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Maualuga offers up his own Heisman candidate

September 14, 2008|Gary Klein and David Wharton | Times Staff Writers

On a night when quarterback Mark Sanchez passed for four touchdowns, USC linebacker Rey Maualuga was asked who should be the Trojans' Heisman Trophy candidate.

"You're looking right at him," Maualuga said.

In a game that featured several of college football's best linebackers, Maualuga shined brightest in top-ranked USC's 35-3 victory over fifth-ranked Ohio State on Saturday night at the Coliseum.

The senior from Eureka, Calif., made five tackles despite a broken right ring finger and made the most electrifying play of the night in the second quarter when he picked off a Todd Boeckman pass intended in the left flat and charged down the right sideline for a 48-yard touchdown.

Fellow Trojans linebacker Brian Cushing tied for the team lead with 10 tackles. Clay Matthews had six tackles, including a sack, and forced a fumble.

Ohio State's James Laurinaitis, the 2007 Butkus Award winner, had nine tackles. Teammate Marcus Freeman had seven, including the Buckeyes' lone sack.

Holding the line

USC defensive lineman Fili Moala, who had no tackles in the season-opening victory over Virginia, had four against the Buckeyes, including a sack.

"I took it personal for myself to come out here and really impose my will and do what I do best," Moala said. "And that's rushing the passer and stopping the run."

Wright choice?

Coach Pete Carroll defended his decision to play cornerback Shareece Wright even though Wright was charged last week with felony resisting a police officer in connection with a party that got out of hand over Labor Day weekend.

"With the information we have at this point . . . we'll just wait and figure it out," Carroll said. "I thought this was over. I thought it was a done deal."

Wright also expressed surprise that the San Bernardino County district attorney chose to press charges in the incident. He said only that when police responded to the scene, he went back into the house instead of leaving the premises.

The junior said he was initially worried about being suspended from the team and was thankful for Carroll's support.

"He knows who I am, what type of guy I am," Wright said. "People who know me know that isn't me."

On the run

Sophomore tailback Joe McKnight had the bulk of USC's carries, rushing 12 times for 105 yards before leaving in the third quarter because of what was announced as a migraine.

No other tailback had more than five carries.

"When we came in at halftime and he was averaging 11.7 yards a carry, I think we would have been fools not to come out in the third quarter and try to keep him going," offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said.

New and improved

The improved Coliseum, sporting $4 million in upgrades, debuted to generally positive reviews from fans at Saturday evening's game.

Officials waited until an hour before kickoff to start up the $2-million high-definition videoboard.

"It's a lot clearer," said Don Crampton, 74, of La Mirada, a season-ticket holder for four decades. "You can see the whole picture."

The $1-million sound system was not as well received, with a sampling of fans saying they could not hear a difference from last season. Surprisingly, people seemed to like the additional 1,607 seats tucked into the lower corners of the east end zone.

One side was filled largely with Ohio State fans, several of whom said they were happy to pay $450 per ticket online. The other side was devoted to students who didn't complain about the bad angle or, in some cases, obstructed views.

"It's fine as long as it opens up [seats] for more students," said Matt Miller, 22, a senior.


Before the game, the Coliseum crowd was asked to observe a moment of silence for philanthropist Katherine Loker, a legendary university donor who died this summer at age 92. Loker and her late husband, Donald, donated more than $30 million to USC.

Afterward, some thought the fans would be asked to add a moment of silence for the victims of Friday's Chatsworth train tragedy.

They were not.


Times staff writer Bill Plaschke contributed to this report.


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