LOS ANGELES (AP) -Southern California defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis even surprised his father with an overpowering performance at Nebraska.
``I was thinking, he was dominating,'' Dwayne Ellis said with a chuckle at practice this week, a few days after watching his son star in No. 1 USC's 49-31 victory over the Cornhuskers. ``I wasn't expecting that kind of game out of him. He stepped up.''
Ellis seemed to be in Sam Keller's face every time the Nebraska quarterback attempted to pass. When the Cornhuskers tried to run, Ellis was in the way. The 6-foot-2, 305-pound senior nose tackle had five tackles, including a sack, and deflected two passes.
``He was good when he got here. He's gotten a whole lot better,'' Dwayne Ellis said. ``He really, really wants that national championship for SC this year. He calls it unfinished business.''
Sedrick Ellis and the Trojans (2-0) begin their quest for an unprecedented sixth straight Pac-10 championship Saturday night against Washington State (2-1) at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where USC has won a conference-record 34 straight home games dating back to 2001.
The Trojans would've played Ohio State in the BCS championship game last January had they not lost to crosstown rival UCLA 13-9 in their regular-season finale. While Ellis acknowledged he played well last weekend, he said his performance against the Bruins in a losing cause was even better.
Ellis considered leaving for the NFL after last season. He's glad now he decided to stay, and so is USC coach Pete Carroll.
``Sedrick Ellis has grown a tremendous amount,'' Carroll said. ``He's playing fast, he's playing like we had seen Mike Patterson play in his big years - maybe even more effective in some aspects of it.
``The fact that he stayed for his fifth year, it's really obvious what a difference that's made. It's going to pay off for him and it's paying off for us.''
Ellis agreed, saying: ``It's amazing to me how much you can grow in one year. To me, this year's a whole new ballgame. I've learned so much. The mental part, it's helping me play so much faster.''
Ellis, a three-year starter, played behind Patterson, a third-team All-American in 2004, as a redshirt freshman. The two have remained in touch.
``I was talking to Mike's uncle yesterday,'' Ellis' father said. ``I was saying Mike must feel like a dad, watching Sedrick grow up.''
Patterson is in his third season with the Philadelphia Eagles.
``Mike was a mentor to me,'' Ellis said. ``I don't know if he knows that. I wouldn't be where I am without his example. When we talk, we talk about football a little bit. Mostly, it's just catching up with a friend.''
Ellis said the two have different styles, that he relies more on his strength. Fellow defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson knows all about that strength.
``We were roommates for a couple years,'' said Jackson, another fifth-year senior. ``We used to wrestle. I never felt so much like a piece of paper.
``It's really hard to describe him. People can't handle it. It's like he has a little gorilla in him. And he's the quickest tackle on the team, so it's not all strength.''
USC guard Chilo Rachal said trying to block Ellis, which he has to do all the time in practice, is no easy task.
``He's strong, he's fast, he's smart,'' Rachal said. ``He knows what he wants to do before he does it. I haven't gone against another guy who knows what he wants to do before he does it.
``You've got to bring your stuff every play. He brings it more consistently than anybody I've faced.''
Ellis' father said he's never had any problems with his son, adding that the young man's personality changes drastically when he takes the field.
Ellis agreed.
``I'm a pretty mellow guy, born and raised in Southern California,'' he said. ``I try to save it all day, click it on when I step on the field. I have a little saying: `When I step on the field, the beast comes out.' It's a good mental tool to help me switch modes.''

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