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It’s difficult to run on the Beavers

Times Staff Writer

USC tailback Stafon Johnson is looking forward to the challenge.

The Trojans will be going against the nation’s best rushing defense on Saturday when they play Oregon State at the Coliseum. The Beavers give up only 54.5 yards rushing a game and also have recorded a nation-leading 34 sacks.

“This will show us where we’re at,” said Johnson, who has been slowed since suffering a foot bruise and sprain against Washington. “It does nothing but help us and show how good our line is and how good our running back corps is.

“If we prevail. . . . some questions can be answered, so we’re trying our best this week to work on polishing up things.”

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Senior Chauncey Washington will start against the Beavers, but Johnson and freshman Joe McKnight also will carry the ball.

Hershel Dennis, a sixth-year senior, met on Monday with Coach Pete Carroll to discuss his role. Dennis has 13 carries, fewer than any tailback other than Desmond Reed, who has mainly played in passing situations.

“We’ll see how it goes,” said Dennis, who has gained 57 yards. “He was compassionate; he understood it’s been hard. But it’s just as hard on him to spread the rock around.

“He said he’d try to do something about it.”

Senior John David Booty remains on track to start at quarterback after throwing for the third consecutive day without pain in his broken right middle finger.

Booty has sat out three games.

“I just feel really good throwing the ball, placing it where I want to place it,” he said.

Carroll said he had spoken with Dave Cutaia, the Pacific 10 Conference’s coordinator of football officials, to discuss the discrepancy in the number of penalties called against the Trojans and their opponents over the last few seasons.

USC has been penalized more than its opponent six times in eight games this season. The Trojans are last in the conference, averaging 74.5 penalty yards a game. USC’s opponents average 43 penalty yards a game, fewest in the conference.

Tackle Sam Baker (hamstring) did limited work after receiving an anti-inflammatory injection on Monday, the second shot he has taken in two weeks. Baker said he hoped to play against Oregon State, but freshman Butch Lewis remains on track to start. . . . Kris O’Dowd (knee) worked at center with the scout team and mainly at guard with the second-unit offense. . . . Freshman linebacker Chris Galippo, who had back surgery three weeks ago, said he was walking a little over a mile a day and that he would gradually begin to increase his workload. Galippo is redshirting.

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gary.klein@latimes.com


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