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Smith Wants Trojans to Focus on Task at Hand : Today’s Game Against Cal Is the First Hurdle in a Showdown Month for USC

Times Staff Writer

It’s another November of a Pacific 10 Conference football season, and nothing has substantially changed from last year.

USC and UCLA are apparently headed for another Rose Bowl showdown game. Only the records are reversed from 1987.

Last year, the Trojans had one conference loss at this stage of the season, and the Bruins were unbeaten in conference play. Now USC is 5-0 in the Pac-10, followed by UCLA at 4-1.

Obviously, UCLA can’t afford another defeat unless USC obliges by losing. That’s USC’s only edge.

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USC Coach Larry Smith is now trying to keep his team from looking ahead, since the Trojans have conference games remaining with California today at the Coliseum and Arizona State next week at Tempe, Ariz., before the Nov. 19 meeting with UCLA.

His theme for this month is to play aggressively to win, as opposed to playing cautiously not to lose.

The Trojans have a lot at stake. They have a 7-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking behind top-ranked Notre Dame, a team they’ll play Nov. 26 at the Coliseum. Their 11-game regular-season winning streak is the second-longest in the country behind Wyoming, which has 18 consecutive victories.

Moreover, USC has not lost at home since Smith became coach last year, a stretch of 9 games.

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Cal (5-3, 1-3) doesn’t figure to tarnish that record. However, Washington State wasn’t expected to upset UCLA last week. Smith can only hope that the lesson was not lost on his team.

The Pac-10 has emerged as one of the strongest conferences in the country, with only two teams, Stanford and Oregon State, just below .500.

As for the Bears, they are one-dimensional offensively, relying mainly on the passing of quarterback Troy Taylor. With Chris Richards, a talented running back from San Fernando High School, playing with assorted injuries, Cal hasn’t been able to sustain an effective running game.

The Bears have averaged fewer than 3 yards a carry in 4 of their last 5 games and have been held under 100 yards in 3 of those games.

It doesn’t seem that Cal will do much better on the ground today, considering that USC is allowing an average of 87.6 yards rushing and ranks third nationally in that category.

When asked about his team’s running game, Cal Coach Bruce Snyder said, half in jest: “We don’t have one. We’re not doing very well at all.”

Snyder, a USC backfield coach in 1974-75, isn’t pessimistic about Cal’s future, however.

When reminded that the Bears have not been to the Rose Bowl in 30 years, he said:

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“Our recruiting isn’t in full swing, but I believe as the years go by and we show improvement on the field, we’ll get better and better in terms of our recruiting. I absolutely believe we can be competitive in terms of the race for the roses. Perhaps, not this year, but we’re getting closer.”

Taylor, a junior who ranks third on the school’s all-time passing list with 4,875 yards, and tight end Darryl Ingram, with 30 catches for 6 touchdowns, are the big-play people on offense.

The Bears are coming off a 10-7 victory over Arizona at Tucson and are capable of playing decently on defense, with nose guard Majett Whiteside and linebacker David Ortega among the more prominent players.

They will oppose an offense that is almost perfectly balanced, averaging 224.4 yards rushing and 225.1 yards passing.

The Trojans have accomplished that without a running back among the top 10 in the conference. However, the tailback position, now being shared by Scott Lockwood and Ricky Ervins, is averaging 149.1 yards a game, and fullback Leroy Holt is averaging 4.4 yards a carry.

Trojan Notes

A crowd of 75,000 is anticipated for today’s game. USC is a 22-point favorite. . . . With the Notre Dame game Nov. 26 already sold out at 92,156, USC is projected to set an average attendance record this season of approximately 76,000 for 5 home games, breaking the record of 73,708, set in 1947. . . . Today’s crowd will be larger than normal because of a concert by the Beach Boys after the game. . . . Joel Dickson, a California offensive tackle who was wounded in the left side and arm in a shooting incident after the San Jose State game Oct. 1, is not expected to play for the rest of the season. . . . USC has won 9 of the last 10 games from Cal. The Trojans’ last Coliseum loss to the Bears was in 1970 by a 13-10 score.


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