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Dorrell Worried About Leinart, Not Rankings

December 04, 2004|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Let's strap on the helmets and play. That's the attitude UCLA has leading up to today's game against USC after three weeks of preparation. Coach Karl Dorrell did not have problems motivating his players to face the top-ranked Trojans, not even with a bowl berth already locked up for the second year in a row.

"We're at a good place right now," Dorrell said of the 6-4 Bruins. "If we keep [our play] at a high level of execution, it's going to be a hell of a ballgame."

USC has won five in succession against UCLA and the Bruin coaching staff has watched nearly twice as much game film of the Trojans than of any other opponent this season. Dorrell has seen enough to conclude that everything starts with junior Matt Leinart.

"He's an excellent quarterback," Dorrell said. "He does a great job operating their system and getting the ball to his receivers effortlessly. We need to slow him down. That's the key. We can't let him make too many big plays on us."

Dorrell said this year's USC team rates very well with last season's Trojans, who finished as co-national champions with Louisiana State.

"They are just as good," he said. "On defense, they do a great job of pressuring the quarterback and it is tough to run the football on them.

"Their offense has still a lot of the same guys. Their young receivers have stepped in and picked up where Mike Williams and Keary Colbert left off. They are very productive and very explosive."


This is the fourth year that UCLA and USC are competing for the Lexus Gauntlet, which is awarded to the school that does the best in head-to-head competition. UCLA currently leads, 15-10, heading into Saturday's game, which is worth 10 points. USC won the Gauntlet in 2003-04 and 2001-02; UCLA won it in 2002-03.

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