Loss drops Trojans in polls, but not in Pac

By Arlie Rahn

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Southern Cal Trojans blew their chance at establishing themselves as a Top Five-caliber team, losing to Notre Dame 38-10. Not only did the loss tarnish their unbeaten record, but it also dropped the Trojans (6-1 overall, 4-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference) from fifth to 13th.

"There's really not much to say," USC head coach John Robinson said. "We played bad, Notre Dame played good. It was a matter of their ability to run at us and our inability to make plays. They had a good plan, they executed it, and they overwhelmed us. We are surprised by the one-sided score, but given the errors it is believable."

It was their rushing defense that was the Trojans' downfall. The Irish offensive line had its way against the smaller, quicker USC front and helped Notre Dame to 191 yards on the ground.

"Offensively, we controlled the ball for 35 minutes, which we felt was very, very important," Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz said.

But Notre Dame's overall execution was the difference between Saturday's game against USC and prior matches against Army and Northwestern.

"I thought that we played the way we would like to play in two facets of the game. We had the one turnover on offense, but forced four on defense and didn't give up the big play," Holtz said. "It was a great win. We beat an awfully talented, very well-coached football team that really will make its presence known in the Pac-10."

The Pac-10 title could be on the line when Washington squares off at home against USC this weekend. Both teams are undefeated and the winner would continue to control its own destiny.

"This game is a huge one because of the record of both teams," Washington head coach Jim Lambright said. "But people have to realize that the longer a team stays in the race, the more important each game becomes. So the winner has to stay focused in their last three weeks."

The Huskies will be playing in front of their home crowd, but the difference might be the winner of the offensive and defensive line battles.

"We have to be able to share the line of scrimmage with them," Lambright said. "It will be our biggest physical challenge of the year."

Another test will be if the Huskies can find a way to control receiver Keyshawn Johnson. In USC's loss to Notre Dame, Johnson had six catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.

"Johnson could well be the best player in college football right now," Lambright said. "You know he is going to get his catches, you just can't let him beat you. That involves making sure guys are always around him and don't let him get as many yards after he catches the ball."

On the offensive end, Washington is going to have to find a way to run against a Trojan defense that is ranked first in the Pac-10, allowing just 97 yards a game.

"We'll have to go back and look at the tape of the Notre Dame game and see what they did, but from their Pac-10 games we know they have been a tough team to run on," Lambright said. "Their size is going to make every yard on the ground a big effort."

The surprise team in the Pac-10 might again be the Oregon Ducks. With all the focus on this weekend's game between USC and Washington, some people may be forgetting the defending conference champion Ducks. Since Oregon does not face the Trojans this year, a Washington win might be enough to vault the Ducks back to the Rose Bowl.

"I'm very happy at where our team is right now in the conference race," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "Our win last weekend against Washington State puts us one more step closer to returning to the Rose Bowl."

The difference in the Ducks' 26-7 win over the Cougars was the play of the "Gang-Green" defense. In addition to holding WSU to just one touchdown, the defense forced five turnovers and scored 12 points.

"The first interception was kind of a backbreaker, because we had done so well moving the ball," WSU head coach Mike Price said of Oregon's 35-yard interception return for a touchdown. "We had them in the position we wanted and we don't make a very good throw and they make a real good defensive effort to catch the ball and put it in the end zone."

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