Receivers could be catching on
After hampering USC’s offense with dropped passes and inconsistent play through the first half of the season, the Trojans’ receiving corps made strides against Notre Dame and another leap against Oregon.
Today, the group intends to take another step when the 13th-ranked Trojans play Oregon State at the Coliseum.
“We definitely were struggling, but I think the coaches see that we’ve grown up and we’re ready to play,” sophomore Vidal Hazelton said. “We’re not considered young anymore and those were just excuses at the beginning.
“Now, it’s time to step up and make plays.”
Hazelton, junior Patrick Turner and redshirt freshman David Ausberry all made big catches in last week’s loss at Oregon.
Hazelton had a team-high eight receptions for 88 yards. He made several tough catches over the middle and absorbed big hits.
Turner caught seven passes for 107 yards and outmuscled a smaller cornerback for a touchdown. Ausberry’s first touchdown catch on a 14-yard play in the fourth quarter pulled the Trojans to within seven points.
“When their number was called they made plays,” receivers coach John Morton said. “I told them they’re starting to grow up and starting to mature. Now we have to keep going.”
Turner and Hazelton said the return of quarterback John David Booty to the lineup would not affect the receivers, who caught passes from Mark Sanchez the last three games.
“They both throw the same kind of passes and both have great accuracy,” Hazelton said. “I’m used to both of them, so we should be fine.”
USC Coach Pete Carroll is 20-0 in November games at USC.
“That’s not a big battle cry for me, never has been,” Carroll said. “But finishing, finishing has always been one of the tenets of the program.
“And it’s finish time now.”
USC leads the series against Oregon State, 57-9-4. The Trojans have not lost at home to the Beavers since a 14-0 season-opening defeat in 1960. Oregon State, which defeated USC last season, 33-31, at Corvallis, has not won back-to-back games against the Trojans since 1914 and 1916, the first two games of the series.
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KEYS TO THE GAME
No. 13 USC (6-2, 3-2)
vs. Oregon State (5-3, 3-2)
Today, 5 p.m., Coliseum
TV: Channel 7. Radio: 710, 1330
1 Getting picky. Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield, a left-hander from Carlsbad, has had 13 of his passes intercepted, so the Trojans interception-starved secondary needs to step up and create some turnovers. Oregon State’s sack-happy defensive front will try to pressure John David Booty into hurried throws or tackles for losses.
2 Immovable forces. Oregon State ranks first in the nation against the run, USC seventh. The Beavers are hoping that Yvenson Bernard, who averages more than 100 rushing yards a game, can play despite a shoulder sprain. USC tailback Stafon Johnson’s foot is still sore, but he will rotate with Chauncey Washington and Joe McKnight.
3 ust for kicks. Oregon State kicker Alexis Serna kicked four field goals against the Trojans in 2006 and has made 10 of 13 this season. USC’s David Buehler is 10 of 11 but has not attempted one from more than 40 yards. The Trojans need punter Greg Woidneck to get back on track.
-- Gary Klein
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