October 30, 2008

Carroll, Ferrell pull off Halloween gag

As the door flew open on a camera tower high above the ground just outside Howard Jones Field, all eyes turned to a man inside screaming and waving his arms.

As he hurled to the ground, players winced in horror. Fullback Stanley Havili ran towards the door, but before he could get there, he received good news.

"He caught him," a woman yelled.

With the man cradled in his arms, a masked superhero strolled into Howard Jones Field. Sure of enough, "Captain Compete" turned out to be Will Ferrell.

After speaking to the team for a couple of minutes, Captain Compete got another chance to save a life, when a man engulfed in flames emerged from behind the goalposts.

After the man was extinguished, Ferrell tried to help, launching a Gatorade cooler at the man - not on the man.

"What a sense of timing that guy has," USC head coach Pete Carroll said.

The Halloween gag had most of the Trojans fooled.

"It felt awful," Havili said. "My stomach just dropped."

Freshman defensive tackle Armond Armstead saw the man fall and thought tragedy struck.

"Seriously," he said, "I thought we just watched a dude die."

The prank lightened the mood after the team finalized its week of practice

"It was just a little something in the Halloween spirits," Carroll said. "I just thought we'd have a little fun."

Tricks but no treats

While the appearance from Ferrell had Trojan fans smiling, some unfortunate injury news dampened the mood.

Running back Joe McKnight re-injured his toe on two separate occasions. In isolation work, McKnight came out of a drill hobbled, only to return.

Then, McKnight took a pitch from Mark Sanchez and as he broke to the outside, he came up lame.

"I just hurt it a little bit," he said. "I think I'll be fine."

Carroll said the extent of McKnight's injury is unclear, and it certainly dampers a week where McKnight looked more like his explosive self.

"I saw him jog around after, but I don't know the extent of it," he said. "He had a great week. It might not be a big deal, but I'm not sure."

Also, and perhaps more seriously, senior safety Kevin Ellison had to be helped off the field after injuring his knee.

Ellison hobbled off the field on his own, and left the locker room before reporters could speak with him.

"He tweaked his knee at the end of a play," Carroll said. "The next guy in would be Will Harris."

Carroll said he wouldn't move Josh Pinkard back to safety.

"He's pretty dug in at corner," Carroll said.

A team spokesman said no update on Ellison's status would be available until Friday.

Extra Points

• Carroll said Nick Howell would start at right tackle, next to Alex Parsons. Butch Lewis and Zack Heberer will both play.

• Heberer, who missed time with turf toe, said the injury still isn't 100 percent cleared up. He injured his toe in the Trojans' loss to Oregon State.

Heberer said the injury only really affects him when he's using improper footwork.

Vidal Hazelton was at practice after injuring his toe while chasing his dog, but his participation was limited.

Rhett Ellison returned to practice Thursday and caught a touchdown pass.

• Former Trojan Kenechi Udeze attended Thursday's practice.


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