, a redshirt freshman who returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Appalachian State.

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After today's game, Hawaii will remain in the Southland to prepare for Friday's game at Nevada Las Vegas.

Hawaii Coach June Jones said he'd booked similar extended stays when he coached the Atlanta Falcons and played West Coast opponents on the road in consecutive weeks. This is the first time Hawaii has tried it since Jones took over the program before the 1999 season.

"Obviously, we have school involved so we're bringing some academic advisors and staff," he said. "All in all, I think it kind of bonds you as a team.... Usually, whenever you're together for this long a time, you really get the chemistry and build the camaraderie you need to win close games."

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USC is 4-0 against Hawaii and has outscored the Warriors, 178-13.

The Trojans won, 52-0, in 1930 at the Coliseum, and defeated Hawaii, 38-6, on Jan. 1, 1936, in what was known as the Poi Bowl.

USC won, 21-5, in 1978 -- the year of the Trojans' last national title -- and 62-7 in the 1999 season opener at Aloha Stadium.

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A pregame moment of silence will be observed in memory of Times sportswriter Mal Florence and sports statistician Dennis Minishian, popular members of the Southland sports scene who died this year.

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More than 5,000 disadvantaged youngsters are expected to attend today's game as part of the "Touchdown for Youth" program, which is conducted jointly by USC and the Los Angeles Sports Council Foundation. For each $25 tax-deductible contribution from an individual or corporation, a youngster is provided a ticket to the game and refreshments. Contributions are accepted throughout the year. Details: (213) 482-6345.

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