Lack of sacks impact USC defense
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Pete Carroll appeared at the media conference for the second straight day, this time in his role as defensive coordinator.
The Trojans have not been as good on defense this year as they were a year ago. The most glaring difference has been in rushing defense: first in the nation last year, at 79.4 yards per game, nearly half again as much this season, allowing 117.3 yards per game.
Carroll said one of the biggest problem with the rushing defense is the falloff in sacks (in college statistics, unlike the NFL, lost yardage on sacks is subtracted from the rushing game).
USC has 32 sacks this season for 193 yards. A year ago, the Trojans had 50 sacks for 344 yards.
"We lost Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson. Both are starting nickel rushers [in the NFL]," Carroll said. Along with tackle Manuel Wright, "three of our four rushers last year are playing on a regular basis."
The coming-out season for Selvin Young never quite happened. The Texas junior tailback, expected to take over for Cedric Benson this season after missing nearly all of last year with a broken fibula, hurt an ankle in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Though Young started four games and rushed for 416 yards and seven touchdowns, his greatest contribution may have been as mentor to young Longhorn tailbacks Jamaal Charles and Ramonce Taylor. The freshman and sophomore, respectively, combined to rush for 1,345 yards and 22 touchdowns.
"The little things I know, I tried to put in their heads, because I couldn't do it physically," Young said.
The junior will be able to play Wednesday night, which is a much better feeling than he had at the 2005 Rose Bowl, when he stood on the sidelines as the Longhorns beat Michigan, 38-37.
"It was tough just watching the game," Young said, "and I wanted to be part of it, especially when it was crunch time. I could get those yards. I could get that first down. I could do that. I just dedicated myself, and I thought my goal was to do what I had to do for myself and to be available to this team and get the guys in the same mindset I'm in, because I wanted to come back here. It's almost going to be like a dream come true. Right now, I'm just living it."
With a year-end deadline looming, the University of Minnesota and coach Glen Mason orally agreed to work out a four-year extension of his contract, a person involved in the negotiations said Tuesday. Mason has one more year on his current contract, but the contracts of his assistants expire at year's end. If the university didn't act upon those, it would have put Mason in a difficult situation for the last month of recruiting.
Mason spoke with university president Robert H. Bruininks and athletic director Joel Maturi Saturday, the day after the Gophers concluded their season with a 34-31 loss to Virginia in the Gaylor Hotels Music City Bowl, and both sides agreed to work out extensions for his staff. No changes are expected.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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