Defense wants ball in the air

Times Staff Writers

Arizona State players, coaches and fans aren’t the only ones hoping that quarterback Rudy Carpenter plays today against eighth-ranked USC at the Coliseum.

Trojans defensive backs, eager for opportunities to create turnovers, were looking forward to facing the Pacific 10 Conference’s most experienced passer.

Carpenter suffered an ankle injury in last week’s defeat at California but made progress during the week while junior Danny Sullivan took first-team snaps.

USC cornerback Cary Harris is among the Trojans who want Arizona State to throw the ball.

“It’s not fun to just tackle against the run, you want to get some chances to make things happen,” Harris said.


USC is ranked second in the conference in pass defense. The Trojans have intercepted four passes.

“We haven’t really been tested,” Harris said of the secondary. “But we’ve been working hard in practice so when it does come, we’re ready.”

Target practice?

It’s no secret that Arizona State has struggled to protect its quarterbacks.

A porous offensive line gave up 55 sacks last season, worst in the Pac-10, and this fall the Sun Devils have given up 12 in five games.

So USC pass rushers, who are averaging three sacks a game, sense an opportunity. Defensive end Kyle Moore has studied videotape of last season’s matchup in Tempe, Ariz., where his predecessor, Lawrence Jackson, had four of the Trojans’ six sacks.

“Hopefully I can run some of the same moves,” Moore said. “Get a few sacks too.”

The Sun Devils are also the worst rushing team in the Pac-10, averaging 85.4 yards.

The lopsided numbers make USC defensive tackle Fili Moala wax psychological.

“It’s not like they have any slouches on their offensive line,” he said of the Sun Devils. “I think it’s just a matter of the morale of the team. Any team, if you continue to lose, you’re always going to be down a little bit and people might get you.”

But Clay Matthews, playing at the other end, warned that the path to the quarterback starts with hard work.

“Obviously we have to stop the run, make them throw the ball,” Matthews said. “Then we can get after it.”

Have a nice day

After playing three games that started or ended after dark, USC Coach Pete Carroll is happy to have a 12:30 p.m. start.

“College football as I grew up was always day games,” said Carroll, 57. “The cool part about it is the early evening after the game, the chance to enjoy the day and talk about the game afterward.

“That’s the epitome of the college experience for me. [Most] games are over so late that you don’t get to kick back and have fun with it.”

Quick kicks

Parking for today’s game is available at Staples Center Lot W for $25. A shuttle to and from the Coliseum begins at 8:30 a.m., and will end one hour after the end of the game. . . . A memorial service for Craig Fertig, a former USC quarterback, assistant coach and broadcaster who died last week at age 66, is scheduled for Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. at USC’s Galen Center, 3400 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles. Complimentary parking will be available in campus structures 2 (on Flower Street, between Jefferson and Exposition boulevards), X (on Figueroa Street at McCarthy Way) and D (on Jefferson across from the Shrine Auditorium). Attendees should alert the parking guard that they are attending Fertig’s memorial service. The Craig Fertig Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established at the USC Athletic Department. Donations can be sent to Ron Orr, USC Athletic Department, Heritage Hall 203, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0602.