COLLEGE FOOTBALL : A No-Win Situation for Smith's Family: Old Loyalties Die Hard

Times Staff Writer

Corby Smith was wearing a USC Trojan T-shirt, but his heart was with the Arizona Wildcats.

Smith, the 14-year-old son of USC (and ex-Arizona) football Coach Larry Smith, was near tears after the Trojans came back to beat the Wildcats, 12-10, Saturday before 51,428 fans at the Coliseum to set up next week's Rose Bowl showdown with UCLA.

Corby and his mother, Cheryl, were hugging the Arizona players as they walked into the locker room after the game.

"I grew up with the Arizona Wildcats," Corby said. "I love these guys. It was really hard for me to go against them. I was rooting for the Trojans because my dad's the coach. But it was an emotional thing. I spent the last seven years at Arizona and that's a long time. I grew up with the Wildcats. I'll always be a Wildcat."

Said Cheryl Smith: "I didn't have mixed emotions because we're Trojans and we needed the win. But in a lot of cases, I know the Arizona players better than I know the Trojan players. Corby loves the (Arizona) players. He was part of the team for so long."

The Wildcats, who were on record before the game as saying that they wanted to pay back Coach Smith for leaving Arizona last January to take the USC job, were subdued after the Trojans drove 86-yards to win the game on an 18- yard field goal by Quin Rodriguez with 1 minute 11 seconds left.

Dick Tomey, who replaced Smith as the Arizona coach, said his team didn't dedicate the game to beating Smith.

"That had nothing to do with it," Tomey said. "This was an important game to us and our season. I think our players respect Coach Smith, but I don't think that had anything to do with the game. Our players just want a good season. They wanted to win. They played for those reasons, not because they're going against Coach Smith.

"USC deserves a lot of credit. There was a lot of pressure on them and they went on a long drive and got it done at the end when they had to. It was a great effort defensively, but not good enough to win."

Free safety Chuck Cecil, who said before the game that the Wildcats felt as though Smith had abandoned them for USC, looked as if he were about to burst into tears after the game.

"We thought we had something to prove," said Cecil, who played three years for Smith. "We wanted to show that we had good players at Arizona, win lose or draw. I think he (Smith) knows that.

"Every game is emotional for us. I can't speak for the whole team, but with Coach Smith being our old coach, it might have added to our emotional attitude."

Said Smith: "It was a familiar uniform and familiar faces on the other side of the field, and I know that they played their tails off. But I was not wrapped up in that emotion."

Cecil, who made 13 tackles, said the Trojans didn't make any adjustments on their drive to set up the game-winning field goal.

"They did the same things that they were doing the whole game," Cecil said. "We had a couple of inside linebackers (Jerry Beasley and Gallen Allen) hurt on the drive and that might have been a factor.

"We felt we could hold them down there. But SC did a good job of smash-em-up football. They just came at you."

Said quarterback Jeff Hammerschmidt, a redshirt freshman: "I didn't care about Coach Smith. He did nothing for me. But I could see how some of the seniors might feel differently."

Linebacker Beasley, who led Arizona's defense with 18 tackles, said the Wildcats didn't want to gain revenge against Smith.

"We wanted to beat the USC Trojans, not Coach Smith," Beasley said. "But they just ran the ball (on the game-winning drive), and we didn't stop them."

Said Allen, who played an inspired game with 11 tackles and one sack: "I don't think we had anything to prove. We held USC to four field goals, so we can be proud. We have nothing to hang our heads over.

"But the comments he (Coach Smith) made before the game were a lot of . . . And a lot of the guys didn't like it. Coaches don't play games. It was a lot of media hype. If it was all it was built up to be, coaches would suit up and play the games instead of the players."

Said inside linebacker Darren Case: "You get fired up for every game, but this was an exceptional game. I heard that he (Smith) said we wore sissy shoes."

The Wildcats may have had some extra incentive to beat USC because of Smith, but they played with a big handicap after losing starting quarterback Ronald Veal, who left the game in the second quarter when he reinjured his right shoulder.

Veal, who was originally hurt in last week's 21-21 tie with Washington, started the game but had to leave midway through the second period and didn't return.

Hammerschmidt, a converted defensive back, was forced into service as Arizona's emergency quarterback. But Hammerschmidt was ineffective because he couldn't pass well enough to keep USC's defense off guard.

Hammerschmidt failed to complete a pass, going 0-5.

Veal said Arizona might have beaten the Trojans if he had been able to play the entire game.

"I think it might have been different, although a lot of people may not think so," Veal said.

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