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Tall Order for Corners

Nebraska's diminutive defensive backs struggle to cover Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.

September 17, 2006|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

This time, Nebraska cornerback Andre Jones said all the right things. He even sounded as if he meant them.

Walking off the Coliseum field Saturday night on the wrong end of a 28-10 score against USC in a game he said Nebraska would win, Jones offered only compliments.

"They're a great football team," he said.

Earlier in the week, that wasn't quite his tone.

"When we beat USC, it's going to slingshot our season," the transfer from Fresno City College told reporters in Nebraska.

"When we beat this team, we can show the world that we are a great team and we restored the order."

Looks like the order remained unchanged.

USC's receivers pretty much had their way against Jones and Cortney Grixby, Nebraska's 6-foot-and-under corners.

At 6-5, Dwayne Jarrett caught 11 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Smith, who is 6 feet, caught six for 53 yards and one touchdown.

Afterward, Jones gave them their due.

"Him and Steve Smith, they're great receivers," said Jones, who is 6 feet to Grixby's 5-9. "We could have played better. We've just got to keep practicing."

Jones, at least, learned something about doing a poor Joe Namath imitation. Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan said the two had a lengthy talk..

"Unfortunately, I think that thing got blown out of proportion," Callahan said. "That kid Andre Jones is a hell of a kid. I think he learned from it. "

Whether you can say the same about what happened on the field is harder to say.

Grixby, with his lack of height, and Jones, were outmatched by USC's size and ability.

"You can't come up with a magical thing," said cornerbacks coach Phil Elmassian. "There were good."

Jarrett beat Jones for an early touchdown.

"He was way out of position on the post," Elmassian said. "[But Jarrett] is a hell of a talent. That's not the first 6-4 or 6-5 guy they've seen."

Though it seemed that Nebraska tried to defend Jarrett one-on-one more than was wise, Elmassian said they played plenty of zone.

"We played 'cover two' quite a bit," he said.

It was just too hard to cover the Trojan receivers.

"Dwayne Jarrett is an outstanding wide receiver. That's why he's a Heisman Trophy candidate," Callahan said. "He's a monster. He physically dominates. He can make plays on the perimeter and the edge and really becomes a factor in the red zone. "

Whatever they did wasn't enough.

Jones once imagined he might play for the home team at the Coliseum. He was recruited by USC out of Fresno City College, though USC Coach Pete Carroll said he wasn't offered a scholarship.

Jones said in his ill-fated interview he preferred Nebraska.

"It came down between USC and Nebraska," he said. "When I went there, I just didn't sense that love that I felt when I came here. It's more Hollywood out there. It didn't seem real to me. I wanted to come to a town where football is loved."

He intended to make a statement Saturday, but USC had the last word.

robyn.norwood@latimes.com

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