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Trojans recall the not so friendly sky of '07

A harrowing flight to South Bend the last time USC played there is something not soon forgotten.

October 15, 2009|Gary Klein

USC players and coaches are looking forward to playing at Notre Dame.

But not today's plane ride to get there.

Memories of a harrowing arrival two years ago remain fresh for the sixth-ranked Trojans, who play the No. 25 Fighting Irish on Saturday at South Bend, Ind.

"I bet there are still guys that are scared of flying because of that," offensive lineman Jeff Byers said Wednesday.

Fellow offensive lineman Butch Lewis counts himself among them. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Lewis and others on the charter flight in 2007 were hurled from their seats and bumped their heads on the ceiling when the plane dropped while making an approach through a lightning storm. The pilot aborted the approach and circled before landing in South Bend without incident.

Lawrence Jackson, a senior defensive end that season, was treated by team medical personnel at the team hotel because a Popsicle stick pierced the inside of his mouth during the drop.

"A whole bunch of football players were screaming," senior safety Taylor Mays recalled. "I was screaming and I had my eyes closed.

"It was like a couple little drops and then like a roller-coaster drop. But it wasn't a roller coaster."

Running backs coach Todd McNair was seated next to his wife when the plane dropped.

"She popped up and landed in the aisle a row behind me," he said. "You don't forget that."

Lewis said players literally ran off the plane once it landed.

"We always have a snack when we get to the hotel and it's usually a fun time, everybody sitting in a big room and laughing," he said. "Not that night. It was dead quiet."

Lewis said he already had formulated a plan for today's flight.

"If it's cloudy," he said, "I'm taking sleeping pills."

Te'o time

USC lost out to Notre Dame last February in the recruiting battle for linebacker Manti Te'o.

The freshman from Hawaii recorded 10 tackles in the Irish victory over Washington two weeks ago.

"He's a really good player, obviously, we felt that going in," Coach Pete Carroll said. "He's showing that he's just getting started. He's going to be a great player in time."

Quick hits

Carroll's hair was soaked and matted, his pants covered in mud after the Trojans concluded their second consecutive practice in the rain. "This is a blessing for us," he said. "It isn't always clean and pristine all the time." . . . With defensive tackle Christian Tupou (knee) still limited, Armond Armstead continued to work at tackle instead of end. . . . Tailback Marc Tyler (toe) remains sidelined and will be revaluated by team doctors next week to determine his status.


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