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Passing Attack Gets New Emphasis

USC Coach Paul Hackett is also the offensive coordinator, the quarterback guru, the guy who worked with Joe Montana . . .

And the guy whose team had 23 yards passing against Florida State.

“I’m the whiz,” Hackett said with a laugh. “And we’re 10th in the league in passing. We’ve got some work to do.”

Hackett is focused on pass protection after Saturday’s performance.

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And though he’d like to open up the offense and use four wide receivers at times, he isn’t inclined to try it now, and leave the quarterback any more vulnerable.

As for the quarterbacks, Hackett said once more that Mike Van Raaphorst is the clear starter, even though freshman Carson Palmer played almost half the game against Florida State, when Van Raaphorst was ill and ineffective.

“We had a somewhat unique situation,” Hackett said. “I don’t feel like there’s going to be any change.

“We have our starting quarterback, and when he’s at his best, he’s played well. And we have a young guy who has in my opinion continued to get better, even if it doesn’t show in the statistics. He will continue to play and be part of the mix and play more and more as I feel he can handle it.”

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Tailback Chad Morton’s strained back should be OK for Saturday, but Morton sat out of practice as a precaution. . . . Matt McShane, the backup center against Florida State after missing the previous game because of a knee injury, is likely to start, allowing Jason Grain to return to left guard. . . . Van Raaphorst, who received IVs before the game because of vomiting and was ill for two more days afterward, is concerned about his pregame diet. “Definitely, I’ll be really cautious about what I eat,” he said. “I know it was something I ate before the Purdue game, bad chicken or something. I have no idea what it was at Florida State.” . . . Receiver R. Jay Soward limped after being hit in the ankle during practice but is expected to be fine.

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Next Up for USC

Who: Arizona State

Where: Coliseum

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

TV: Channel 7

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Radio: XTRA (690)


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