LOS ANGELES -- Ed Orgeron's official title is "interim head coach." The first word, however, seems inconsequential to almost everyone at USC.
Orgeron had been the head coach for less than two weeks and hadn't even finished coaching his first game before the Trojan Marching Band broke out a new cheer for their new coach, "Coach O," which might get played more than "Tusk" if the Trojans continue winning as they did Thursday night in a 38-31 victory over Arizona.
Before the second half (with the Trojans leading 28-10), the USC student section performed a card stunt which spelled out "Coach O" in cardinal and gold, and after the game the loudest ovation for the coach came from a group of six students seated behind the USC bench who had each letter of "Coach O" painted on their chests.
The most positive reviews for Orgeron, however, came from his very own players after the game. The same ones who gathered around him at midfield two hours before the game in a circle as he spoke to them to play as one. And the same ones who gathered around him and gave him a group hug after giving him a Gatorade shower as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
"No disrespect to the coach who was here before and I'm not getting into that, but you want a coach that you will freaking just go to war for every time [like] this man here to my right," USC quarterback Cody Kessler said. "I don't only speak for myself. I speak for the whole team. We would go to war for this guy any day of the week. Any time he needed us we have his back 100 percent.
"When you have a coach that you can see and feel that he cares about you so much and wants you to be the best that you can be and succeed, that's love right there. I couldn't ask for a better head coach. All of us would go to war and put our lives on the line for this man any day of the week."
It was easily the most genuine and heartfelt quote any USC player has said about their head coach since Pete Carroll left the program in 2009.
Normally coaches leave after addressing the media after the game and leave the podium for their players. Orgeron, however, stayed. Perhaps he didn't know he didn't have to, but after each one of his players answered a question, he looked at them and smiled, slapped their knee and put his arm around them.
"These guys, it's for them," Orgeron said. "I watched them hurt. I just wanted a change for them. To see them happy and see the celebrating and see them feeling good about themselves and walking with a pep in their steps, that's all I wanted. I told the guys I'd treat them like my son and when you see your son hurting, you hurt for them, and I just wanted them to feel good."
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