December 27, 2008

Practice Insider: Facing a balanced attack

Old stereotypes die hard, and the Big Ten's image has suffered from the perception that the conference plays only one kind of football.

"The Big Ten is more of a run conference," safety Will Harris said. "That's smash-mouth football."

The big, slow Big Ten, though, was won by a team that doesn't buy into that image.

Penn State isn't that kind of team, Harris said.

"We look at these guys and respect them," Harris said. "Everyday we watch them on film, we respect them more."

In fact, USC head coach Pete Carroll said the notion that all Big Ten teams are one-dimensional, running teams is outdated.

"That's (ex-Michigan coach) Bo (Schembechler) and (ex-Ohio State Woody (Hayes)" Carroll said.

The Trojans know how Penn State could hurt them.

The respect couldn't be higher than it is for the Nittany Lions' big three on offense - quarterback Daryll Clark, running back Evan Royster and wide receiver Derrick Williams.

"They really have so many good guys," Harris said. "Royster is a really athletic back who can make guys miss. Derrick Williams is a great all-around athlete, and Daryll Clark who can hurt us with the run or the pass."

Clark, Royster and Williams have combined for 4,641 yards from scrimmage. - 85 percent of the offense.

And with at least three players capable of breaking the game open, linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said USC hasn't been able to focus on just one aspect of Penn State's attack.

"They're pretty balanced," he said. If you take one thing away from them, they've got a whole bunch of other stuff to use. You're not going to hurt them if you take one thing away."

And no one has been able to take away all three this season.

Penn State was held under 23 points just once this season, and that came in a 13-6 win at Ohio State.

USC's formula for the Nittany Lions appears to have taken two different paths, hopefully intersecting on New Year's Day at the Rose Bowl.

One, the Trojans have been dissecting what they've seen the Nittany Lions do during their 11-1 season.

"They do a lot of things," Carroll said. "We needed the extra time to try and find all the bugs in everything they do. I believe by the end of the week, we'll have it nailed pretty good."

And two, the Trojans plan on, like Harris said, doing what they do.

"All we can focus on are the plays we run and execute them to the best of our ability," Harris said. "We don't worry about those guys; we worry about the plays we run.

"We have plays that take away the pass, and we have plays to stop the run."

Status in doubt

Fullback Stanley Havili, someone Carroll has called one of USC's most important weapons, could be ineligible for the Rose Bowl.

"He's not cleared academically right now," Carroll said. "We won't know until next week - Monday or Tuesday."

Havili is not able to practice with the team until the matter is cleared.

Carroll said Havili didn't make it to practice Friday because of travel issues.

Havili was not with the team Saturday at practice.

D.J. Shoemate and Rhett Ellison, both converts to the position, could be in line for extended reps in Havili's absence.

Extra Points

• A huge crowd of fans stood on the perimeter of Howard Jones Field Saturday, watching the team go through a competitive workout.

After practice, visiting media couldn't believe the gathering and asked Carroll why he opens his doors.

"We want to practice hard every day," he said. "The more atmosphere the better."

• It's becoming clearer and clearer that senior safety Kevin Ellison will likely not play against Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

"It's not looking very good," Carroll said.

Harris would start in Ellison's absence.

Damian Williams continued to run routes and catch passes, but he did not take any contact.

• Saturday night's USC activity is a team trip to The Improv.

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