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College football: Orange bowl

Tampa's Williams stars for Trojans

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

MIAMI -- Plant graduate Mike Williams put a strong finish on an impressive first season at Southern California in Thursday's Orange Bowl, setting or tying three NCAA freshman records in the Trojans' 38-17 victory.

Williams, a 6-foot-5 receiver who quickly became Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer's favorite target, gave the Trojans their first lead on an 18-yard pass from Palmer on the opening drive of the second half.

The touchdown was Williams' 14th of the season, matching former Florida receiver Jabar Gaffney for the NCAA freshman record. Earlier in the drive, Williams set the national freshman single-season yardage mark, going over 1,200 to eclipse another Gaffney record. Before the quarter ended, Williams had his fifth catch of the night, giving him 80 for the season, breaking that NCAA record held by Marshall's Josh Davis.

The touchdown gave Williams eight straight games with at least one score, and his 14 touchdowns match USC's single-season record held by Johnnie Morton.

PROUD LOCALS: Williams wasn't the only Floridian playing in his home state. USC has another one on its roster, another freshman from the Tampa area in Mike Ross, a reserve safety from St. Petersburg Catholic. Before this season, USC had only two lettermen in its history from Florida.

FAMILIAR FACES: Buccaneers Brian Kelly and Keyshawn Johnson, who wore a white No. 7 John Elway Broncos jersey, were among USC alumni on the sideline, along with NFL players Rodney Peete and Tony Boselli. Another connection is USC's receivers coach Lane Kiffin, the 27-year-old son of Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The elder Kiffin and USC coach Pete Carroll coached together in college and with the NFL's Bills, Vikings and Jets.

EARLY EXCITEMENT: Southern Cal hadn't played in five weeks. Iowa's last game was two weeks before that, giving the Hawkeyes a 47-day layoff. Both teams shook off the rust with big plays and touchdowns in the first three minutes.

Iowa's C.J. Jones took the opening kickoff down the left sideline for 100 yards and a touchdown. Palmer then threw a 65-yarder to Kareem Kelly on the Trojans' first play. Williams drew pass interference in the end zone, setting up Justin Fargas' 4-yard touchdown run two plays later. It was the 47th straight game in which Kelly caught a pass, breaking the NCAA record he shared with former New Mexico receiver Carl Winston.

THIS AND THAT: Former Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier of Bradenton was among three inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame, along with tight end Ozzie Newsome and longtime Miami Herald columnist Edwin Pope. ... Fargas, a transfer from Michigan, is the son of actor Antonio Fargas, best known as Huggy Bear on Starsky & Hutch.

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