USC back on track for Sun Bowl
Posted: Sunday December 27, 1998 01:40 PM
EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- Southern Cal coach Paul Hackett said his team convinced him during a one-hour practice Saturday that the Trojans are on track for Thursday's match-up with Texas Christian in the Sun Bowl.
"I thought we had a couple of really good practices Monday and Tuesday, but then I thought we had a Merry Christmas practice Wednesday where they weren't really focused," Hackett said.
The Trojans practiced Monday through Wednesday before breaking for the Christmas holiday, then spent most of Saturday traveling to El Paso.
"Today we needed to acclimate ourselves to the field and get an idea of how it feels and get back on track."
"Everything has been kind of disjointed the last few weeks," Hackett said. "At times we've practiced well and at times, not so well. It's just a matter of getting focused and staying focused."
Junior tailback Chad Morton said the focus was definitely there Saturday.
"I think we're all ready to get back to playing football," he said. "We just need to stay focused, have a little fun, and take full advantage of this trip to work on things for next year. I think our focus is right where it needs to be at this stage of the game."
USC, which practices and plays its home games on a natural grass surface, has played only twice this season on Astroturf. The Trojans split those games -- defeating Washington State in October and losing to Oregon the following week.
It has been nearly eight weeks since the Trojans last played on turf.
"I'm concerned about that," Hackett said. "That's why we took today to practice out there a little, and then again Wednesday, and I may even want to get out there another time this week."
TCU's Horned Frogs also played only twice on artificial grass this season -- victories at Tulsa and UNLV the last two weeks of the regular season.
"Obviously you're concerned about the speed factor," Hackett said. "They've got some speed guys that are going to be able to move a lot faster. But I think we counter with our own quickness, so it should even out."
Which is the way Morton sees things.
"[The turf] is OK," he said. "They say it makes you faster, but it makes everybody faster, so what's the difference?"
Quarterback Carson Palmer agrees.
"I like it better," he said. "It gives you more feel of the ground."
Notes: USC split end Windrell Hayes did not make the trip to El Paso because of a sprained toe. Hayes, an often-used backup to starter Billy Miller, had 24 receptions for 340 yards and two touchdowns and appeared in all 12 games. He will be replaced on the two-deep roster by senior Mike Bastianelli, who had eight receptions for 143 yards in six games this year. No other injuries were reported. ... USC is 1-1 in New Year's Eve games. The Trojans defeated Texas A&M in the 1977 Bluebonnet Bowl (47-28) and lost to Michigan State at the Sun Bowl in 1990 (17-16). ... The Trojans have played only 11 games in Texas. USC is 9-2, with 2-0 marks against Texas and Texas Tech, 1-1 against Baylor and 1-0 against Texas A&M, Rice, SMU and Houston. ... USC's only other loss was to Michigan State in the 1990 Sun Bowl. Its last Texas visit was a 26-9 victory against Houston in the Astrodome in 1996.
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