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Gable to start again at tailback

Times Staff Writer

Tailback C.J. Gable struggled to rush the ball effectively in the regular-season finale against UCLA, but the freshman from Sylmar will start in the Rose Bowl against Michigan, Coach Pete Carroll said Friday.

It will be the fourth consecutive start for Gable, who ran for a career-best 107 yards in 20 carries against Notre Dame but only 52 yards in 19 carries against UCLA.

“We’ve been starting C.J. for a long time,” Carroll said. “That’s who will go down on the depth chart as the No. 1 guy.”

Junior Chauncey Washington has looked impressive during bowl preparation and had appeared to be at full speed after struggling with hamstring and knee problems throughout the season,

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But Washington did not practice Friday because of stomach-flu symptoms, Carroll said.

“He got sick as a dog,” Carroll said. "... He couldn’t even stand up.”

Carroll said several players have been stricken during the last few weeks. He does not expect Washington to sit out the Rose Bowl.

“These guys that have gotten sick, it takes the day and the next day they’re OK, so I would imagine that’s what it would be like,” Carroll said.

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Linebacker Brian Cushing returned to practice and wore a brace to protect his bruised left knee.

Cushing said X-rays on Friday showed no major damage, but there was a buildup of fluid.

Cushing also played hurt in the 2006 Rose Bowl against Texas.

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The sophomore from New Jersey suffered a shoulder injury early in the season and had surgery after the loss to the Longhorns in the national championship game.

“Last year I was looking forward to the off-season just to get my surgery and just to get my shoulder back to normal,” Cushing said. “I was playing with one arm, basically, all year. That was tough.

“This is just a little nick or something.”

Carroll said defensive ends Kyle Moore, Alex Morrow and Jeff Schweiger could play a larger role if Cushing is limited.

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Linebacker Dallas Sartz (hip) also returned and participated in a few drills.

“I’m going to practice [today], and everything is going to be good to go,” he said.

Carroll said Clay Matthews was ready play in Sartz’s spot. Thomas Williams, who was moved from fullback to linebacker on Thursday, could play both ways against the Wolverines.

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The media and fan crush that surrounded the buildup to USC’s appearances in the 2005 and 2006 Bowl Championship Series title games has been largely absent during the Trojans’ preparation for the Rose Bowl.

“I wish we were in a situation where there was bunch of people clamoring because that means that’s a good thing,” Carroll said. “But other than that, I don’t care.”

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Cornerback Kevin Thomas returned after sitting out a few days to rest his foot.... Running back Emmanuel Moody said he no longer was feeling the knee soreness that came about after assistant coach Dave Watson slipped and slid into Moody’s leg this week.

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gary.klein@latimes.com


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