Nov. 13, 2000
LOS ANGELES - As much as UCLA coach Bob Toledo wants his team to beat crosstown rival Southern California on Saturday, he feels for embattled Trojans coach Paul Hackett.
While the Bruins (6-4, 3-4 Pac-10) are assured of playing in a bowl game next month, the Trojans (4-6, 1-6) have fallen on hard times, and Hackett has been under heavy fire in recent weeks.
"That bothers me," Toledo said Monday. "Paul and I aren't close friends, but we are friends. It makes you feel bad. It's not just him, it's his family, it's the assistant coaches, it's the university.
"You don't win, people get on you. That's hard, (but) that comes with the territory."
Even if the Trojans beat UCLA and No. 11 Notre Dame on Nov. 25, it might not be enough to save Hackett's job. Hackett, who has two years left on his contract, and Toledo were assistant coaches on John Robinson's staff at USC from 1976-78.
The Trojans beat the Bruins 17-7 last year to snap UCLA's eight-game winning streak against them. It was USC's first win in the series since 1990, when Todd Marinovich's 23-yard touchdown pass to Johnnie Morton with 16 seconds left gave the Trojans a 45-42 victory - the second-highest point total in the 69-game series.
This year's matchup at the Rose Bowl has been a sellout for several weeks, meaning a crowd of about 90,000 is expected.
Despite their problems against UCLA in the 1990s, the Trojans lead the series 35-27-7. Until last year, Toledo was a perfect 8-0 in the series - three wins as a USC assistant, two wins as a UCLA assistant, and three wins as the Bruins' head coach.
"I have seen so many people rise to the occasion, it brings out the best in everyone," he said. "It kind of makes or breaks your season - you have to live with these people 365 days a year."
Toledo said almost all of UCLA's injured players, and there are several, especially on defense, should be able to play Saturday.
"How long they participate is another story," he said. "They might last one play. There is no tomorrow, no reason to save anything."
One of those injured players is linebacker Robert Thomas, who missed much of UCLA's 35-28 loss to No. 6 Washington last weekend because of a stress fracture in his left foot.
"It's pretty painful," Thomas admitted. "Oh, I am playing, definitely. I've got to play, it's SC week. Nobody's hurt during SC week. That's the way it is around here."
Thomas smiled when asked how he felt about the Trojans.
"They're our rivals, there's a lot of hatred between us," he said. "All rivalries have hatred. It's nothing personal, it's USC vs. UCLA."
Bruins quarterback Cory Paus is looking forward to playing against the Trojans for the first time. The third-year sophomore missed last year's game because he broke his collarbone the previous week.
"I don't particularly like SC," Paus said. "I've heard people around here say, 'I don't care if you lose every game you play as long as you beat USC,' only they say it a little differently than that. I heard that the last time I left the Rose Bowl.
"They've had a pretty tough year, we have, too. We've been a little more fortunate than they have."
So does Paus feel sorry for the Trojans?
"No, I don't," he replied. "It's tough to lose some close games. We've lost some close games, too."
By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer