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Trojans ensure small back doesn't play big

October 26, 2008|Gary Klein and David Wharton | Klein and Wharton are Times staff writers.

TUCSON — The USC defense had held Arizona to a total of 70 yards rushing in 58 carries in their last three meetings.

But coming into Saturday night's game, there was considerable talk about Arizona's freshman running back, Keola Antolin, who in size and speed resembles Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers.

Antolin did not run like Rodgers against USC, gaining 51 yards in nine carries, and the Wildcats fared only a little better than in their previous meetings with the Trojans, gaining a total of 100 yards on the ground.

Shooting blanks

The USC defense saw its string of 11 scoreless quarters come to an end with 12 minutes 56 seconds remaining in the second quarter when Arizona kicker Jason Bondzio made a 30-yard field goal to tie the score, 3-3.

The last time USC had given up points was three weeks ago, when Oregon kicker Matt Evensen made a 24-yard field goal with 11:09 left in the second quarter at the Coliseum.

USC came into the game ranked in the top eight nationally in every defensive category and No. 2 in total defense.

Bowl blast

With fireworks exploding overhead before the opening kickoff, it wasn't hard to recognize the importance of this game to Arizona.

An even better indicator?

The ring of honor around the upper deck that listed every bowl team in school history. The most recent entry: 1998.

The Wildcats need one more victory to become eligible for the postseason. Their stadium was sold out for the first time in two years.

"It's a real big deal here right now," Arizona running back Nic Grigsby said last week, talking about the buzz around Tucson. "It's crazy."

Helping hand

Pacific 10 Conference teams might not be helping USC's strength-of-schedule factor with Bowl Championship Series computers, but Virginia continues to add luster.

The Cavaliers, who were routed by the Trojans in the opener, on Saturday defeated No. 21 Georgia Tech, 24-17.

Virginia is 5-3 overall and moved to 3-1 and into first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division with its fourth consecutive victory. The Cavaliers last week defeated then-No. 18 North Carolina.

"It took a little time for us to get going," Virginia running back Cedric Peerman, who rushed for 118 yards and the winning touchdown, told reporters after the game. "Our team has come together. We're more unified. We're playing better."

Staying close

USC was scheduled to return to Los Angeles Saturday night, marking the last time during the regular season that the Trojans will leave the state. They have road games remaining at Stanford and UCLA.


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