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Freshman QB Lifts USC

Freshman quarterback Carson Palmer came off the bench to guide Southern California to two second-half touchdowns and a field goal Sunday for a 27-17 victory over Purdue in Paul Hackett's Trojan coaching debut.

On a sweltering afternoon in the Coliseum, Chad Morton scored on a 98-yard kickoff

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return early in the game, then sealed the victory with a 13-yard touchdown run with 3:02 left in the season-opening Pigskin Classic matchup.

Temperatures on the Coliseum field reached 110-plus degrees and several USC band members, a cheerleader and a number of fans fainted from the heat. The crowd of 56,623 also thinned out considerably as the game wore on, with about a third of the fans remaining in their seats by the middle of the final quarter.

Palmer, who replaced starter Mike Van Raaphorst with the Trojans trailing 17-10 early in the third quarter, needed just two series to help put his team ahead as USC outscored Purdue 17-0 in the second half.

Palmer came in with the Trojans at their own 32-yard line, and, after overthrowing the receiver on his first college attempt, threw a 9-yard completion. Then Palmer hooked up with Larry Parker for a 42-yarder, down to the Purdue 8.

Shortly afterward, petros Papadakis punched into the end zone from the 1-yard line to tie the game with 1:57 left in the quarter.

The Trojans went ahead for the first time on Adam Abrams' 45-yard field goal in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. The score was set up by linebacker Chris Claiborne's interception at the Purdue 31.

Cornerback Daylon McCutcheon slapped Brees' pass away from intended receiver Randall Lane, and Claiborne dove to grab the ball before it hit the ground.

With USC up by three, Van Raaphorst returned to replace Palmer for the next series, then Palmer came back with 3:54 left in the game and took the Trojans on a drive that ended with Morton's second touchdown of the day, set up by David Gibsn's fumble recovery at the Purdue 44.

For the game, Palmer was 3-of-6 for 79 yards. Van Raaphorst, a sophomore who started two games before being hurt last season,was 11-of-22 for 89 yards, with one interception.

Drew Brees, a sophomore in his first start for Purdue, completed 30 of 52 for 248 yards and two TDs, with two interceptions. He was the dominant player in the first half, completing 18-of-27 for 148 yards and two scores.

The fourth football meeting ever between the schools, and the first since 1976, marked a successful homecoming for Hackett, a USC assistant under John Robinson in the late 1970s. After serving as the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator, Hackett was hired as by the Trojans last winter after Robinson was fired following a 6-5 season.

Purdue, which turned around last season under new coach Joe Tiller, was coming off a 9-3 season and the school's first bowl appearance since 1984.

Although Purdue outgained USC 208 yards to 78 and had to punt just once in the first half, the Boilermakers led only 17-10.

Morton helped by running all the way on his first kickoff return for USC. As his teammates sealed off defenders on the outside, Morton darted up the middle almost untouched. Two would-be tacklers converged on him near the 25-yard line, but hit him at the same time and bounced off.

Morton then cut to the outside and sprinted all alone to the end zone.

After netting a minus-1 yard in the first quarter, the USC offense put together a scoring drive midway through he second. Van Raaphorst guided the Trojans 60 yards, down to the Purdue 13, before the Boilermakers' defense dug in and held USC to Abrams' 30-yard field goal that trimmed the lead to 17-10.

After Purdue took the opening kickoff, Brees completed five of his first six throws, including a 43-yarder to Isaac Jones down to the USC 19, Brees capped the drive with the short pass to Cox for a 7-0 lead 4:40 into the game.

After Morton's TD return, Purdue moved in front again on Brees' 9-yard scoring pass to Cliff Jackson. Helped by Danny Rogers' 63-yard punt down to the USC 2-yard line moments earlier, the Boilermakers began their second TD drive from the Trojans' 29.

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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