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Joe McKnight gets another opportunity to shine against Arizona

Two years after his coming-out, in which he dazzled with two key plays, he has a chance to become the Trojans' first 1,000-yard rusher since 2005.

December 04, 2009|By Gary Klein

Joe McKnight would like nothing more than a repeat performance.

Two years ago, in a 20-13 victory over Arizona at the Coliseum, McKnight set up the go-ahead touchdown with a dazzling punt return. He followed with a long run from scrimmage to set up an insurance field goal.

It was a coming out of sorts for McKnight, a freshman at the time who had been plagued by fumbles.

"I remember being surprised to get in the game at that time," McKnight said Thursday. "I was surprised that Coach [Pete] Carroll gave me the opportunity."

Two years later, McKnight has an opportunity to become the Trojans' first 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush and LenDale White achieved the feat in 2005.

McKnight enters Saturday's regular-season finale against Arizona at the Coliseum with 979 yards and eight touchdowns.

The junior from Louisiana suffered a thigh bruise against UCLA, an injury that kept him out of practice nearly all week. But McKnight completed a full workout Thursday and pronounced himself fit for the game against the Wildcats.

"I was just trying to get through it and not aggravate it anymore," he said.

Front and center

Kristofer O'Dowd could not have picked a more appropriate opponent to face in his return to the starting lineup.

O'Dowd grew up five minutes from Arizona's Tucson campus.

"It's kind of funny how it comes down to U of A," O'Dowd said.

O'Dowd, who suffered a dislocated kneecap during training camp, has not started since Oct. 17 against Notre Dame.

The junior was replaced by Jeff Byers the next week against Oregon State.

Reduced practice reps allowed O'Dowd to regain strength that had been lost after coming back too soon from the injury.

"It was tough at first because I had to swallow my pride a little bit," he said. "But in the long run it was best for me."

O'Dowd will be flanked by Byers at left guard and Butch Lewis at right guard.

Lewis has played both tackle spots and left guard this season.

Waiting game

Junior defensive end Everson Griffen, another Arizona native, said this week that he would wait until after the season to decide whether to make himself available for the NFL draft.

"I'm really not worried about that right now," said Griffen, who has eight sacks. "I'm just trying to finish strong. And then I'll make a decision about what's going to benefit me in the long run."

Green with envy

Special teams standout Garrett Green suffered a season-ending knee injury against UCLA, but he plans to be mobile for Saturday's pregame salute that will include 21 fellow seniors.

"I'll find a way," said Green, who will undergo surgery after the bowl game to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. "I don't know if I'll be on crutches, hopping or limping. Hopefully, I won't slow anyone down."

Tailback Stafon Johnson, who suffered season-ending throat injuries in September, is among the seniors who will be honored.

Quick hits

Oregon's victory over Oregon State, which gave the Ducks the Pacific 10 Conference title and a berth in the Rose Bowl, puts USC in position for a probable Holiday Bowl bid if the Trojans defeat Arizona. . . . USC announced that bowl-game ticket applications will be e-mailed to football season-ticket holders, including donors, on Sunday with a return deadline of Dec. 11. . . . Arizona defensive end Ricky Elmore,a junior from Simi Valley, leads the Pacific 10 Conference with 10 sacks. "Most of all, it's about knowing who I'm playing against, playing a lot harder and being relentless," Gilmore told the Arizona Republic. "Those three things are really helping me out."

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