December 1, 2008

Practice Insider: Trojans to wear cardinal at Rose

The USC football team has had penalty problems all season long. Only five more teams earn more yellow flags each game.

Saturday at UCLA, it appears they'll be starting game with a penalty already called on them.

Monday, USC head coach Pete Carroll told the media and his team that they'd be breathing life in a tradition that's been dead since 1982 - where both UCLA and USC wore their home jerseys when the two teams meet.

By wearing their cardinal jerseys Saturday, the Trojans will be penalized and will lose a timeout in each half.

"It might (cost us). I don't know. I don't care about that right now," Carroll said. "We'll play without it. I think it's worth it. I think it's a fun thing to do, and I think our fans will appreciate it over time."

Carroll said he's investigated all avenues that would allow for USC to wear its home colors without penalty.

"I talked to Dave Cutaia (coordinator of football officiating for the Pac-10) about what we could do," Carroll said. "He checked into it in anticipation that it might come up. And, there's nothing we can do about it."

The Orange County Register has reported that the Pac-10 has spoken to the NCAA about changing the rule and could hear back from the NCAA by Tuesday.

Still, Carroll is content to play without the two timeouts if he has to.

"I've been thinking about it for years. I've been trying to restore it. I always thought it was a really cool tradition," he said. "We're finally going to do it and hopefully start a nice tradition. I know Rick liked the idea too. We're not trying to surprise them like Notre Dame throwing on the green jerseys or something like that."

Carroll said he called UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel shortly after the former Washington head coach took over across town, and Neuheisel liked the idea.

Carroll said he doesn't feel he's disrespecting UCLA by playing without two timeouts.

"I set it up by talking to him at the start of it. It's not a surprise. I'm not trying to pull anything over on anybody," Carroll said. "I just think it's a cool thing to do, and maybe it isn't. we'll find out. I'm not really worried about it."

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said the lost timeout won't affect the USC offense.

"It's tradition. It's what this game used to be. It's just like anything," he said. "It's like a call coming in late, and you have to burn one early in the game.

"I think it's good for the tradition and good for the rivalry. For people who grew up in Southern California, that's how they know the game."

But if the NCAA doesn't grant a waiver for the game and the Trojans go ahead with their plans, fans at the Rose Bowl won't be seeing just True blue and cardinal on the field.

They'll be at least a little yellow out there, too.

Kiff, Kiff, Hooray

Tennessee introduced former USC offensive coordinator and Oakland Raider head coach Lane Kiffin as its new head coach Monday.

Carroll said he had confidence in Kiffin's ability to lead a big-time collegiate program.

"I think it's so extraordinary. I know it's a surprise to people, how this came about," Carroll said. "I know he's ready for this, and he'll have a tremendous approach for them.

"He's real confident that he's going to put together a really successful staff."

Carroll said Kiffin has not contacted him about speaking to any members of his current staff about open jobs at Tennessee.

"He knows it's not time. He's waiting for everyone's season to end," he said. "He may, we'll see. He knows these guys and what they can do…

"If he wants to battle for our guys, he can - of course."

Carroll said he'd be willing to schedule Tennessee at some point in the future.

"As far as I know, he doesn't want to play us," Carroll joked. "You can write that. It's a good one."

Finally six for four

Joe McKnight scored his first rushing touchdown since last year's Rose Bowl win over Illinois Saturday against Notre Dame, and it came in spectacular fashion.

McKnight scored on a spectacular 55-yard run, cutting and weaving his way through the Fighting Irish.

"It was just good blocking all the way down the field," McKnight said. "That's how I scored. I just had to outrun people some. Once I got to the second level, I knew it was meant for me to score."

Sarkisian said a healthy McKnight has really shined on the practice field the past few weeks.

"Joe's practiced really well the past couple of weeks. That's been a challenge," Sarkisian said. "That was a focus during the bye week, to get him to practice every day, to not have a nick, to not have a setback.

"He had two really good weeks of work, and he went out and played well."

Extra Points

• Fullback Stanley Havili didn't practice Monday after spraining his right ankle in Saturday's win over Notre Dame. Havili watched practice in sweats, with his foot in a protective boot.

"I can put weight on it," he said, "but it's still a little sore and a little swollen."

Carroll said he expects Havili to be fine for UCLA.

Kevin Ellison will try to practice Tuesday, Carroll said.

Armond Armstead was back on the field Monday, practicing with a cast on his right hand.

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