USC Star Rips UCLA LinebackerJOHN NADEL , Associated Press
Nov. 24, 1998 7:40 PM ET
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Star Southern California linebacker Chris Claiborne is one angry Trojan.
Claiborne was still upset Tuesday over remarks made by UCLA's Brendon Ayanbadejo after the third-ranked Bruins beat the Trojans over the weekend.
Ayanbadejo, a senior linebacker, sacked freshman quarterback Carson Palmer four times and was involved in nine tackles as UCLA won a 34-17 decision for its eighth straight victory over USC.
``I thought the guy was terrible,'' Ayanbadejo said of Palmer afterward. ``We could have sent out one of our redshirt freshman (to play quarterback) and he would have played better than him.''
Apparently, Ayanbadejo believed Palmer had denigrated the UCLA defense beforehand. Nevertheless, Claiborne was still furious three days after the game was played.
``I'm sick of his mouth,'' said Claiborne, a junior who is one of three finalists for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker. ``That just goes to show you he's not a very good player.
``He had a great game. For him to just keep talking, what is that going to prove? For him to talk about Carson the way he did is ridiculous, I take it personally. I don't think he's good enough to talk about Carson the way he did.''
Claiborne said he believes Palmer is going to be one of the best quarterbacks in USC history before he's finished.
Palmer said Ayanbadejo's remarks surprised him.
``I've never heard of somebody going off like that after they beat you,'' he said. ``I wish he wasn't a senior, I wish I had a chance to play against him next year.''
USC committed seven turnovers in the game, prompting Claiborne to say, ``We gave them the game.''
Claiborne, who was involved in seven tackles, broke up two passes and returned an interception 66 yards to set up a touchdown, also said the game could have gotten ugly had it not been for USC's defense, but added, ``You lose as a team. It's a new week. I'm basically going to put this to rest.''
The Trojans (7-4, 5-3 Pac-10), assured of playing in their first bowl game in three years, complete their season Saturday night against No. 9 Notre Dame (9-1) at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
USC has beaten Notre Dame twice in a row after going 0-12-1 against the Fighting Irish in the 13 previous years.
``It's another big game,'' Claiborne said. ``It's another rated team. To me, it's disappointing that we don't beat the top teams. It's frustrating.''
The Trojans are winless against the three ranked teams they've played this year, having lost to Florida State, Oregon and UCLA.
Claiborne said he plans to call a news conference after the season to announce whether or not he'll return for his senior year or opt to make himself available for the NFL draft.
``I can't tell you guys,'' he told reporters with a smile when asked of his plans. ``I'm thinking I know what I want to do. Let's win this game first.''
Notre Dame will face the Trojans without starting quarterback Jarius Jackson, who injured a knee in last weekend's 39-36 win over LSU when he fell awkwardly in the end zone after taking an intentional safety at the end of the game.
``They're a dangerous team, regardless,'' Claiborne said. ``They've got a huge line, a very good running game. Passing wasn't their game anyway.''
A victory by the Trojans would no doubt spoil any hopes Notre Dame has of playing in a Bowl Championship Series game _ the Rose, Orange and Sugar bowls are all possibilities if the Irish finish 10-1.