If sporting events really were lost on bulletin boards, Cassius Clay would have been 0-1 after his bout with Tunney Hunsaker.
Tunney who? Exactly.
“John Robinson is just being confident - he’s challenging his team,” said Washington State football coach Mike Price, inundated nonetheless by well-intentioned reminders of the USC coach’s vow to win five straight, plus a bowl game.
“He’s a professional. He’s been around the block a few days. I don’t think it was just an off-hand remark.” Off-hand, no. Off-his-rocker, perhaps. Off-the-wall, at least.
Robinson’s unranked-yet-dangerous Trojans were knocked around by fourth-ranked Arizona State last Saturday and have been battered a bit in the Los Angeles media.
Robinson fueled the ridicule with his bold, if not desperate, pledge to take things five games at a time.
“Been there, blown that,” the Los Angeles Times mocked.
The Trojans seek solace tonight in chilly Martin Stadium, which they lease with an option to buy, USC having won its last three here in upping its Pullman record to 7-2-2.
And yet that record, backed by an almost comical 47-5-4 lead in the series, has rarely meant less.
USC opened as a four-point favorite in Las Vegas, talent having to count for something. But the spread was soon down to 3-1/2, suggesting the Cougars aren’t the only ones who sense USC’s vulnerability.
The Trojans limp into Pullman with a 4-3 record, talk of a national title having been pushed into next year’s media guide. At 2-2 in the conference, USC suddenly needs a victory to pull even with the Cougars. “Right now, there’s no margin for us,” Robinson understated. A WSU victory would be the Cougars’ first over the Trojans since 1986, and just their second since 1957.
It would also give WSU a boost heading into its second bye, allowing the Cougars to ride a three-game winning streak and 6-2 record into the historically disastrous month of November.
Perhaps most importantly, a WSU win would keep the second-place Cougars positioned strongly in the bowl picture with a 4-1 Pac-10 record.
“This is a big game,” WSU defensive tackle Leon Bender said. “Because half the squad, if not more, is from California.
“It’s just basically, in the offseason, when you go home, who can brag the most.”
Forecast calls for 30s
The National Weather Service predicts clear skies, light winds and temperatures in the upper 30s for kickoff.
It could be near freezing by game’s end, a NWS spokesman said.
Tray Crayton, who transferred from Nebraska in August 1995 and was expected to be a backup cornerback for the Cougars this season, elected to leave school after failing to meet NCAA eligibility standards, WSU confirmed.
Crayton, from Oceanside, Calif., has not been with the team this season.
Defensive end Dorian Boose, injured in last week’s 21-18 win over California, will try to play with a cast on his sore right wrist.
If unable to play, Rob Meier will get most of the playing time, followed by pass-rushing specialist Jonathan Nance.
Linebacker Steve Gleason, having recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery, practiced this week and will again back up Brandon Moore on the weak side.
Defensive end Willie Lowery and defensive tackle Cedric Jefferson, both starters, did not make the trip to Pullman.
Lowery has a sprained ankle and Jefferson a sprained knee.
Cornerback Daylon McCutcheon and receiver Larry Parker suffered minor groin injuries Wednesday, but are expected to start.
USC linebacker Chris Claiborne leads the team with 65 tackles and is one of the best true freshman in America.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Cougars vs. USC
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