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Leinart Has Experience Going for Him

Times Staff Writer

USC’s defeat last season at California still resonates with the Trojans, but quarterback Matt Leinart said Tuesday that he took the loss personally.

“I didn’t play very well and kind of let the game slip away,” said Leinart, who had three passes intercepted in the triple-overtime defeat at Berkeley.

Leinart plans to make amends Saturday when the top-ranked Trojans play host to seventh-ranked Cal in a Pacific 10 Conference game at the Coliseum.

Leinart has passed for 1,023 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions this season. He is ranked 10th nationally in passing efficiency.

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Last year, Leinart was making his fourth start against Cal. He enters Saturday’s game with 17 starts behind him.

“This year, obviously, I’m more prepared,” he said. “I’m a seasoned veteran now.”

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The Trojans and Cal helped bring ESPN’s “College GameDay” show to USC for the first time by staying unbeaten.

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But the teams also received an assist from USC student Robbie Ellison.

Last spring, after an ESPN reporter visited one of his classes, Ellison started a petition drive to bring the show to a USC home game. The senior from San Diego collected more than 1,000 signatures on campus, got the presidents of 30 campus organizations to pledge their support and, with the help of friend Harlye Maya, drafted a resolution that was passed by the student senate.

Ellison then sent the material to Mark Gross, executive producer of the show.

“I was impressed,” Gross said. “We had never got a petition before.”

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On Monday, after receiving word that the show was coming to Los Angeles, Ellison visited fraternity and sorority houses to encourage a large turnout when the live broadcast begins at 7:30 a.m. outside the peristyle end of the Coliseum.

“It’s still hard to believe,” Ellison said. “It was a very, very long process. So many things had to fall into place.”

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Andre Rucker, father of the late Drean Rucker, visited practice for the first time after picking up a national championship ring that was presented to him by the athletic department.

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Drean Rucker drowned in July 2003 only a few weeks before he would have started training camp at USC as a freshman linebacker.

“The ring has been here for about a month,” Andre Rucker said. “I sat down, finally, and told my wife, ‘It’s time. It’s time to face my demons.’

“It’s been easier because Pete Carroll, his staff and the SC family made me feel comfortable.”

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Senior linebacker Matt Grootegoed hobbled off the practice field because of a left ankle injury. Grootegoed, who sat out all or most of USC’s final seven games last season because of an injury to the same ankle, said X-rays were negative and that he planned to play Saturday.... Freshman defensive end Jeff Schweiger (knee) said doctors did not clear him to play against Cal, but he hoped to return for the Oct. 16 game against Arizona State.... Redshirt freshman defensive end Chris Barrett, who had surgery on both shoulders in 2003 and underwent an arthroscopic procedure earlier this season, will play against Cal, Carroll said.... Running back Reggie Bush discarded the yellow jersey coaches made him wear Monday to discourage contact. “I didn’t want to wear it and I didn’t need it,” Bush said. “The guys on defense were still popping me, so I might as well wear red.”


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