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USC FOOTBALL FYI

USC receiver Ronald Johnson wants a chance to redeem himself

He dropped a certain touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of USC's 20-16 loss to Notre Dame, and then spent a long weekend reliving it. He says next time he will make the play.

December 01, 2010|By Gary Klein

USC receiver Ronald Johnson looks forward to Saturday night's game against UCLA because it marks his final opportunity to play for the Trojans and another chance to beat the Bruins.

Of course, there's another reason.

"I get a chance to redeem myself," he said Tuesday.

Johnson dropped a certain touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of USC's 20-16 loss to Notre Dame, and then spent a long weekend reliving it.

"I should have caught the ball. I should have made the play," he said. "Unfortunately I didn't, and next time I will."

Coaches, teammates and friends offered Johnson encouragement, telling the Michigan native that one play did not define his career.

"It was pretty tough, but I'm over it now," said Johnson, who has caught 59 passes this season, eight for touchdowns.

Coach Lane Kiffin said Johnson practiced well, but also noted that it was evident the drop was still on the receiver's mind when he ran similar routes. Comparing Johnson's situation to a quarterback who must come back after having a pass intercepted, Kiffin expects Johnson to "respond really well" against UCLA.

But it will be tough to put the drop completely behind.

"He's never going to truly recover from that — that's who he is and how personal it is," Kiffin said. "That's always going to be a scar and a weight on his shoulders for his whole life.

"As time goes it will get less and less, but it will always be there."

Baxter learns a lesson

Freshman tailback Dillon Baxter said he learned another valuable lesson after temporarily losing his eligibility for accepting a ride on a golf cart from a student who is an agent.

"It just made me realize, I've got to watch out who I hang out with, know their background and just be careful," Baxter said.

The UCLA game will end a tumultuous season for Baxter, who was suspended for the opener at Hawaii because of violations of team rules and also was held out against Oregon State because the golf-cart ride was considered a prohibited extra benefit.

Baxter said he was responsible for holding himself back.

"[I] just keep doing little things that I keep doing and that's mainly it," he said, adding that it was a matter of "staying out of trouble."

Baxter, the 2009 U.S. Army national high school player of the year, has rushed for 252 yards and scored only one touchdown in nine games.

"The potential is still there," Kiffin said. "He's still a dynamic catcher, runner, [a player who] makes people miss. He's just got to get focused."

Moving forward, Baxter said he has learned, "All eyes are on you. Even when you don't think so, all eyes are on you."

Quick hits

Safety T.J. McDonald, his right arm in a sling because of a shoulder injury, will not play against UCLA…. Offensive lineman Tyron Smith (knee) did not practice.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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