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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Trojans not like old selves

While the USC football team might not be as good as it has been in past seasons, that doesn’t mean the Trojans are going to be pushovers Saturday in Los Angeles.

Arizona (7-4, 5-3 Pacific 10 Conference) will take on No. 20 USC (8-3, 5-3) in the season finale for both teams Saturday afternoon at The Coliseum, with the winner likely headed to the Holiday Bowl. For USC — a team that won seven straight Pac-10 titles coming into this season — that wasn’t the goal at the start of the year, but finishing tied for second in the league is still something the Trojans are aiming for.

“”We’ve had some ups and downs here in the later part of the Pac-10 schedule with some games that really shocked us and not being able to stop people. Around that, we’ve played really good defense,”” said USC head coach Pete Carroll. “”We’ve had a good defensive year other than a couple of games here, so hopefully we can get back and play good, solid defense again and continue to run the ball with some consistency and put together a good solid football game.””

Those games that shocked the Trojans were a 47-20 loss to Oregon on Oct. 31 and a 55-21 beating handed down by Stanford on Nov. 14 at The Coliseum. The 55 points were the most USC has allowed in its history.

Arizona’s coaches know that regardless of those two off games against the Ducks and the Cardinal, the Trojans will still present a formidable challenge on Saturday.

“”I think that’s the thing when you play these guys that’s different from everybody else, is they’re just so big and they run around so well,”” said UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”They’re lacking a little bit of experience this year, maybe, that they had last year and it’s taken them a while to get on the same page, but you can see them improving every week. They’ve got a really good defense.””

That defense is led by safety Taylor Mays a 2008 consensus Associated Press All-America selection, but USC has some stellar athletes on the front lines as well. Everson Griffen — a 6-foot-3-inch, 280-pound junior defensive end — is one of those players.

“”He’s got a big motor that we’ve really called on this year and we’ve kind of got him playing with a consistency that he hasn’t played with earlier in his career,”” Carroll said. “” … That’s a lot of physical stuff coming at you. He’s got a real good explosion and get-off at the line of scrimmage that gives him the chance to be a good pass rusher.””

So good that Griffen’s eight sacks rank second in the Pac-10 behind Arizona’s Ricky Elmore, with 10 sacks.

But the Trojans’ freshman quarterback Matt Barkley could decide the outcome of the game against the Wildcats.

Barkley is the first true freshman to ever start the season at quarterback for USC, and his inexperience has shown at times during the season. On the year, Barkley has thrown 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, with five of those picks coming in the three Trojan losses. Carroll expected some growing pains for Barkley, but for the most part he’s been pleased with the play from his young signal caller.

“”He can do everything that you want him to do. He’s really poised, he’s a great competitor and all that,”” Carroll said. “”It’s just a matter of time and he needs to log the experience. He’s been going through that this year and I’m really pleased with everything he’s done.””

The Wildcats and Trojans have played two close games in the past two years — both contests were decided by one touchdown — and that should be the case again this season. Though USC is having an off year by its standards, Arizona knows the Trojans are still a good team and will be tough to beat.

“”We have to have a better week of preparation than we did a week ago and do the little things. … We’re going to need to be a much more balanced team when we play USC,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”That means offense, defense, special teams. You have to be very balanced when you play them. You can’t play a one-sided game against USC. You have to be very balanced if you want to beat them.””

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