By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The fifth-ranked Southern Cal Trojans managed to overcome their three suspensions and handily defeat Arizona State 31-0 Saturday in Los Angeles. Linebackers Israel Ifeanyi and Errick Herrin and tailback Shawn Walters were suspended for the game after it was found they took money and pagers from California agent Robert T. Caron. USC head coach John Robinson said he did not think the suspensions had much impact on the outcome of the game.
"I don't think our team was thinking about that," Robinson said. "They all feel for their teammates, but this is a team. This is another example that this is a team that is developing some solid team values and belief in each other."
Walters' suspension made way for the emergence of sophomore tailback Delon Washington, who responded by gaining 118 yards.
"They told me on Wednesday I'd be getting the ball 20 or 30 times," Washington said. "I was kind of scared at first. I was questioning my playing ability so I was kind of shaky the first couple of carries."
Senior wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson also picked up the slack with 13 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown, setting an NCAA record with his 12th straight game of at least 100 receiving yards.
"USC has dramatically improved," ASU coach Bruce Snyder said. "They are a very athletic team, especially with Keyshawn Johnson. That runner (Washington) is also good, and he was their third back. He could start on most teams."
Arizona State's schedule is not getting any easier, as the Sun Devils will host a vastly improved Stanford team this Saturday.
"We've now completed three really hard road games in September," Snyder said. "My concern was that if we could survive it, we could really finish strong. We're a very resilient team and we're going to have to be because Stanford is a good football team."
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The Washington State Cougars accomplished what they set out to do this weekend against No. 2 Nebraska Ÿ show they can run with the big boys.
"I'm proud of our effort against Nebraska," WSU head coach Mike Price said. "We have improved some, but I think we played a team that's probably as good as any team we've ever played against since I've been here."
The Cougars had to constantly fight back after taking a 7-0 first-quarter lead on a Frank Madu 87-yard run.
"On Frank's run, we had perfect execution," Price said. "They were in a strong safety blitz to try and take our sweep away from us. But instead, we ran a counter and we just kicked their strong safety out. Eric Moore made a great block and then Frank just outran everybody on the field."
After three quarters, the Cougars found themselves down 28-7. But instead of rolling over for the Cornhuskers, Washington State came right after the more-talented Nebraska squad.
"Late in the second half we opened it up, not only because we had better field position, but we were running out of time," Price said. "We thought we could hurt them if they blitzed. Well, they blitzed and we scored a touchdown. But then they played zone and we also scored a touchdown.
"I think our protection was also better in the second half."
The end result was WSU outscoring Nebraska 14-7 in the final quarter. And while the Cougars lost the game, their fourth quarter is something the coaching staff can look at with a positive frame of mind.
"We got beat by a better team last Saturday," Price said. "But it was good to see our players make some big plays, like Frank Madu did. I'm encouraged by those things and those players."
The Cougars will continue their option defense this weekend when they face the wishbone style of Oregon State.
"It is a difficult game to prepare for, both offensively and defensively, because we don't see the offenses and defenses they run," Price said. "This year, however, it will be a little easier because this will be the third running attack we have faced."
Oregon State head coach Jerry Pettibone echoed Price's feelings about the Cougar's previous games.
"Yes, I think Nebraska helped them prepare," Pettibone said. "It is the same thing that happened to Washington last week. It's not quite the same help that Washington got from playing Army because Nebraska doesn't run the triple option. But a lot of the same concepts carry over and will be a benefit to the Cougars' defense."
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The game of catch-up was a common one this weekend, as Oregon State could not overcome a 17-3 halftime deficit and fell to No. 18 Washington 26-16.
"The only thing I want to say about the Washington game is that after looking at the game tape it is obvious to me that our players are playing hard," Pettibone said. "They fell behind early and continued to compete for 60 minutes and do everything they could to win the game."
The Beavers continued their dominance on the ground, and their 360 yards running moved them to ninth in the nation in rushing, an average of 259 yards a game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tim Alexander became the sixth Beaver player to rush for over 100 yards in a game, with 24 carries for 182 yards. But Alexander also showed the ability to pass, throwing for 140 yards.
"I was really pleased with Tim and his first opportunity to start and how he responded to it," Pettibone said. "His ability to make long runs, to throw the ball and make things happen are definitely there. He brings a lot to our offense."
The loss makes OSU winless in its last four games, and for Pettibone, the frustration is beginning to set in.
"The only thing I can do as a head coach is to continue to believe that we have a good philosophy and that our schemes are good," Pettibone said. "We have young men that are practicing and giving the best effort they can. We just have to work our way through it and continue to practice and bear down more mentally so we can eliminate the mistakes that have been hurting us."
On the other side of the ball, Washington coach Jim Lambright was pleased to see his team come out aggressive.
"We've been terrible in the first half through our first three games," Lambright said. "I was very pleased with the fact that our offense came out and did what we practiced this week. It is a great feeling to be 3-1 and 2-0 in our conference going into (Saturday's game against) Notre Dame."
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