Test Under Fire

first_img“For four quarters, it was wild,” Mays said. “I just remember it being loud and seeing lots of balloons.” Whatever else confronts USC today, Trojans coach Pete Carroll wants to make sure the atmosphere does not affect his players. “This is a very difficult task,” he said. “This environment is a challenge to the young guys and it’s important they get through it. It’s going to take a complete game for us.” Fourteenth-ranked Nebraska (2-0) hopes to offer other reasons to give USC problems, but the crowd might be the one thing it can count on today. And if Huskers coach Bill Callahan is smart, he will open up the offense a lot more than last year, when the Trojans won, 28-10, in a boring encounter. Nebraska was so conservative, the normally reticent Carroll let slip to a booster group that he felt the game was little more than a 9-on-7 practice drill. Even the Huskers’ highly regarded tailback, Marlon Lucky, gained just 27 yards but averaged 161.5 yards in this year’s first two games. And Nebraska upgraded at quarterback, where strong-armed Sam Keller is eligible a year after transferring from Arizona State. “We feel like they might come out and spread it out and throw the ball,” Mays said. “They’ve got a quarterback who can sling it.” “This is a very complex offense. You’ll see them shifting and motion all over the place and so we have to adjust very well,” Carroll said. “If we get in the right situation by our adjustments then we’ll get to see good defense and see how we do.” But USC (1-0) also has its own issues. The offense performed inconsistently in the season opener against Idaho. Quarterback John David Booty threw an interception and the Trojans committed three turnovers while forcing just one. The wide receivers lacked a breakaway threat and the tailbacks also need to demonstrate an ability for big plays. In USC’s perfect world, those weaknesses will be fixed today with the reappearance of wide receiver Patrick Turner and tailback Chauncey Washington from injuries, along with the continued maturation of freshman Joe McKnight. “We still feel like we have guys who can make big plays,” Carroll said. “We’ve got more than a few. Patrick can, (wide receivers) David Ausberry and Vidal Hazelton can be those kind of guys. We think Joe can and (freshman wide receiver) Ronald Johnson.” If Carroll’s right, USC will live up to its current No. 1 ranking and stave off the challenge of No.2-ranked LSU, which gained ground in the polls after routing Virginia Tech. If not, it could be a difficult trip. Much more difficult than any current Trojans remember from their visits. “Nebraska was my favorite school growing up and the first school to send me a letter,” Mays said. “I don’t remember why I didn’t go there. I think it was the location. It was far from home and in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t know how I’d handle it.” Neither did Wright. “It’s too cold,” he said. “I like being close to home (Colton) and I didn’t think I could deal with the weather.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “The fans out there are crazy. The fans are loud,” Wright said. “The Coliseum gets loud but for a short period. Nebraska is loud for the whole game. “There’s nothing else out there.” Cornhusker fans will not be cheering Wright this time because he is part of the first No. 1 team to visit Nebraska since Oklahoma in 1978, when the Trojans face the Huskers tonight at 5. But as hostile as the reception might be for the top-ranked Trojans with 85,000-crazed fans, USC is not completely unfamiliar with the atmosphere. Wright, linebacker Rey Maualuga and tailback Allen Bradford are among the Trojans who took recruiting trips to Lincoln and attended a game. Safety Taylor Mays went to a game 10 years ago with his family as he watched the Huskers drub Washington, 55-7. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: No. 1 USC must cope with Nebraska’s crazy crowd as well as a top-20 team. By Scott Wolf STAFF WRITER OMAHA, Neb. – The last time USC cornerback Shareece Wright visited Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, his name was shown on the video screen and fans asked for his autograph. last_img read more