UA hopes for L.A. 'thrill'

By Craig Degel
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 9, 1996

Chris Richards
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Kelly Malveaux (21), who often covers the opponents' best receiver, has "the toughest position on the field," UA coach Dick Tomey said.


You shouldn't expect the Randy Newman tune "I Love L.A." to be on the top 10 play list in the Arizona football team's locker room.

The Wildcats, who play Southern Cal on Saturday at the Memorial Coliseum, have found the going tough while playing in Los Angeles. Although they have won just twice in 11 tries at USC, the Wildcats may like the idea of playing the Trojans, if nothing else.

"I think players like to play USC," UA head coach Dick Tomey said. "They have more football tradition in the country except maybe for Notre Dame."

Redshirt freshman Keith Smith, who attended Newbury Park High School, about an hour northwest of Los Angeles, agreed.

"Even if SC had nobody, they have tradition, those colors and the band," Smith said.

Southern Cal's status as one of college football's elite makes a win all the sweeter.

"Beating a team people hold in high regard is a thrill," Tomey said. "I'm excited to beat anyone, to tell you the truth."

More than 30 players on the UA roster hail from the Southern California area, but Smith will probably be the owner of the largest cheering section come Saturday.

He said he expects at least 150 people to be on hand for his first game experience in Los Angeles as a Wildcat.

As excitable as Smith can be, is it possible that having that many friends and family in the crowd will get him a little too pumped up.

"I can get as excited as I want," Smith said, smiling. "I'm going to be jumping off the walls. Hopefully, I can rise up to things."

That's exactly what the secondary that has come to be known as "Desert Swipe" hopes to do - intercept Trojan senior quarterback Brad Otton. A lot.

The UA secondary leads the Pacific 10 Conference with 10 interceptions. Four have come from newcomer Chris McAlister. Oddly enough, however, the man considered the leader of that group, junior Kelly Malveaux, has yet to take away a pass.

He plays what Dick Tomey called the "toughest position on the field."

Every weekend, Malveaux lines up against the opposing team's toughest receiver and is expected to shut him down. To complicate matters, Arizona's defensive scheme - the double-eagle flex - provides little or no help for Malveaux in man-to-man coverage.

While Malveaux has had his bad and his good days, there is one aspect of his performance that Tomey is pleased with: Malveaux has yet to get burned for a touchdown, "which is what it's all about," Tomey said.

The Trojans will be coming off a 22-15 loss to a California Golden Bear team that has surprised some people this year. The loss knocked the Trojans out of the national rankings and put a damper on their Rose Bowl hopes.

This is not a happy team.

"I think they'll play better coming off a loss, but that's OK," Tomey said.

At his news conference yesterday, Tomey was presented with the possibility that maybe Southern Cal just didn't get up for the Cal game. While he didn't totally say the suggestion was wrong, he did offer some insight.

"I remember when they beat us and it was like, 'Yawn,'" Tomey said. "And I've seen them beat us and almost carry their coach off the field. When I saw that I thought we'd made real progress."

Statistics, trivia, and other things: Tomey said UA defensive lineman Joe Salave'a and defensive end Mike Szlauko are still battling injuries this week but are expected to play on Saturday. ... The Trojans won last year's meeting 31-10 in Tucson. ... The last time Arizona won in Los Angeles was 1990. That same year the Wildcats also defeated UCLA at the Rose Bowl, marking the only time UA has won two games in Los Angeles in the same year. ... McAlister's four interceptions leads the conference and rank him third in the country. ... Senior Matt Peyton is tied for fourth in the nation with two field goals per game.