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Bradford finally delivers on his promise

BILL PLASCHKE

For most of four years, USC running back Allen Bradford has been making promises. Against Oregon State, he came through with 147 yards, more than any other Trojans running back this season. It helped his team defeat the Beavers, 42-36.

October 25, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

The black under his eyes shined like the bruises on Oregon State.

"I Promise," it read.

For most of four years, that is all USC running back Allen Bradford has done.

Promised his father he would help him escape his life as a San Bernardino janitor. Promised his team he would help it return to the national title game. Promised himself he would never quit.

Promises, promises, promises.

Then, pow.

On a misty Saturday night, appearing like a ghost from seasons past, Allen Bradford's promises became punishment, his vows became vicious, his myth became real.

He banged up the middle for 147 yards, more than any other Trojans running back this season.

He bullied across the goal line twice, scores that twice increased five-point leads.

He barged into the minds of Trojans everywhere, leading USC to a 42-36 victory over the irritating Beavers at the Coliseum.

"You can get lost in translation around here," said lineman Butch Lewis. "Tonight you saw what happened when a great player waits."

The wait was worth it for the Trojans' fans, who actually gave him an ovation when he came into the game one play into the final drive.

"I've always known who's got my back," Bradford said after signing countless autographs and posing for photos with countless children.

The wait was worth it for his Trojans teammates, who, in the wake of the injury to Stafon Johnson, love having another runner who is no nonsense and all horizontal.

"He's a monster," said safety Taylor Mays, who should know. "He buys into this program for so many years, he finally gets what he deserves."

The wait was perhaps even worth it for Trojans coaches, although you never know around here, not with Joe McKnight remaining their inconsistent favorite.

"He really brought it hard tonight," said offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates of Bradford. "We're going to keep doing what we're doing."

They will have no choice next week in the showdown at Oregon, as the Ducks' league-best pass defense is susceptible to the rush, allowing 117 yards per game.

This should, once again, be Bradford's moment. But once again, the redshirt junior is counting on nothing.

"You never know what is going to happen around here," he said. "I will just stay by my helmet and be ready."

He could have been gone by now. Perhaps he should have been gone by now.

The highly recruited Colton High produced has spent most of the last four years behind the likes of Emmanuel Moody, Chauncey Washington, Johnson and McKnight.

Of all the buried Trojans running backs, nobody was deeper. But, it turns out, no shovel was stronger than his resilience.

"Yeah, there were plenty of times I felt like leaving," he said. "But as my father told me, life is going to be hard, but you can't run from it."

It is for his father, Keith Bradford, that he initially penciled in the words under his eyes.

"He deserves better than his janitor job, working so hard that he couldn't even come to my game tonight," he said. "He deserves to live in a nicer place."

Watching on television Saturday from his janitorial business, Keith said he was proud, but for reasons other than you might think.

"All of this has made Allen a better person, that's the main thing," said Keith in a phone interview. "Once he commits to something, he hangs in there no matter what happens, and I'm proud of him for that."

Bradford, built like a pro prospect at 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, battled both inactivity and injury before finally getting a chance a couple of weeks ago after the freak accident to Johnson.

On Saturday, those NFL hopes were finally on display. Who knows, maybe that promise can be real?

"My legs are moving until somebody stops me," he said "That's all I can do."

In last year's loss against Oregon State, he didn't touch the ball and actually complained afterward.

This time, he began carrying the ball in the second quarter, and guess what? He bounced through the middle for 44 yards on three consecutive plays, leading to a Matt Barkley touchdown run that gave the Trojans a 21-6 lead.

"Allen was just tremendous," said Coach Pete Carroll.

With the Trojans again clinging to a five-point lead in the third quarter, Bradford opened it up again, rushing for 18 yards up the middle on consecutive plays. This set up Barkley's 38-yard pass to Johnson to the two-yard line, which set up Bradford's two-yard touchdown run.

Then, finally, Bradford did it all himself, bouncing off seemingly everyone in a white uniform to travel 43 yards for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter to give USC a 36-23 lead.

Which brings us back to the "monster" quote. Regarding Bradford, Taylor Mays isn't the only one who has used that word.

Bradford himself has it tattooed on his back: "Monster In This Game," with mouth and teeth. To complete the look, he even has claws tattooed to his shoulder.

Even his computer screen saver reads, "Evolution of Monster," with photos from his youth football days until now.

"One day I want to put an NFL photo in there," he said.

Not so fast, huh? USC fans are just getting to know you. Lots of season left. Plenty of promise.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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