While preparing for Saturday's game against Oregon State, USC spent an inordinate amount of time this week performing extra drills with one objective:
Coach Pete Carroll demanded the focus after the Trojans forced four fumbles against Notre Dame but recovered none of them.
Carroll hopes the work will pay off against Oregon State, but the odds are against the Trojans if the ball is in the hands of Beavers running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
The diminutive sophomore from Texas has never lost a fumble in 454 touches, a streak that includes 387 rushing attempts and 67 pass receptions.
"That's just an unbelievable stat," Trojans middle linebacker Chris Galippo said Wednesday. "I mean, what a challenge."
The 5-foot-7, 191-pound Rodgers introduced himself to USC last season, rushing for 186 yards and two touchdowns in 37 carries in the Beavers' 27-21 upset of then top-ranked USC at Corvallis, Ore.
This season, Rodgers leads the Pacific 10 Conference with 13 touchdowns. He is second in rushing, averaging 116 yards a game.
Two weeks ago against Stanford, Rodgers ran for a career-best 189 yards and four touchdowns.
"He was not only making people miss, but running people over, breaking tackles," Galippo said. "The guy just has unbelievable balance."
And, apparently, a pretty good grip.
Carroll said the secret to Rodgers' no-fumble streak is a combination of small size and expert ball-security technique.
"Guys don't hit him and they can't get to the ball because of the way he protects it," Carroll said. "We'll try and go for it and break the streak."
Tailback Marc Tyler said he would have surgery next week for a toe injury that has kept him sidelined for weeks.
It is the latest in a string of injury-related setbacks for the third-year sophomore who redshirted in 2007 because of a broken leg suffered in high school.
"I've been through this way too many times," said Tyler, who rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown in five carries in the opener against San Jose State. "I wish I could be out there, but I'm just relieved that I finally know what's going to happen."
Tyler is aiming to be running by the end of January with the hope of being at full strength for the start of spring practice.
After reviewing tape that featured shots from several angles, the Pac-10's coordinator of football officials said the Pac-10 crew that worked last week's game at Notre Dame erred by not calling a penalty against the Fighting Irish on a fake field-goal play.
Notre Dame set up its first touchdown with a 25-yard gain that was achieved when the holder took a snap and then passed to a receiver, who had remained in bounds near the Notre Dame sideline when the field-goal unit came onto the field.
"It appears a foul should have been called for using substitutions to deceive," Dave Cutaia said.
Cutaia said Notre Dame should have been assessed a 15-yard penalty from the previous spot and repeated the down.
Carroll declined to comment about Cutaia's finding.
Fullback Stanley Havili said he suffered a torn ligament in his left shoulder against Notre Dame and is doubtful for Oregon State. Sophomore D.J. Shoemate is on track to start in his place. . . . Cornerback Josh Pinkard sat out most of practice because of an ankle sprain. "Just a tweak," he said. "I'll be fine." . . . Defensive tackle Christian Tupou (knee) participated in a few plays but Armond Amstead will probably start.