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Penn State Is Ready to Represent Big Ten

Well, USC never did have much trouble with those Big Ten teams.

I don’t care if the Trojans did lose their season opener to Elvis State. Everything is back to normal again, so you suicidal alumni out there can put away those nooses and cyanide pills. You can relax a little now because it turns out Larry Smith does have a decent player or two. (Or 11. Or 22.) The world is a happy place again. Even Notre Dame lost.

Hey, this can’t be too bad a football team, because Saturday night at the Coliseum, USC defeated a very fine football team, Penn State, and in the process made it look as goofy as Northwestern.

The Trojans won by 11 points over a team that defeated Cincinnati by 81 points. What this means is that Cincinnati is 92 points worse than USC and 106 points worse than Memphis State--where they will still be selling those “I Was There When We Beat USC” T-shirts a hundred years from now.

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For the last couple of weeks, USC people have been brooding about that opening-day 24-10 loss to Memphis State, when most of the Trojans made Traveler’s rumps out of themselves.

The 11 guys Smith put on the field that day looked as though they couldn’t have defeated 11 empty uniforms.

But the way these same Trojans played against Penn State was the kind of play that could get them back to the Rose Bowl, if they can keep it up.

See how it works now? One day, you scream for the coach’s skull; another day, his team bumps off one of the best teams in the country. They have a name for this phenomenon. It’s called college football.

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USC was a team that couldn’t get much lower, up against a Penn State team that couldn’t get much higher. That doesn’t mean the outcome was predetermined.

Joe Paterno’s boys began the season by beating Georgia Tech’s 1990 national co-champions. Then they terminated Cincinnati.

No wonder they were looking forward to coming to the coast. Before the game, Penn State players were asked as long as they were heading for Hollywood to play some football, what film roles would they enjoy playing most?

One, linebacker Keith Goganious, said he identified with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character because it’s “a force that’s hard to stop. . . . It reminds me of our defense.”

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Funny, I don’t remember Arnold missing any tackles.

I do remember Penn State’s quarterback, Tony Sacca, doing his impersonation of Houston’s David Klingler and Brigham Young’s Ty Detmer in the talent portion of the Mr. Heisman pageant. Boys, we’ll call you if for any reason the Heisman Trophy winner is unable to serve his term. I mostly remember USC’s Kurt Barber, Terry McDaniels, Brian Williams and others putting serious heat on Sacca. I remember Calvin Holmes, Mike Salmon and Jason Oliver sticking to Penn State receivers like glue. I remember Deon Strother running hard, Yonnie Jackson going long and Stephon Pace really popping one dude.

And, I remember so many Penn State fumbles and sacks, it made me wonder if Cincinnati a football program.

Penn State shouldn’t bother going Hollywood. Why these guys want to join the Big Ten, only their accountants know for sure, but they would be better off passing on Pasadena.

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The Nittany Lions already have begun competing in that conference in certain sports, and will play Big Ten football beginning in 1993. They have eliminated USC from their 1995-98 schedule just on the chance they might meet later at the Rose Bowl instead.

Oh, goody. On Jan. 1, 1923, Penn State played USC in the first Rose Bowl game at its present site in Pasadena--and lost, 14-3. Might as well return to a noble Big Ten tradition of getting dumped on New Year’s Day.

As for USC, this might not be such a gruesome season after all.

When your quarterback is as raw as Reggie Perry and your regular tailback, Mazio (Rolls) Royster, is in the shop for repairs and you still can play like this against a team such as Penn State, your team still has definite possibilities.

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By the time the Notre Dame game rolls around, USC probably will be favored.


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