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COLORADO STATE, NEBRASKA OPEN IN GRAND STYLE <br> RAMS NEED RALLY TO TRIP SPARTANS; CORNHUSKERS ROLL

The game was billed as a battle of 1,000-yard running backs. It was settled in the trenches, where Colorado State was too much for Michigan State.

Kevin McDougal's 32-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter gave the 15th-ranked Rams their first lead and they held on for a 23-16 victory over No. 23 Michigan State in the Black Coaches Association Classic on Saturday.

The Rams, who once trailed, 16-0, increased their winning streak to 10 games. Michigan State has lost 10 of its last 12 against ranked opponents and is 7-34 in such games since 1988.

McDougal, one of two 1,000-yard rushers in the Rams' backfield, completed the comeback with a burst off tackle with 11:29 left in the fourth quarter.

"I've got to tell you, our offensive line dominated today," said McDougal, who rushed for 1,111 yards last season. "When they have good games, we have good games."

Ryan Eslinger, making his first start at quarterback, was 3 of 3 for 44 yards in the go-ahead drive. Eslinger, a senior who had attempted just 27 passes before this season, was 13 of 26 for 205 yards and one touchdown with one interception for the game.

"The second half, it was just a matter of making everything go," Eslinger said. "It worked out good. They ran some things (defensively) that we had in our game plan. They didn't throw anything at us that we didn't see on film."

Bill Burke, making his first start at quarterback for Michigan State, was 11 of 21 for 73 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Freshman Ryan Van Dyke was at quarterback for the Spartans' final series.

"We had only 230 yards of total offense," Michigan State coach Nick Saban said. "Part of that is because we couldn't complete passes when we needed to."

Nebraska 56, Louisiana Tech 27

LINCOLN, Neb. -- New coach, same old story for Nebraska.

The Frank Solich era opened with the fourth-ranked Cornhuskers beating Louisiana Tech in the Eddie Robinson Classic, although the Bulldogs made a record-setting impression in defeat.

Wide receiver Troy Edwards broke the NCAA all-divisions record for receiving yards by catching 21 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Tim Rattay rocked the Huskers by completing 46 of 68 passes for 590 yards -- all record numbers against Nebraska. Edwards had TD catches of 94, 80 and 52 yards in the second half.

The previous all-divisions record for receiving yards was 370 yards, shared by Michael Lerch of Princeton (1991, vs. Brown) and Barry Wagner of Alabama A&M (1989, vs. Clark). The major-college record of 363 was set by UNLV's Randy Gatewood against Idaho in 1994.

Nebraska set no records in its first game in 26 seasons without Tom Osborne as coach, but Bobby Newcombe made an impressive debut at quarterback. He ran for two touchdowns and passed for one as the Huskers scored TDs on all five first-half possessions in taking a 35-6 lead.

Newcombe finished 9 of 10 for 168 yards.

Gambling probe at Colorado

DENVER -- The FBI is investigating claims that a University of Colorado player was involved in a gambling ring run by a former Northwestern quarterback, ESPN reported.

Brian Ballarini, who has pleaded guilty to running a bookmaking operation at Northwestern, has implicated an unnamed CU player. Ballarini transferred to Colorado in 1995 and graduated last year.

Dick Tharp, athletic director at Colorado, said the university has looked into the claims.~ Hackett era begins at USC

LOS ANGELES -- Paul Hackett experienced some of the glory days of USC football as an assistant on John Robinson's staff in the late 1970s, when the Trojans routinely played in the Rose Bowl and contended for the national championship.

Taking over a program in decline, Hackett hopes to bring USC back to that sort of prominence.

Robinson, who returned to the job for a second engagement five years ago and failed to turn the fortunes around, was fired after last season. Hackett was beckoned from Kansas City, where he was the Chiefs' offensive coordinator, to try to accomplish what his former boss couldn't.

"When I became the head coach at USC, there was a feeling that I had come home. I feel like I belong here. Part of that was being here with John Robinson," said Hackett, a Trojans' assistant from 1976-80.

"I'm fortunate to be the coach at a school with such a rich tradition."

Tradition doesn't necessarily translate into victories. Over the past two years, the Trojans are a combined 12-11 and haven't played in a bowl game since the end of the 1995 season.

Heading into today's season opener, in the Pigskin Classic against Purdue at the Los Angeles Coliseum (2:30 p.m., Ch. 7), USC isn't ranked in the preseason poll for the first time in six years.

Purdue finished No. 15 in the national rankings but, like USC, is not ranked among the top 25 in the preseason poll.

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