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Thursday October 5, 2000

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Trojans hope for happy ending to LA Story

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By Ryan Finley

Arizona Daily Wildcat

USC frustrated despite depth, talent

The University of Southern California is angry.

After losing to Oregon State last weekend, 31-21, the Trojans can now best be described as a sleeping giant that has been suddenly - violently - awakened.

The Trojans will play host to the UA football team (3-1 overall, 1-0 Pacific 10 Conference) Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

The Trojans (3-1, 0-1) are a team that has been steadily plagued by inconsistencies following a season-opening victory against Penn State.

"We are at home and we really do need to bounce back," senior tailback Petros Papadakis said. "We're all in this together."

UA head coach Dick Tomey is well aware of the capabilities of the No. 18 Trojans, that - prior to last Saturday - had not lost to Oregon State in 33 years.

"Our opponent's mentality is one of tremendous sense of urgency because they lost last week," Tomey said. "Every team is more dangerous after they've been beaten than after they've won - particularly teams that have great pride that are used to winning."

Throughout its history, USC has been home to a myriad of college football legends - O.J. Simpson, Mike Garrett, Charles White, Marcus Allen, and Junior Seau are just a few of the 121 All-Americans to attend the school.

In the year 2000, all signs point to the fact that USC senior linebackers Zeke Moreno and Markus Steele will join the long list of Trojan legends. Both are on the 2000 Butkus Award preseason "Watch List."

"Our two seniors have been the leaders of the entire football team, not just the defense," USC head coach Paul Hackett said.

Moreno is a prototypical linebacker - 6-foot-3 and physical, the San Diego-native has 30 tackles, 8 tackles for losses, and two sacks so far this season.

"Zeke Moreno is off to a good start," Hackett said. "He just brings a lot of experience, confidence and know-how as a three-year starter."

Last weekend against the Beavers, Moreno recovered a fumble and ran it 80 yards for a touchdown.

"He's probably the best athlete in the whole group in terms of playing the pass and playing the run," Hackett said.

Tomey agreed.

"Every time you turn on film, he's picking up a ball, intercepting it, running it for a touchdown (or) creating a fumble and running for a touchdown," he said. "He's unbelievable."

Steele, who made his name known last season after transferring from junior college, led the Trojans in tackles for losses and was second in overall tackles in 1999.

"The whole world tried to recruit him out of Long Beach City College," Tomey said. "They're all in the molds of the Chris Claiborne's and the years and years of outstanding linebackers that USC's had."

Steele and Moreno bring a formidable one-two punch to the Trojan defense.

"Markus Steele has been off to a good start," Hackett said. "Markus has the speed to close. (Steele and Moreno) are the ones we rely on for the big play."

Offensively, the Trojans may be the most potentially-dangerous team Arizona will face all year.

Sophomore quarterback Carson Palmer, who missed most of 1999 due to a broken collarbone, is one of the nation's premier young quarterbacks despite his slow start in 2000.

With just 12 starts under his belt, Palmer is already eighth on Southern Cal's all-time passing list.

"I am very confident in Carson," Papadakis said. "He's a wonderful quarterback (and) has shown sparks of brilliance."

Running the football will be either tailback Sultan McCullough or the powerful Papadakis, a short-yardage specialist.

"They're going to give us some speed from a personnel standpoint that nobody else in the country has," Tomey said.

A 10.7-second 100-yard runner, McCullough is the fastest USC player in team history.

Papadakis, one of college football's oddest characters, once referred to himself as a "Berkeley poet-sage" before transferring to Southern California from California.

On the field, the off-the-wall tailback - who already has four touchdowns this season - will be looked to as short-yardage specialist against the Wildcats.

"We've got our young guys ready," Papadakis said. "We are going to have to run the ball against their defense a little bit."

All told, the Wildcats should have their hands full when they take on the Trojans - along with USC's history and frustrations - Saturday afternoon.

The Trojan faithful will not be content with anything less than total domination of the Wildcats.

"This is USC," Hackett said. "This is different. The expectations are that you need to win every game, regardless of whom you're playing."