Just as he did so many times when he played for USC, Marcus Allen ran determinedly out of the Coliseum tunnel and onto the field.
Tre Madden was not far behind.
Allen, the 1981 Heisman Trophy winner, had donned his retired No. 33 jersey to serve as honorary captain for the Trojans' home opener against Washington State. So Madden and his teammates enthusiastically followed him out of the tunnel.
Though USC lost that night, Madden honored Allen's tailback legacy by rushing for 151 yards in 32 carries. It was the second consecutive game that Madden eclipsed the 100-yard mark, a streak he extended with his 102-yard effort in last week's 35-7 victory over Boston College.
Madden is the first USC player to begin a season with three consecutive 100-yard games since Allen's remarkable 1981 season, one of the greatest in college football history.
Allen has been impressed by the third-year sophomore from Mission Viejo High, who switched from linebacker to tailback and came back from major knee surgery to start for the Trojans.
"He's just sort of scratching the surface of his potential," Allen said. "The more he plays the position the better he'll get and he'll realize he can get even more out of himself."
Few maximized their skills more than Allen, who rushed for 4,810 yards at USC before starring in the NFL.
In 1981, his senior season at USC, Allen rushed for 2,427 yards in 433 carries. He averaged 202.3 yards a game, 5.6 yards per carry and rushed for more than 100 yards in 11 consecutive games. He gained more than 200 yards eight times, including five games in a row to start the season. And he also led the Trojans with 34 receptions.
"He averaged like 200 a game his first five, so I'm nowhere close to that," Madden said. "But that's amazing just to be mentioned with him."
Allen was a reserve tailback as a freshman and starting fullback as a sophomore before succeeding Heisman Trophy-winner Charles White as the starting tailback in 1980. He rushed for more than 100 yards 21 times in his career. White did it 31 times during his four seasons as a Trojans tailback.
Madden's fast start puts him among a select fraternity of six USC backs who started a season with three consecutive 100-yard games, according to USC: Allen and fellow Heisman-winners White, Mike Garrett and O.J. Simpson; Ricky Bell; and 1928 All-American Don Williams.
"It's great to be in that kind of company," he said, adding that credit goes to the offensive line and fullbacks.
Former USC Coach John Robinson said the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Madden hearkens to Bell, who like Madden was converted from linebacker to tailback.
"He's willing to run right through you," Robinson said of Madden, "but each game he seems to make [defensive players] miss a little more."
Madden and freshman Justin Davis, led by an improving offensive line, have helped the Trojans average 196 yards rushing per game.
The 6-1, 200-pound Davis rushed for 96 yards against Boston College, including a 17-yard touchdown run that left several would-be tacklers grasping at air. Robinson even saw a resemblance between Davis, a Stockton native, and Allen, saying they had similar frames and running styles.
"He's fluid and has a flow to him that Marcus had," Robinson said.
Former USC tailback Anthony Davis said the Trojans' focus on the passing game the last few years has moved them away from the punishing, physical ground attacks characteristic of Coach John McKay's great Trojans teams, a style that helped Alabama win consecutive national titles the last two seasons.
Davis, the 1974 Heisman runner-up, eclipsed the 100-yard mark 17 times from 1972 to '74.
Tailbacks such as Madden, he said, must prepare to "carry the load" even if they are not asked to.
"I went into every game thinking 'I'm going to carry the ball every time' because I knew the philosophy at USC at the time was, 'Wear the other team down and beat the hell out people in the fourth quarter,'" Davis said. "That was our game."
That mindset carried into the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Allen spent much of his first season as the starting tailback in 1980 concentrating on living up to the physical style that Bell and White among others established before him.
"I left a lot on the table just trying to be as physical as possible," he said. "Later, when I was comfortable in the position, there were more opportunities to break runs and make guys miss."
Madden's game is expected to develop as the season and his career progresses.
He can extend his 100-yard game streak to four on Saturday against Utah State.
Can he match Allen's 11 straight?
"Only time will tell," Madden said. "I'm just going game by game."
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