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USC's Drew McAllister to start in place of safety T.J. McDonald

The Pacific 12 Conference suspended McDonald for an illegal hit on Stanford receiver Chris Owusu on Saturday. He will sit out the first half of the Trojans' game Friday against Colorado.

November 01, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC receiver Drew McAllister, right, catches a touchdown pass over Stanford's Johnson Bademosi in 2009. McAllister will start in place of the suspended T.J. McDonald against Colorado on Friday.
USC receiver Drew McAllister, right, catches a touchdown pass over Stanford's… (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles…)

Drew McAllister will start at safety for USC on Friday night against Colorado as T.J. McDonald serves a suspension for an illegal hit, Coach Lane Kiffin announced Tuesday.

The Pacific 12 Conference suspended McDonald for the first half against the Buffaloes for his hit on Stanford receiver Chris Owusu on Saturday. USC was assessed a 15-yard, personal-foul penalty for McDonald's fourth-quarter play, which helped fuel a game-tying drive by the Cardinal.

"I thought the flag was enough, but I respect their decision," McDonald said as he walked to the locker room after practice. "Now I know I have to abide by their rules. This is the league that I play in and I have to abide by that, so I'm going to respect that decision and move forward from there."

McDonald apologized to teammates for what will be a two-quarter absence, but USC coaches said McDonald had no choice but to make the play he did because the window of reaction time was so narrow and because Owusu slid to the ground.

"The only thing I can say is, 'Just wrap up,' " said Sammy Knight, a former USC and NFL defensive back who is coaching the Trojans secondary as a graduate assistant. "You get into a situation where it sounds good to say, 'Go ahead, tackle low,' but you get a knee to your head and you're paralyzed.

"We're going to try and work on some things this week, some different tactics."

Stanford Coach David Shaw said Pac-12 coaches have made a concerted effort to teach players to hit at chest level or below.

"Sometimes it just happens," he said. "It's the heat of the moment and sometimes it's been missed because it is a fine line. Does the guy lead with his shoulder or does he lead with his head? Does he hit the guy in the chest or does he hit him under the chin? Is it truly helmet-to-helmet contact or is it shoulder-to-chest contact?

"It happens in a split second and in our USC game they got the call right."

Shaw also said, "We all have memories of Ronnie Lott and Kenny Easley and all these big-time safeties that would just crush people. Steve Atwater. You never want to take that out of the game."

Oregon State Coach Mike Riley seemed to agree.

"It's almost like when there's a big hit in the secondary, there's a flag, and some of it just looks like football to me.

"I think we're going to have to look at that hard in the off-season and get some kind of general consensus of where we go with this and how we coach our kids. Basically what we say now is, 'if you're in a place to get hit like that, you've got to avoid targeting the head or head-to-head combat.' In a bang-bang situation, it's hard. I think you're just seeing a lot of stuff that in the old days looked like a good hit."

McAllister had a team-best three interceptions as a freshman in 2008 but was slowed the last two seasons because of hip injuries.

Moving on

Tailback Curtis McNeal, who is expected to start against Colorado, said he has moved past his game-ending fumble against the Cardinal.

"It took a lot away, especially when you're in a groove, having a good game like that," said McNeal, who had rushed for a career-best 145 yards and two touchdowns. "Then, for something like that to happen, it's not just even the fumble. I fumbled and we lost. That just really hit me hard.

"I know how hard my teammates worked all year long for big games like that and I fumbled at the end."

Marc Tyler did not practice because of a shoulder injury and George Farmer remains sidelined because of an ankle injury, so the Trojans will probably travel to Colorado with only McNeal, freshman Amir Carlisle and redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan available at tailback.

Quick hits

Linebacker Dion Bailey did not practice because of a concussion suffered against Stanford. Freshman Tre Madden will start if Bailey is not cleared by Friday, Kiffin said…. Kiffin said he had not yet written the check for the $10,000 fine he incurred for criticizing game officials. "I am sorry that all this happened," he said. "I have learned from this. I have learned that, regardless of questions, I can't answer anything having to do with a call during a game or any conversation that an official has with me from here on out."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

Staff writer Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.

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