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USC fullback Rhett Ellison finally plays larger role

Rhett Ellison is a team captain and one of USC’s more versatile players.

The senior started at tight end in 2010 but was moved to fullback this season.

Through two games, however, USC Coach Lane Kiffin seemed apprehensive about calling his number.

Ellison finally had a larger role in USC’s 38-17 victory over Syracuse on Saturday night at the Coliseum.

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Ellison caught five passes for 31 yards, including a five-yard touchdown play in the first quarter that helped the Trojans overcome a 3-0 deficit.

Receiving tandem

Robert Woods caught eight passes for 82 yards, including a 31-yard scoring play.

The sophomore, who caught a school-record 17 passes in the opener against Minnesota, now has 33 receptions in three games, the most ever by a USC receiver in a three-game stretch.

Freshman Marqise Lee, Woods’ former teammate at Gardena Serra High, caught two passes for 63 yards, including one that went 43 yards for a touchdown — the first of his career.

“I was ready for it,” Lee said. “I couldn’t stop smiling after that.”

Wrong ‘SC

Moments after USC linebacker Dion Bailey forced a fumble in the fourth quarter, Trojans fans were booing.

Not at Bailey, of course.

Referee Jeff Maconaghy drew the ire of the crowd when he announced, “Fumble recovered by South Carolina.”

A few minutes later, as officials reviewed the play, Maconaghy nearly repeated the mistake, saying “South Caro” before catching himself.

That didn’t stop fans from booing again.

The play stood as called.

“They’re East Coast refs, so they’re just calling it for the team over there,” said Bailey, whose forced fumble was recovered by linebacker Will Andrew.

Bailey, who also had a sack, said he was eager to atone for a mistake early in the game in which he covered the wrong Syracuse player and the Orange broke off a long gain.

“I had to do something big to make up for it,” Bailey said.

Tyler blocks

Tailback Marc Tyler was not able to duplicate his 113-yard rushing performance from last week. The fifth-year senior gained only 41 yards in 15 carries but he showed his value as a blocker, picking up a blitz from quarterback Matt Barkley’s blind side and keeping a Syracuse player at bay as Barkley completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Woods in the second quarter.

“Usually a corner, they don’t bull-rush you,” Tyler said. “But he tried He was too light.”

Tyler also ran several plays from the wildcat formation. Junior Curtis McNeal gained 79 yards in five carries. Sophomore Dillon Baxter rushed for 29 yards in seven carries.

Martin starts

Freshman Marcus Martin started at left guard for the Trojans.

The former Crenshaw High standout became the first true freshman to start at guard since Jeff Byers in 2004.

Jeremy Galten started the opener against Minnesota and Martin Coleman last week against Utah before suffering a shoulder injury.

gary.klein@latimes.com

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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