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USC REPORT

Trojans have a hidden agenda in enemy territory

September 15, 2007|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

LINCOLN, Neb. -- USC grants more public access to practices than many major college football programs.

The top-ranked Trojans, however, went into hiding in preparation for tonight's game against No. 14 Nebraska.

On Friday, when several hundred onlookers showed up at an Omaha high school to catch a glimpse of the Trojans, Coach Pete Carroll ordered his team off the football field and onto a nearby baseball field that was shielded by stadium bleachers and an outfield fence with a tarp on it.

"A little drama," Carroll said. "It makes it fun that we got to kind of hide out a little bit."

USC personnel patrolled the school and the neighborhood that flanked it to discourage potential spying after a local radio station announced where the Trojans would practice.

"Usually we keep it under wraps, and somebody leaked it out," Carroll said. "Good for the Nebraska fans. They're just trying to get out and see it, and I appreciate it."

Kris O'Dowd made history two weeks ago when he became the first true freshman to start at center for USC.

The opportunity to do it at home, in front of a supportive crowd at the Coliseum, helped O'Dowd handle the responsibility.

Tonight O'Dowd will face an entirely different challenge at Memorial Stadium.

"It's definitely going to be a foreign environment," O'Dowd said. "The noise level is going to be a factor."

So will a Nebraska defense that is bigger and faster than Idaho's.

"The bye week has really helped me better prepare for this team because it's a lot more complicated," O'Dowd said. "I had a couple mistakes against Idaho. I had to get buckled down a little bit."

O'Dowd said he is past celebrating his part in history.

"It's really flattering when people bring that up but I have my own thing I need to prove," he said. "I have to get my trust with the offensive line and get my trust with the coaches. That's more important to me than being the first. Sometimes your number gets called, and mine did."

Kicker David Buehler also could face a number of challenges tonight.

He will attempt field goals and extra points on artificial turf in a game for the first time. "I actually like FieldTurf because there are no holes or divots," Buehler said.

He also will have to adjust for wind, temperatures that could be in the 40s and possible thundershowers.

Buehler said former Nebraska kicker Jordan Congdon, who is redshirting this season at USC, told him the wind was the biggest obstacle.

Today is Carroll's 56th birthday. Asked if he had any plans, he said, "It would be nice to have a nice ballgame here, have some fun, get a little win, get on the plane and get the heck out of here."

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Keys to the Game

No. 1 USC (1-0) at No. 14 Nebraska (2-0) Tonight, 5 PDT TV: Ch. 7. Radio: 710.

1 Leadership: Hostile environments have not shaken USC quarterback John David Booty, but sold-out Memorial Stadium will be his biggest test. Booty, as much as anyone, can take the crowd out of the game with an error-free performance. Cornhuskers quarterback Sam Keller, who played a good first half against the Trojans two years ago at Arizona State, also must keep his poise and avoid bad decisions.

2 In a rush: Chauncey Washington has recovered from a shoulder sprain and will join starter C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson, Desmond Reed and Joe McKnight in USC's tailback rotation. Freshman center Kris O'Dowd cannot get intimidated by the noise in his first big road game. Nebraska needs running back Marlon Lucky to be productive and avoid fumbles.

3 Turnovers. The USC defense needs more sacks, interceptions and fumble recoveries to help the offense and keep Keller in check. Nebraska must avoid mistakes, but the Cornhuskers cannot be afraid to take some chances and go for the victory rather than settling for a respectable loss.

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