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Carroll Savors a 'Problem'

September 15, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

The success that USC's tandem of freshman running backs LenDale White (thunder) and Reggie Bush (lightning) experienced in the Trojans' 61-32 blowout win over Hawaii on Saturday gave Pete Carroll a problem any Pacific 10 Conference coach would love to have -- a plethora of serviceable runners entering league play.

Especially with the No. 4-ranked Trojans rushing for a season-high 164 yards -- White (a game-high 58 yards in 10 carries) and Bush (54 yards in nine carries) each had two touchdowns -- as a team and starting tailback Hershel Dennis adding 52 yards.

"It vividly illustrated what we're trying to do [with our running game]," Carroll said Sunday. "It just kind of confirmed what we thought about them."

An embarrassment of backfield riches? Not yet. But with the Trojans about to enjoy an off week before starting Pac-10 play at California on Sept. 27, Tailback U appears healthy.

In fact, Carroll said that there would be no depth chart shifting as a result and that Dennis would remain the starter.

"Right now, it can flip-flop in any direction, [depending upon] what we need," Carroll said. "I'm not trying to keep anybody guessing by that, that's just what we're doing.

"I love that they're all contributing. It's going to be really important as we start the Pac-10 season, that they're all here and they're all battling for us."


Senior flanker Keary Colbert was a seemingly forgotten man through USC's first two games, catching five passes for 81 yards.

Colbert, though, doubled his numbers against Hawaii with five catches for 86 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown reception, and did it in three quarters.

"I was not worried about him," Carroll said. "We've been going to him, we just couldn't convert."

With 148 receptions, Colbert is within 14 catches of overtaking R. Jay Soward for fifth place on USC's career list. Kareem Kelly leads with 204.

"That's Keary; he's a playmaker," said Trojan sophomore split end Mike Williams. "Everybody wants to put me on the cover of magazines, but he's the nucleus."


Nearly lost in the cloud of dust from the Trojans' successful running game was the efficient play of sophomore quarterback Matt Leinart, who completed 15 of 21 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. This a week after having three passes intercepted against Brigham Young.

"People are going to jump on him for this or that or the other, but of course he's no Carson Palmer," Williams said. "I had a year with Carson and I don't remember Carson not throwing an interception. It happens to quarterbacks -- balls get batted or sometimes things don't go your way -- but it's a gut check.... Matt just answered the call for his teammates."

The Trojans, who led Hawaii, 52-6, late in the third quarter, had opened up enough of a lead that backup quarterbacks Matt Cassel (two of three for 21 yards) and Brandon Hance (one of two for 13 yards) got to play.

Plus, many of USC's third-and-fourth stringers played.

"It's a very difficult time for these young kids to work so hard and to give up so much of themselves for the game of football and not get to play," Carroll said. "We played so well coming out of the half that it gave us that opportunity."

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