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More WSU, Pac-10 news


COUGARS • UPDATED: 7:30 P.M.

We've got a couple of stories for you. We have our Pac-10 notes and a short story on a player having a run-in with the authorities, which we updated at 7:30. Read on.
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• Here are our Pac-10 notes ...

PULLMAN – Traveling cross country to play a college football game is no easy task no matter how talented the opposition might be.

Just ask Louisiana State, the nation's 11th-ranked team. The Tigers struggled last Saturday to subdue a University of Washington team that was coming off a winless season.

Which is why most schools avoid such treks. But that's not the case with the Pac-10. If the conference schools want to meet national powers, they have to travel, often across three time zones.

USC, of course, does it all the time, or at least every-other year, when the Trojans travel to South Bend to face Notre Dame. But in the Pete Carroll era, they've added even more, usually playing a home-and-home with a BCS power.

Like eighth-ranked Ohio State, USC's challenge this weekend.

The Trojans have a chance to make a statement nationally each time they kick it off against such opponents. But that's not the focus.

"We probably look at it a little differently," said USC coach Pete Carroll on Tuesday. "The whole BCS conversation has nothing to do with what we're thinking about. Really, we're not trying to position ourselves in the best light for the BCS.

"We're just trying to win conference championships and see what happens after that. ... The harder games we can get to earlier in the schedule make us better, improve us, particularly the ones on the road like the one coming up."

In other words, the BCS is fine, but great nonconference battles should prepare a team for the rigors of the Pac-10 schedule.

Which is the same logic used by Cal's Jeff Tedford, when the Bears traveled – and lost – to Maryland last year, or Oregon State's Mike Riley, who traveled – and lost – to Cincinnati a couple years ago, or UCLA's Rick Neuheisel, whose UCLA Bruins have a long trip into a hostile environment on Saturday: Knoxville, Tennessee.

Of course, having to listen to "Rocky Top" for three hours is something UCLA's has endured before.

The Bruins have faced Tennessee often starting in the 1970s, winning some, losing some. But the experience is what Neuheisel is craving.

"I don't think making this seem like it's a mountain we have to climb is the right way," Neuheisel said of playing before 102,000 in Neyland Stadium. "I'm almost of the mind we want to congratulate our players that you're getting a chance to do this. You ought to live it up."

Of course, there are football applications as well. The Bruins defeated San Diego State at home last Saturday, but the 33-14 win wasn't the game Neuheisel wanted. Now they have a chance to improve.

"I do believe we can make some progress," he said, "because we're going to need it if we are going to be successful this weekend."

Successful or not, such games prepare teams for conference – and build, hopefully, good memories to draw upon.

"How positive a memory," Neuheisel admitted, "is going to be up to how well we play."

•••

Game of the Week

No. 3 USC (1-0, 0-0 in Pac-10) at No. 8 Ohio State (1-0, 0-0 in Big Ten)

5 p.m. Saturday; ESPN

When asked after the San Jose State opener what the most difficult thing he faced, USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley told the Los Angeles Times "the run up the tunnel at halftime." He'll face a lot more difficulties this week when the Trojans travel to Columbus. The Buckeyes will be out to avenge last year's 35-3 whipping on national television and ruin USC's chances for a national-title run. OSU sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor could tell Barkley how hard it is to face this type of competition. He had his ups and downs in the limited time he played in last year's game.

•••

• And here's the Kevin Norrell story, updated after Wulff's statement on his radio show …

PULLMAN – Washington State University receiver Kevin Norrell was dismissed from the team for the season Tuesday after being arrested early Labor Day morning by Pullman police and charged with driving under the influence.

Norrell, a sophomore, was slated to start Saturday's game with Stanford until he missed much of last week due to the flu. He was not in uniform against the Cardinal.

WSU head football coach Paul Wulff said after practice Tuesday that Norrell has been suspended from team activities "indefinitely." At the time he said Norrell would have his fate determined by the team's unity council, a group of players charged with overseeing discipline.

"The unity council will come up with a great decision for the team," he said.

On his radio show later Tuesday evening, Wulff said the unity council had made a decision and the coaches supported it.

"Their recommendation was to dismiss him for the season and that's what we're going to do," Wulff said.

The decision means Norrell, who played in 13 games and caught 11 passes as a true freshman, will not be allowed to practice or play this season. The situation will be reevaluated at the end of the semester, according to a WSU spokesman.

Norrell, 18, was stopped just after 3 a.m. Monday just west of campus, according to police reports. Besides the DUI, he was charged with reckless driving, second degree criminal trespass and driving without a valid operating license.

"No matter who you are, you're taking a risk when you make poor choices," Wulff said when asked about the decision during the show.

Redshirt freshman Joshua Garrett, who was a passenger, was also arrested, charged with being a minor exhibiting signs of having consumed alcohol. He has been suspended for two games, Wulff said. The walk-on reserve linebacker will practice with the team but will not suit up.

Garrett played special teams and saw some late action at linebacker against the Cardinal.

•••

• That's it for now. We'll have some practice notes up in a little bit. Until then …




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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