Trojans Shoot For 34th Straight Victory At Home Against Upstart Vandals

Friday, August 31st 2007, 3:28 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Robb Akey makes his head coaching debut with Idaho Saturday night. Should the Vandals reward him with a victory, it will go down in college football history.

Akey and the Vandals, used to playing in more serene surroundings, face No. 1 Southern California at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where a crowd of about 90,000 will watch the Trojans go for their 34th straight home victory.

``We are really excited about getting the season started,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said. ``They are looking forward to a shot at us, and it's going to be fun for them and fun for us.''

The Vandals, 46-point underdogs, aren't expected to be enjoying themselves very much as the game wears on, but Akey is taking a positive approach.

``There's a lot of people out there in the world who aren't giving us the opportunity of staying within 40 points of them,'' he said. ``I'm anxious to get down there and get this thing kicked off. The first measuring stick, obviously, you want to win the game.

``I'm not about to sell this football team short. We're not going to take a knee. I've got to teach a group of guys here how to win.''

Good luck.

``What I'm looking for, first and foremost, is we execute our game plan, play hard, and maybe we can put ourselves in a position where we can have it close at the end of the game and have a chance,'' Akey said. ``It's probably going to be the best team we face this year. I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb making that comment.''

The 41-year-old Akey knows all about the Trojans, having spent the last several years as the defensive coordinator at Washington State, USC's Pac-10 rival.

The Idaho and USC programs are at opposite ends of major college football:

__While the Trojans are perennial contenders in the Pac-10, the Vandals are generally also-rans in the Western Athletic Conference.

__USC had a 59-6 record during the past five seasons, and opens the campaign ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 for the third time in four years. Idaho was 14-45 during the last five years, including 4-8 last season when it was outscored 417-203.

__The Trojans have John David Booty at quarterback, a fifth-year senior who passed for 3,347 yards and 29 touchdowns last season and is considered among the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy. Idaho's Nathan Enderle is a redshirt freshman who will be playing his first college game.

__Even with starter Chauncey Washington sidelined with a sprained right shoulder, the Trojans have several highly regarded tailbacks. The Vandals list another redshirt freshman, Deonte Jackson, as their starter at that position.

And that just scratches the surface in terms of talent and experience.

``It doesn't matter who we're playing or where we're playing. That's always how we look at it,'' Carroll said. ``This performance thing is really up to us.

``We are going to get as jacked up and as focused and in tune as we can possibly get to play a great football game. Every game is a championship game for us.''

The Trojans have seven returning starters on offense, and 10 from a defense that was one of the country's best at the end of last season.

``This is a very capable group,'' Carroll said when asked if the defense was the best since he arrived in 2001. ``Obviously, we have a lot of guys that have played. They're going to be in the right spots and they're going to play really fast and really hard.

``I know that we're going to be a really good group. I don't know how good we can be.''

Defensive coordinator Nick Holt was the Vandals' head coach in 2004-05, and this game was scheduled during that time. Holt left USC to take the Idaho job, and then returned to the Trojans in 2006.