USC Trojans: Silas Redd

Pac-12 results from the NFL combine

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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Raise your hand if you thought Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney would run a faster 40-yard dash than Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas at the NFL combine.

Put your hand down, liar.

Granted, it was still only by a hundredth of a second -- Gaffney ran 4.49 and Thomas 4.50 -- but, still, Thomas built his reputation on speed, while Gaffney's was more on toughness and vision. It ranked as one of the surprise performances among Pac-12 players over the weekend at the NFL combine.

[+] EnlargeBishop Sankey
AP Photo/Michael ConroyWashington running back Bishop Sankey made a move up draft boards with his performance at the NFL combine.
Sunday proved to be a great day for Washington running back Bishop Sankey, who might have jumped Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey on some draft boards, according to ESPN's John Clayton.

From Clayton's story:
There may not be a running back who could entice a team to use a first-round pick, but the backs who ran Sunday looked great. Bishop Sankey of Washington may have entered the combine as the No. 3 halfback, but his stock probably rose with a 4.49 40 time along with a good show of lifting strength. Tre Mason of Auburn displayed second-round numbers with his 4.5. Both backs might have jumped ahead of Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona, who had a 4.70.

Sankey ranked No. 2 among running backs with 26 reps on the bench press and his 40-time was tied for No. 9.

Another one of the weekend's big winners was Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks, who turned in the fastest 40 among receivers. His time of 4.33 was second to only to Kent State running back Dri Archer, who ran a 4.26.

Cooks, who set Pac-12 single-season records with 128 catches and 1,730 receiving yards this year, also turned in the fastest time registered in the 60-yard shuttle (10.72) at the combine since at least 2006. During that same time period, he's tied for the fastest time in the 20-yard shuttle (3.81) with Tennessee cornerback Jason Allen from 2006.

Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the John Mackey Award winner, has a stress fracture in his foot that is expected to need six to eight weeks to recover, according to a report from the Tacoma News Tribune. Due to the injury, Seferian-Jenkins was able to participate only in the bench press. He put up 20 reps, which ranked tied for No. 10 among the 15 tight ends who participated.

See the complete list of Pac-12 invitees.

Here are the Saturday and Sunday results from the Pac-12 players in the 40 and bench press:

Running back

Gaffney, Stanford: 4.49/did not lift
Sankey, Washington: 4.49/26 reps
Thomas, Oregon: 4.50/8 reps
Carey, Arizona: 4.70/19 reps
Silas Redd, USC: 4.70/18 reps
Ryan Hewitt, Stanford (fullback): 4.87/did not lift
Marion Grice, Arizona State: Did not participate
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (transferred from Oregon): 4.51/15 reps

Wide receiver

Cooks, Oregon State: 4.33/16 reps
Paul Richardson, Colorado: 4.40/did not lift
Shaquelle Evans, UCLA: 4.51/13 reps
Josh Huff, Oregon: 4.51/14 reps
Marqise Lee, USC: 4.52/did not lift

Offensive line

Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA: 5.04/25 reps
Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford: 5.28/26 reps
David Yankey, OG, Stanford: 5.48/22 reps
Marcus Martin, C, USC: did not run/23 reps

Tight end

Colt Lyerla, formerly of Oregon: 4.61/16 reps
Anthony Denham, Utah: 4.77/did not lift
Jake Murphy, Utah: 4.79/24 reps
Richard Rodgers, TE, California: 4.87/16 reps
Seferian-Jenkins, Washington: did not run/20 reps
Xavier Grimble, USC: did not run or lift

Quarterback

No Pac-12 quarterbacks are at the combine, which is a rarity. The conference has sent at least one every year since at least 1999, which was as far back as we could go to find combine rosters.
The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine gets underway this week in Indianapolis, and there will be seven Trojans in attendance to perform in front of league coaches, scouts and personnel men.

Here’s an alphabetical look at the former USC players and where they stand heading into the combine:

S Dion Bailey: The combine probably isn’t going to do much to drastically alter Bailey’s draft status one way or the other. He’s not going to grow and he’s not going to wow with his speed, but one area in which he can look to impress is with his pass-coverage skills. Bailey is viewed as a “tweener” by NFL standards, stuck between ideal measurables at safety and linebacker. The good news for Dion is that he played both at USC, and he produced at both spots as well. That always looks good on the resume. He could also be the kind of guy who shines on special teams. Mel Kiper from ESPN currently ranks him as the No. 5 safety, a very good showing that could translate to a mid-round draft status once teams factor in the intangibles he brings.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonWR Marqise Lee is the marquee name among the Trojans at the NFL combine.
TE Xavier Grimble: Grimble is a guy who can use the combine to benefit his draft status because the reality for him is he has a long way to go in the eyes of the scouts. His move to declare early was met with raised eyebrows by NFL folks who view his USC career as somewhat underachieving. Right now he isn’t listed by Kiper as a top-10 tight end. Injuries and scheme had something to do with that perceived underachievement. Now is the time for Grimble to begin proving he is ready for the next level. The measurables are there, and the good news for him is that USC tight ends have a recent history of sticking with teams (Fred Davis, Anthony McCoy, Jordan Cameron, David Ausberry, Rhett Ellison, etc).

LB Devon Kennard: It’s interesting to see that there isn’t a lot of buzz about Kennard heading into the draft process. You would think Kennard would be someone that would fit the type of player every team would be looking for -- a solid citizen and dependable player who is coming off a senior season in which he was named a finalist for the Lott Trophy. Kennard is also the son of a former NFL player. His time at USC was filled with position changes and a critical injury that could have derailed him, but instead he responded by coming back stronger than ever. Look for Kennard to get more teams taking notice at the combine, on his way to a long and successful NFL career.

WR Marqise Lee: Lee could end up being one of the more high-profile players at the combine with a lot of anticipation to see how he compares with some of the other top wideouts. It’s a very good year at the position, and Lee can stake his claim at the head of the group. One area to watch will be the 40-yard dash. Lee is known for being fast, but he can really open some eyes if he puts up a low number. Right now Kiper has him as the No. 2 wide receiver, and both Kiper (No. 18 to the Jets) and Todd McShay (No. 13 to the Rams) have him going in the first round.

OL Marcus Martin: Martin has seen his stock rise since declaring for the draft. Kiper currently ranks him No. 1 at the center position. That’s impressive for a player who has played only one year at the position after starting for his first two years at USC at left guard. That versatility definitely helps him in the eyes of NFL scouts, as does the fact he stepped into the starting lineup three games into his true freshman season and never left. The combine will be the first opportunity for Martin to show his athleticism and strength against the other center prospects while likely securing a mid-round draft projection.

TB Silas Redd: The combine setting isn’t going to show the real value of a player like Redd. Sure, it will be nice to test him in shorts and T-shirts in the 40, but you aren’t going to see what Redd brings to a team until you put on the pads and ask him to run the football. That’s when you’ll find an extremely tough guy who knows how to pound the rock. In the meantime, Silas will interview well, teams will test his knee to make sure it is sound, and he will hope for a late-round selection.

DL George Uko: Outside of Grimble, Uko is the USC player with the most to gain from the combine. Uko had flashes of good play in his career but not nearly enough to warrant an early to mid-round selection at this point. The good news for Uko, however, is that there are only a certain amount of men with the combination of size and ability to play on the defensive line, and he is one of them. The combine will offer him a chance to do something special to start moving up the defensive line depth chart because, as of right now, Uko does not crack Kiper's top 10 at the position.

2013 review: USC offense 

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
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With a new starting quarterback at the helm, a slew of injuries depleting an already thin depth chart and a highly publicized coaching carousel, the production of the USC offense was largely up and down in 2013 with the Trojans averaging a pedestrian 29.7 points per game, while converting just 35 percent on third-down plays.

Still, part of a USC squad that finished 10-4, this is a unit that made strides throughout the course of the season. It’s safe to say that it certainly had more than its share of shining moments.

Quarterback

3-point stance: Bridgewater's future

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
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1. It has been a foregone conclusion that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will leave a year early to go to the NFL. That Bridgewater said he has made no decision is interesting. He has already gotten his degree. The reasons to stay would be loyalty to friends and to coaches, or to enjoy a last year of college, or to become more football-mature. History is pretty clear: quarterbacks benefit from playing that extra year in college. I hope that Bridgewater withstands the pull of the NFL for one more year. But that’s hard to do.

2. The grumbling about Kirk Ferentz at Iowa has quieted again, now that the Hawkeyes went 8-4 and finished tied for second in the Big Ten Legends. Ferentz’s teams are almost metronomic in the way they swing from mediocre to good and back again. That’s maddening to fans in this day and age. But Ferentz re-established Iowa as a program that plays sound, fundamental football. Ferentz and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma began the same season, 1999, at their current jobs and had the same kind of 15th season: overachieving, with big finishes.

3. The rise of USC redshirt sophomore tailback Javorious Allen is fascinating when juxtaposed against the injury struggles of his teammate, senior Silas Redd. Allen came on strong in the back half of the season and finished with 699 yards and the team MVP award. Redd left Penn State on the cusp of the 2012 season, in what appeared to be an escape from Penn State’s NCAA sanctions. In two seasons at USC, Redd rushed 248 times for 1,281 yards. As a sophomore at Penn State in 2011, Redd rushed 244 times for 1,241 yards.
LOS ANGELES -- After showing promise in limited action throughout USC’s first nine games, freshman tailback Ty Isaac received the chance to contribute on a much grander scale this past weekend and responded with a breakout performance.

Thrust into the expanded role when starter Silas Redd went out early against California with a knee injury, Isaac was able to get in the flow of a game for the first time as a Trojan, racking up 87 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.

[+] EnlargeTy Isaac
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsFreshman Ty Isaac made his first contributions as a Trojan by scoring his first touchdowns in USC's win over Cal.
“I just kind of got to relax,” Isaac said following USC’s practice on Tuesday, “and the offensive line was doing a really good job in opening up some holes for me, so everything worked out.”

Standing 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Isaac gives the Trojans a unique option as a physical back with deceptive speed, and his arrat of talents was on full display against the Golden Bears, with the highlight coming on a thrilling 37-yard touchdown dash in the fourth quarter in which he outraced a host of California defenders.

“Really, I was just trying to get a first down,” Isaac said of the long scoring run. “I was able to run in space, and when I saw daylight, I wanted it.”

Teaming with the hottest hand in the USC offensive backfield right now, Javorius Allen, Isaac helped the Trojans amass 256 yards on the ground in a 62-28 victory.

It was a banner day for players up and down the USC roster, but for Isaac, a Joliet (Ill.) Catholic product whose parents made the trek from Illinois to Berkeley to see him play in person, his attention-grabbing outing was particularly gratifying, especially with the game on national television.

“There were a lot of people texting me, congratulating me … a lot of friends and family from back home,” said Isaac, who has accumulated 144 yards on the ground in 2013. “It felt really good.”

And with a strong effort now under his belt, there’s reason to believe that Isaac’s friends and family might have more to cheer about in the future, but he’s not about to let his recent success get to his head.

“Definitely for confidence it helps you out, because now you know you can do it in a game against other people,” Isaac said, “but it just makes me want to continue to work hard in practice with my teammates.”

Isaac’s emergence is a boon for a tailback corps that has been hit hard by injuries, although his progression hasn’t come without challenges.

Arriving on campus this summer after a storied high school career in which he rushed for a total of 5,305 yards out of a prolific double-wing attack, Isaac had some difficulties early on as he made the switch from wingback to tailback in USC’s intricate pro-style scheme.

“It was a shock to the system,” Isaac said. “I ran about five plays in high school, and now I’ve got five different reads on one play, so that was definitely something that I had to adjust to.”

Through determination, hard work, and a fair amount of help along the way, Isaac has now made what appears to be a complete transition, and it’s had a profound influence on his ability to step in and produce.

“I’m in my playbook and I know my stuff a lot better, so that has had an impact,” Isaac said. “I’m a better player all-around, tenfold. Just playing against one of the best defenses in the country every day, it’s definitely made me a better player, and then just being around all of these older guys who have helped me out, as well as the coaches.”

With the status of Redd and Tre Madden still up in the air, all signs point to Isaac being asked to combine with Allen once again to carry a large portion of the load this Saturday, when USC faces No. 4 Stanford at the Coliseum.

An imposing squad featuring an aggressive defense that ranks No. 9 nationally against the run, the Cardinal present a stiff challenge for Isaac and Co. to deal with. But, as he explained, the Trojans have made a concerted effort to avoid getting caught up in the hype this week, instead focusing their efforts on sticking to the game-plan that has helped them compile a record of 4-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron.

“I’ve seen them on film, and I respect them as a team,” Isaac said. “Obviously, they’re a really good, physical team, but at the same time we’re going to treat it as another game in the season, and we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing.”

And with the young freshman having now proven himself in a game setting, the Trojans appear to have a new weapon to count on as they look to continue their winning ways this weekend – which is what it’s all about for Isaac.

“I just want to keep it rolling, and it’s a one-game season, every game," Isaac said. "I could not score another touchdown or gain another yard, as long as we’re still winning, I’m good.”

Planning for success: USC

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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Ed Orgeron didn’t waste any time in getting to the heart of USC’s matchup against Stanford on Saturday.

“This is gonna be a line of scrimmage game,” the interim head coach said after the Trojans practice on Tuesday.

There’s no secret about what the Cardinal are looking to do these days. They are going to line up on offense and run the football behind a talented and aggressive offensive line, while often employing additional linemen or tight ends to supplement their blocking efforts. The Stanford defense is particularly strong against the run, as it gives up less than 100 rushing yards per game.

[+] EnlargeStanford Cardinals
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezThe sight of Stanford celebrating has been familiar to USC fans, as the Cardinal have won four in a row and five out of six against the Trojans.
The emphasis on a physical identity from the Cardinal -- which started under Jim Harbaugh and has continued with David Shaw -- also coincides with a stretch of good fortune against the Trojans. Stanford has won four in a row against USC and five of the last six. For the Trojans to avoid a fifth straight loss there is no getting around the fact that they will need to win the battles on the line of scrimmage, and that isn’t something which has been easy to do against the Cardinal lately.

On offense, the Cardinal are very efficient, if not overwhelming. They average 32 points per game (No. 7 in the Pac-12) and are No. 11 in the conference with 388 total yards per game. They do average 205 yards on the ground each game -- No. 4 in the conference -- and only give up a nation-leading three tackles for loss per game. The Cardinal have only given up nine sacks on the season.

The Trojans will counter with a strong defensive front that is among the top 25 nationally in sacks (3.1 per game) and tackles for loss (7.1 per game). One of the keys for USC all season has been the play of defensive end Leonard Williams along the interior of the line. Williams is second on the team in tackles (56) and leads the Trojans in tackles for loss with 11 but has been hampered by a shoulder injury that caused him to sit out the California game last week.

USC is already without the services of Morgan Breslin, one of the leading pass rushers in the nation, who is out for the season with a hip injury, so depth could be a concern in such a physical contest. J.R. Tavai has proven to be a versatile reserve who could sub in for either Breslin or Williams as needed. Devon Kennard has been a steady force all year at the OLB spot opposite Breslin, leading the Trojans with eight sacks.

Things don’t get any easier for the Trojans on offense when facing the Cardinal defensive line. Stanford leads the Pac-12 in giving up only 98.7 rushing yards on the ground per game and is also stingy in scoring defense (19.4 points per game) and total defense (348.8 yards per game), ranking in the top 20 of the nation in both categories.

Stanford is also missing a key defender, as defensive end Ben Gardner is out for the season with an arm injury, but there is still plenty of talent. OLB Trent Murphy leads the Pac-12 in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (14), while defensive end Henry Anderson returned last week after missing six weeks with an injury.

While Stanford is very tough to run against, the Trojans will look to get balance while relying on Javorius Allen and Ty Isaac, as Silas Redd and Tre Madden are questionable due to injury. What is known is that all the scholarship wide receivers are available and all the tight ends got practice time this week. Look for the Trojans to keep the tight ends in a lot to help with pass protection while taking some shots with Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor in the passing game.

There might be some big plays with Lee and Agholor, or with Stanford WR Ty Montgomery, but that’s not where this game will be won. It will be won in the trenches, at the line of scrimmage. The Trojans know that and Stanford knows that. Now it’s just a matter of hitting the field on Saturday to see who can get the job done.

Surging Trojans are bucking the odds 

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
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There are lots of ways to gain respect in college football. There are the fans, the media and, certainly, your opponents to consider.

But the true sign of respect comes from only one place: The oddsmakers.

The gentlemen who set the betting lines in Las Vegas are cold, dispassionate observers. They do not let loyalty, emotion or bias enter into their thinking. They are the most objective sports observers on the planet.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Ed Orgeron conference call highlights

November, 10, 2013
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Some selected quotes from USC head coach Ed Orgeron's Sunday night conference call following the Trojans' 62-28 victory over California.

Orgeron's opening statement:

"After watching the film, I'm very excited about a lot of things that happened in that game versus Cal. We played very well as a team going on the road again ... putting up 62 points. There were some really, really good things on the film."

[+] EnlargeLeonard Williams
Ric Tapia/Icon SMISophomore defensive end Leonard Williams is expected to return to action Saturday against Stanford.
On the status of tailback Silas Redd and defensive end Leonard Williams:

"Silas Redd for [this weekend's] game is questionable -- knee. We expect to get Leonard Williams back sometime this week, and we expect him to play on Saturday."

On the style of play that has marked the Trojans' recent contests with Stanford, a team that has defeated USC five out of the last six times the programs have met:

"Obviously it's a very physical football game. I just watched last year's game, and there were some things that we did really well, but we did not make the play when we had to. They were tight games, and they made the plays when they had to, and we didn't. It's the type of game where we have to play 60 minutes. They're so well coached that if you make a mistake, they'll score a touchdown on you. If you miss a tackle, they'll score a touchdown on you. You just have to stay in there and fight with them. You have to fight with them toe-to-toe every play. Just take one play at a time, and you need a complete game. Their defensive line is very, very well coached ... they get after you, they make a lot of plays ... a lot of sacks. They're physical. They have a great kickoff returner ... they're great on special teams. They have a very physical run game. They're just a well-rounded football team."

On the fact that ESPN's College GameDay will be at the Coliseum this Saturday, and whether that, as well as the excitement surrounding the game in general, adds anything extra to the matchup for the team:

"We're going to prepare the same as we have for the last five weeks. From that standpoint, we need to stick to the plan ... the plan that has been working for us. On the outside, it's good for the University; it's great for recruiting; it's great for the crowd ... hopefully there's going to be a big crowd there, and really it's why you come to USC as a football player. It's why you come to coach here ... to play in these types of games, and it should be expected."

On what USC fullback Soma Vainuku brings to the fold in terms of his contribution on special teams, and in particular, on kickoff coverage:

"He sets the tone on the kickoff. He set the tone at Oregon State. He made a tremendous tackle [against California]. We studied the film this morning, and people have to change their blocking schemes in order to attack Soma on the kickoff. He's such a force. He's 260 pounds, [and] he's running down there like a sleek tailback. He's tough. He just does a lot for us. He's a great young man. He's a difference-maker."

[+] EnlargeAndre Heidari
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesAfter a stellar freshman season in 2011, Andre Heidari has struggled the last two years.
On whether the play of place kicker Andre Heidari -- who missed a PAT attempt as well as his lone field goal attempt versus California -- is a concern right now:

"It's always a concern when we don't make the kicks that we're supposed to. We've been inconsistent in that area. It will be addressed again this week. We're going to go back to the chalkboard, per se, in practice. I talked to Coach [John] Baxter, and we have to fix some things. We have to make sure he's right."

On whether Orgeron and Baxter have discussed opening up the competition for Heidari's kicking job, as they did before the Utah game:

"No, we have not thought about opening the competition. I talked to Coach Baxter today, [and] he felt that there's some things that he needs to fix on Andre. We'll look at it this week. He's still our starter, but it is a concern."

On the performance of the offensive line, a unit that had Kevin Graf back at right tackle last weekend after he missed the Oregon State game with an ankle injury:

"We went back to Graf at right tackle, and it seemed like it worked out well. Those guys seemed to perform well together. Moving Max [Tuerk] back to his original [left guard] position, I think those guys performed well. It was a positive. We didn't want Graf to get hurt, but in case someone gets hurt, then we can mix and match our guys and play well there."

On the areas in which the team has made the biggest strides of late:

"I think the energy, playing as a team, the offensive line, the run game ... the turnover ratio -- we're plus-six in the last five games -- which is a big key for us. The special teams have made some tremendous plays. I think those are our biggest improvements. I just think we're playing as a complete team."

On whether Orgeron has considered utilizing freshman safety Su'a Cravens, who also excelled on offense on the high school level, as a two-way player:

"He would probably be a great two-way player. We have not discussed that. [With] our situation we feel that we can't move a lot of people around, and you know, him just being a freshman -- he does play the nickel, and he plays the safety -- so we think he has enough on his plate. I would leave that open to discussion, and I wouldn't mind him doing that in the near future if he's able to do it. I just don't think we can afford to do it right now."

USC 62, Cal 28: Three up, three down

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
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LOS ANGELES -- A look at the positives and negatives from USC’s 62-28 win over California on Saturday, the Trojans’ fourth victory in five games since Ed Orgeron took over as interim coach.

Three Up

1. Javorius Allen
Following a breakout performance against Oregon State last week, Allen was simply unstoppable on Saturday, running through and around Golden Bears defenders at will. Averaging a staggering 22.5 yards per rush, he compiled 135 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while adding another score on a 57-yard reception. Allen has now run for 268 yards and five touchdowns combined in his last two outings.

2. USC punt return unit
It was a big day for special teams coach John Baxter’s group as the Trojans tied an NCAA record in returning three punts for touchdowns. Two of those scores came from Nelson Agholor, equaling a USC mark set by Mike Garrett against California in 1965. Amassing a total of 168 yards on those plays, the speedy sophomore also broke Garrett’s single-game yardage record (162 yards). The Trojans scored on another punt return when Soma Vainuku came in and blocked a Cole Leininger punt, and Josh Shaw returned it 14 yards into the end zone.

3. USC team morale
Already riding a wave of positive energy that seemed to take shape right from the second that Orgeron took over as interim coach, it’s safe to say that, following Saturday’s win, the morale of the team is now at an all-time high. It isn’t just the fact that the Trojans came away with a victory, but it’s the dominating fashion in which they did it. With a comfortable lead early, the USC players could be seen having what appeared to be the time of their lives, hooting and hollering as Orgeron emptied the bench and allowed a number of lesser-known Trojans to make an impact. The strong contribution of a promising freshman like Ty Isaac -- who rushed for 87 yards -- as well as players commonly relegated to the sideline like Charles Burks, Cyrus Hobbi and Max Wittek could do wonders in terms of the camaraderie and mood on the team with an eye towards the rest of the season.

Three Down

1. USC pass coverage
While the 288 passing yards accumulated by the Golden Bears was well below the 351.1 yards per game that the team’s offense averaged coming into the contest, the Trojans still allowed California quarterback Jared Goff to complete too many passes (34 on 48 attempts) and the secondary had some difficulties in coverage at times. In particular, the cornerbacks, and especially Kevon Seymour, struggled to play the ball in the air. Seymour and Shaw both gave up touchdowns in such situations.

2. USC place kicking
After starting out the season shaky, junior Andre Heidari won a midseason position battle and appeared to have regained the confidence and consistency showcased during his stellar freshman campaign, connecting on five of his last six field goal attempts heading into USC’s battle with Cal. Against the Golden Bears, however, Heidari was less-than-reliable, missing a PAT attempt as well as a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter. He’s now 11-of-18 on his field goal tries on the season, and just 3-of-8 from 40 yards or longer.

3. Silas Redd injury
With Redd appearing to have a blast as he cheered his teammates on throughout the second half, the knee injury that forced him out of the game early doesn’t appear to be anything serious. Still, with a physical Stanford defensive front seven on tap, the status of his health will definitely be worth watching this week. Even with the emergence of Allen and Isaac, USC will need as many healthy backs at their disposal as possible, and Redd brings not only his capable talents to the fold, but also his leadership.

Five things: USC at California

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
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Five things to watch for USC against the California Golden Bears (noon PT):

1. No let-up: The Trojans picked up an emotional victory last week on the road at Oregon State and next week will be a prime-time showdown in the Coliseum against No. 5 Stanford. Sandwiched between those two games is Cal, a team that is struggling with only a single win against FCS Portland State and seven consecutive losses. After early season issues of their own, Ed Orgeron is doing a good job of keeping the USC players focused on enjoying the day-to-day process right now, so it’s not likely they will be caught looking ahead.

2. Injuries: It’s not a USC preview piece these days unless you talk about injuries. The latest bit of bad news came this week with the announcement that Morgan Breslin will have hip surgery and is out for the remainder of the regular season. Breslin has been the best pass rusher on the team for the past two years, so he’s not a guy you want out of the lineup for the final stretch. Look for the Trojans to use J.R. Tavai and Jabari Ruffin to help fill that spot, although Tavai might need to replace Leonard Williams if the star defensive end cannot play because of a bad shoulder that held him out of two practices this week.

3. Cal passing game vs USC secondary: The Bears hang their hat on the passing game in the Bear Raid offense of Sonny Dykes. They are going with a true freshman quarterback this year in Jared Goff, who has put up some big numbers but has also made some predictable, true-freshman mistakes. Goff is No. 8 nationally in passing yards per game and has some good receivers, but the USC corner situation seems to have stabilized with the move of Josh Shaw and the healthy status of Kevon Seymour.

4. USC run game: The Trojans found a lot of success last week running the ball with both Silas Redd and Buck Allen gaining more than 133 yards behind some good blocking from the offensive line. The Bears rank last in the Pac-12 in three major categories, so it stands to reason that USC will look to get things going on the ground again this week. One area to watch on the line will be the status of right tackle Kevin Graf, who has been battling an ankle injury. Orgeron has said Graf will start if he can play. If he cannot, Max Tuerk will move to right tackle and John Martinez will start at left guard.

5. Pendergast factor: After spending the last three years as the defensive coordinator at Cal, Clancy Pendergast has a good working knowledge of many of the Bears' players. He might not know the new offense as well, but the knowledge of the players will certainly play some kind of benefit for the Trojans. Pendergast has the USC defense ranked among the national top 25 in 10 categories.

WeAreSC roundtable: Beavers then Bears

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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WeAreSC staffers discuss last week's game and Saturday's matchup with Cal.

What was most impressive part of USC's victory against Oregon State?

[+] EnlargeEd Orgeron
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesInterim coach Ed Orgeron has led his Trojans to a 3-1 record since taking over.
Garry Paskwietz: I thought it was the way the Trojans physically controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I completely understand that it’s one thing to do that against Oregon State and another to do it against Stanford, but lately the Trojans hadn’t put both sides of the ball together in one game for a while, so it was encouraging to see it happen in this game. This was particularly evident in how well the Trojans ran the ball and put pressure on Sean Mannion.

Johnny Curren: It was a phenomenal effort by tailbacks Javorius Allen and Silas Redd, as the Trojans amassed 242 rushing yards. But it wasn’t just the ball-carriers who made an impact. In fact, the performance of the offensive line might have been what was most impressive of all. Putting together their best outing of the season, they were an incredibly aggressive and cohesive unit. The lights-out night that Aundrey Walker had, in particular, was a positive development with an eye toward the rest of the season. If the USC ground game continues to roll like it did against OSU, there’s little doubt the Trojans will be finishing the 2013 campaign very strong.

Greg Katz: The most impressive part of the Trojans' victory was the way Ed Orgeron’s team kept its poise once the Beavers tied the game at 14-14. In the past, the Men of Troy might have folded at Reser Stadium, but this group was able to rise above the crowd noise, keep its composure and come right back to win going away. It was a major maturity step and possible turning point for the 2013 Trojans.




What is the key matchup of the USC-Cal game?

Paskwietz: USC vs. themselves. Things are going in a very positive direction right now for the Trojans, and on paper it doesn’t appear Cal should present an overwhelmingly tough matchup. But, as any college football fan knows, anything can happen on any given day. Think back to last year for the Trojans at the beginning of November when they hit the road for a game they were expected to win. If they had won in Arizona, it would have set up a huge showdown the following week at the Coliseum -- a very similar scenario to this year.

Curren: With Josh Shaw moving from safety to cornerback, the USC secondary has put together two consecutive solid outings after struggling at times earlier in the season, but it faces a big test this weekend in California’s uptempo, spread offense. Freshman quarterback Jared Goff leads a Golden Bears aerial attack that generates 351.1 passing yards per game -- the No. 8 mark in the FBS -- and he has three very talented receivers at his disposal in Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs and Kenny Lawler. With very little else clicking for Cal on either side of the ball, if the Trojans’ defensive backfield can keep those wideouts corralled while also taking advantage of a Goff mistake here or there -- which he’s been known to make on occasion -- USC should run away with the game.

Katz: The key matchup will not only will be the performance of the Trojans offensive line against the Bears defensive front, but the actual lineup of cardinal and gold players. The Trojans right side of the line actually looked pretty good against Oregon State with Max Tuerk at right tackle filling in for veteran Kevin Graf, and right guard Aundrey Walker having his best game as a Trojan. On the left side, senior John Martinez played a good game. Can this unit with or without Graf (ankle) continue to grow and open up big holes for the Trojans' obvious wealth of tailback riches?




What was the most memorable moment from USC vs. Cal in Memorial Stadium?

Paskwietz: It's the 2007 game when both teams came in ranked in the top 25. The game was played in a hard-driving rain, and the Trojans were only able to throw for 129 yards. But senior tailback Chauncey Washington had the game of his career with 29 carries for 220 yards and a touchdown to lead USC to a 24-17 victory. Washington had spent two years on academic probation and had to pay his own way at USC, so to see him rewarded for his patience with a performance like that was truly memorable.

Curren: It wasn’t a positive memory for the Trojans, but the 2003 USC-Cal matchup was as drama-filled as it gets. In a game featuring an incredible three overtimes marked by wild and unpredictable plays, including a Hershel Dennis fumble, as well as a field-goal block by Gregg Guenther, the No. 3 Trojans wound up losing 34-31. The difference was a Tyler Fredrickson field goal. In looking back, the most significant thing to come from the game was that it really marked a turning point of sorts under Pete Carroll, as the Trojans would go on to win an incredible 34 consecutive games following that defeat.

Katz: Unfortunately for Trojans fans it would be the 2003 triple-overtime loss to the Bears. The Dennis fumble and the game-winning 38-yard field goal by Frederickson in OT was at the time a killer. However, it seems that painful loss was inspirational the rest of the way, as former Trojans head coach Pete Carroll never again lost to Cal during his marvelous tenure.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
10:15
AM PT
A few storylines to keep an eye on this week in the Pac-12:

  1. The big one: No. 5 Stanford will host No. 3 Oregon on Thursday night in a game that is sure to send shock waves throughout the Pac-12 and BCS Standings. A win for the Ducks likely re-catapults them back over Florida State and into the No. 2 spot of the BCS rankings -- the outcome of Alabama-LSU pending. A victory for the Cardinal keeps their national championship hopes alive, but they’d still need some help along the way to pass Ohio State and Florida State. This is just the second time that two Pac-12 teams have met while ranked in the top five of the BCS standings. The last time was No. 4 Arizona State and No. 5 Oregon in 2007.
  2. [+] EnlargeByron Marshall
    Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsByron Marshall leads the Oregon rushing attack at Stanford on Thursday night.
    Edges matter: Per the brilliant number crunchers at ESPN Stats & Info, the Cardinal will have to contain the Ducks when they try to run outside. Oregon averages 8.7 yards per rush outside the tackles, second among all AQ teams behind Wisconsin. Last season, Stanford forced Oregon to run 63 percent of the time between the tackles. And when the Ducks did get outside, the Cardinal were able to contain them to the tune of just 29 yards, 1.9 yards per rush and 1.3 yards before contact. In Oregon’s other games last season, they averaged 108.1 yards per game outside the tackles.
  3. The other side of the ball: We know about Oregon’s offense. We know about Stanford’s defense. How about when roles are reversed? The Cardinal offense hasn’t been all that productive of late, averaging just 21.6 points over its past three games. Oregon’s defense yields just 16.9 points per game -- seventh-best in the country. Turnovers will obviously be a premium for both defenses. Stanford has a zero turnover margin with 11 takeaways and 11 giveaways. Oregon, however, is plus-13 with 23 turnovers gained to 10 turnovers lost.
  4. Quotable: Always good for a one-liner, Stanford coach David Shaw was asked earlier in the week about De’Anthony Thomas’ comments that he expects the Ducks to score at least 40 points. “I don’t have an issue with that,” Shaw said. “He’s a confident young man, and they put it on film. They’ve done it. So I have no problem with that if that’s his mentality. I’m just glad he only said 40.” Seeing as Shaw has a penchant for the us-against-the-world approach for his team, here’s betting he had a different message for his defense behind closed doors.
  5. South showdown (1): UCLA heads to Tucson, where it hasn’t won since 2003 -- the first year of the Karl Dorrell era. Both teams have already achieved bowl eligibility. Both teams sit at 3-2 in conference play. Now it becomes a question of pecking order. Ka’Deem Carey has rushed for at least 100 yards in 11 straight games, which is tops in the FBS. The Bruins snapped their two-game losing streak with a win over Colorado last week. Brett Hundley posted the third game of his career with two rushing and two passing touchdowns and he accounted for 345 yards of total offense. Keep an eye on how things play out in the first 30 minutes, because the Bruins are 13-0 under coach Jim Mora when they lead at the half.
  6. South showdown (2): The Sun Devils look to strengthen their foothold on the South with a trip to Utah -- a team they blasted in Tempe last season. In fact, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he has “horrible memories” of last season's loss and called it one of Utah’s poorest performances since joining the Pac-12. The obvious sidebar here is it’s the first time Utah offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson is facing the team he used to coach. But Whittingham said Erickson is a pretty even-keeled guy and he doesn’t expect sentiment or emotions to play a role. Whittingham also said that quarterback Travis Wilson is healed from his hand injury and won’t wear a glove. Across the field, ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly is coming off of a seven-touchdown game on the road at Washington State.
  7. Trojans rolling: Since making the coaching switch from Lane Kiffin to interim coach Ed Orgeron, the Trojans have gone 3-1, including a convincing 31-14 win last week on the road at Oregon State. For the second time this season USC had a pair of running backs post 100-yard games with senior Silas Redd rushing for 140 yards and Buck Allen collecting 133 yards (8.3 yards per catch) and 3 TDs. Allen was USC’s fourth different back to rush for 100 yards this season. Marqise Lee is also coming off an outstanding performance, grabbing five passes for a season-high 105 yards and one touchdown in the win over the Beavers. Cal is still looking for a conference win, but should have some more confidence after an improved showing last week against Arizona.
  8. Bowl eligible: So far there are six teams already bowl eligible (Oregon, Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona State, Arizona and UCLA) with two more on the verge of becoming eligible this week. USC, because of the 13-game regular season schedule sits at 6-3 overall and needs to pick up a win at California to get a spot in the postseason. Washington is at 5-3 with a visit from Colorado. Both teams are favorites, which would give the league eight teams headed to the postseason with the legitimate potential for two more (Utah and Washington State). Both have four wins and Colorado still has an outside shot. Cal is the only Pac-12 team eliminated from bowl eligibility.
  9. Star power: Two of the nation’s elite offensive playmakers square off in Seattle when Colorado visits Washington. Buffs wide receiver Paul Richardson has 57 catches for 984 yards with eight touchdowns and continues to close in on several of Colorado’s single-season receiving marks. Washington counters with running back Bishop Sankey, who enters the week as the nation’s No. 3 rusher, averaging 145.3 yards per game. He’s coming off a career-best 241-yard performance against Cal and ranks fourth nationally with 12 rushing touchdowns.
  10. Taking a breather: There are two teams on bye this week with Oregon State looking to refocus after dropping back-to-back games against Stanford and USC and Washington State taking its second bye week in the past three. The Beavers, who are already bowl eligible, close the season with two of their final three on the road; at ASU, home to Washington and at Oregon for the Civil War. With four wins, the Cougars need to win two more to teach the postseason. They are also on the road for two of their past three with dates at Arizona next week and home to Utah before closing out the Apple Cup in Seattle.

Planning for success: USC

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
5:00
AM PT
A look across the board at the defensive statistics for the California Golden Bears shows that it could be a good day for the Trojans offense on Saturday in Berkeley.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsUSC quarterback Cody Kessler could have a big day against Cal's porous pass defense.
The Bears rank last in the Pac-12 Conference in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense and rank No. 11 in rush defense. Those rankings aren’t exactly a recipe for success against a USC offense that is coming off a balanced and effective performance against Oregon State, one that saw the Trojans gain 242 yards on the ground and 247 through the air.

In fact, it might have been the most complete offensive game of the year for the Trojans, which means the biggest key for the upcoming game is to keep on doing what they are doing.

Cody Kessler is showing steady progress at the quarterback spot. He threw one interception that was returned for a touchdown against the Beavers but outside of that throw he hit of 17 of his other 20 passes, including a 71-yard touchdown toss to Marqise Lee on the first play from scrimmage.

Kessler could have the added benefit of a full complement of receivers. The WR group for the Trojans has been hit hard by injuries lately but all five scholarship receivers practiced this week, which has been a rare sight. The presence of Lee against Oregon State provided a huge spark, even if he didn’t do a whole lot beyond that opening play. Nelson Agholor has shown he can be depended upon for a larger role and true freshman Darreus Rogers is proving to be a weapon as well.

The USC passing game will be going up against a Bears pass defense that ranks dead last in the nation by giving up 340 passing yards per game. Cal only has 15 sacks on the year so Kessler should also have time to throw the ball behind a USC offensive line that is coming off one of its better outings.

If the Trojans should choose to run the ball there is a lot of confidence in that area too. USC is coming off a game when it had a pair of tailbacks gain over 133 yards -- Silas Redd and Buck Allen -- and they did it in impressive style. Don’t be surprised if the Bears see a steady diet of the USC tailback duo early and often in this one.

Coaches often preach that a game isn’t about the opponent as much as it is about themselves and this is truly one of those games for the Trojans. Cal is trying to find their way under a new coach while the Trojans are slowly showing signs that they may have found their way under a coach with an interim tag. USC just needs to focus offensively on doing what they do well and, barring any unforeseen issues, that should be enough to bring home the victory.

Tuesday mailbag: Can Mac get it done?

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
9:00
AM PT
Just cause it’s the mailbag doesn’t mean I mail it in.

Trojan Nation in (Downtown LA) writes: For the mailbag ... Kevin! You picked USC to lose against Oregon State. You Picked USC to lose against Utah. When are you going to show us Trojans some love and admit that we're a good football team with great talent who are WINNING despite going through what no other college team in college football has to. Would any other team in college football be doing as well as SC is if it had the same restriction put unfairly upon them??? I think not!

[+] EnlargeEd Orgeron
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesEd Orgeron's Trojans have managed to overcome plenty of obstacles this season.
Kevin Gemmell: I did, and I did. But I’ll say the same thing to you that I said to the ASU fan who berated my Washington pick a couple of weeks ago: Where were the mailbag notes thanking me for my support when I picked USC over Notre Dame and Washington State or Utah State? Though I will admit, your note was far more polite and playful, which is appreciated.

Color me egg-faced, because you’re right, USC is doing some pretty incredible things considering the roller coaster ride the program has been on with the sanctions and the coaching change and the injuries it has sustained.

When it comes to close games, I tend to lean toward the home team. And given USC’s lack of recent success in Corvallis, I took the best data I had available and made a decision. I was wrong. Ted was right, so a tip of the cap to him.

What impressed me most about USC was the power running game. Getting Silas Redd back has obviously helped, but Justin Davis goes down, Tre Madden exits and Buck Allen steps in and absolutely throttles Oregon State. Say this for USC’s depth, it’s bad in a lot of places, but it’s freaking awesome at tailback.

Now the Trojans are 3-1 since the coaching change, playing inspired defense and pushing people around on the lines. So yes, you are a good football team with great talent who is winning.

I’m not sure what to expect from USC down the stretch. But here’s a spoiler alert, I’m going to go out on a limb and pick you guys this week.


Ryan in New York writes: Kevin, Nice article on the new coach at CU. I wish them well this weekend and for the rest of the season. Snarky and spiteful? Ouch. I'll try and get back to my playful self. Let's be clear: I don't love UCLA, but Jim Mora's done a nice job and has handled himself admirably. I just think the media loves to over-hype sometimes, and given the Bruins' most impressive performances have been close losses, I do believe they need to win a meaningful game to earn so much praise. Keep up the good work and give your partner-in-crime a shout out, too.

Kevin Gemmell: This is why Ryan is one of my favorite mailbaggers. He flew off the handle a bit last week. I called him on it and had to reel him back in. And he comes right back with another note. The dedication is appreciated.

First, thanks for the kudos on the Mike MacIntyre story. I know the wins and losses aren’t there. And I don’t think anyone expected a massive swing in the win column in just one season. But he’s a proven rebuilder and recruiter, and I think he’s got the program moving in the right direction.

Regarding UCLA, I still consider the win in Nebraska to be a meaningful game. Not just because of the tragic circumstances that led up to it, but simply for how explosive UCLA looked in that second half when everything was clicking. We got a glimpse of a team with remarkable offensive and defensive potential and saw firsthand that when it’s clicking, it can hang with anybody.

Now, it wasn’t clicking the past couple of weeks, and it clicked off and on against Colorado. A lot of that has to do with youth and injuries.

Right now ASU looks like the team to beat in the South. But I’m not banking on anything in this final month. With USC yet to play UCLA, and the Bruins and Sun Devils yet to play Arizona, a lot can, and probably will, happen.


Mahalo in Honolulu writes: Hey Kevin, most of us Buff fans are happy with the new coach, yet are still skeptical on the outlook for the future -- primarily because of recruiting. High school kids don't have any memory of the glory days, the facilities are bleh, and the product on the field is, well, you know. What would you do to sell CU to the kids that can come here and help Mac build the Buffs to a contender?

Kevin Gemmell: Your skepticism is valid. You’ve been jilted a few times over the past five or six years.

I don’t know Mike MacIntyre as well as I do some of the other coaches. We’ve met a few times and speak on the phone every week during the teleconference. And for the story last week, he was gracious with his time and gave me an extended phone interview.

But there is a sense when talking to the man that he’s going to at least get the program back to respectability or go down with the ship trying. He’s a no-excuses guy. His pedigree is phenomenal, and there is no question about his dedication to the program.

That’s what you sell. You buy into the man, not the facilities or the school’s record 25 years ago. Take, for example, linebacker Addison Gillam. He had committed to MacIntyre at San Jose State. And when Mac changed to Colorado, Gillam followed. Here’s a young man who had a chance to go to an 11-win team, ranked in the Top 25 and moving into the Mountain West, a very respected non-AQ conference. But he followed MacIntyre because he believes in the man and the vision. He wants to be a part of something special -- building up a program from scratch and restoring it.

There is something admirable about that. And I think that’s MacIntyre’s greatest asset in recruiting.

And though the wins aren’t there yet, I think we definitely see a fiery, competitive team on the field. One playing with much more confidence than we’ve seen the past couple of seasons.


Daniel in Pittsburg writes: Hey Kevin, as a diehard Stanford fan and family member, I'm curious to know what your projected BCS standings would be if Stanford beats Oregon? I would also like to know if a Baylor victory would also play a role? Thanks Kevin.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesEven if Stanford and Kevin Hogan beat Oregon, the Cardinal may need help from some other teams.
Kevin Gemmell: Everything plays a role. A butterfly flaps its wings in Uzbekistan and the Colley Matrix blue screens.

I think Stanford would still need help, even if it beat Oregon, for the obvious reason that there are still undefeated teams in front of the Cardinal. If Florida State and Ohio State were to lose, then we could see the Cardinal jump into that No. 2 spot if they were to beat Oregon. And if Alabama loses, obviously the rest of the field moves up. So Stanford’s best chance is to beat Oregon and hope for an assist from a Syracuse or Florida, an Indiana or a Michigan, or an LSU or Auburn.

Assuming everyone else wins, Stanford beating Oregon would further supplant Florida State as the No. 2 team and strengthen Ohio State even more as one of the few undefeated teams. Perhaps Stanford gets a couple of No. 2 or No. 3 votes in either of the human polls, but I’m not sure voters would spring them over an Ohio State team that hasn’t lost in almost two seasons.

As for Baylor, I think it would enjoy a nice bump if it beat No. 10 Oklahoma. But I don’t think it would be enough to vault the Bears over Stanford if the Cardinal beat Oregon. If Stanford loses, it’s moot, because it will drop. If Baylor loses, it’s moot, because the Bears will drop. Both teams need to win to keep pace, and I think Stanford’s win would be viewed as more significant, so I don’t see Baylor jumping the Cardinal.


Joe Bruin in Westwood writes: Hey Kev ... Joe Bruin here. As a fan (and a mascot), I seem to be a little too worried about my team, especially after the games against Stanford and Oregon. I concur with Coach Mora when he said the team seemed to have a "hangover" from those games. Is it just me, or did the win against Colorado not look too impressive? Should I be worried about this team? Or will the Bruins get back in the swing of things?

Kevin Gemmell: I’d be concerned about this game coming up. The Bruins haven’t won in Tucson since 2003, Karl Dorrell’s first season, and Ka’Deem Carey is obviously one of the nation’s most elite playmakers. I know a lot of focus is on the Nov. 23 date with Arizona State -- and rightfully so -- but the Bruins still have a couple of tough tests in Arizona and Washington before that showdown.

However, Brett Hundley actually turned in the best quarterback performance of the week, per ESPN’s Adjusted QBR rating (note, adjusted reflects opponent’s strength).

Here’s the other side of it. As I said earlier, Colorado is a better team than it was last fall so give those guys a little credit for coming in and not being intimidated.

I think Colorado provided a nice little test (when was the last time we typed that?) for UCLA to knock off some of the rust from the back-to-back losses. The Bruins figured a few things out, and the offensive line got some more experience.

And Mora has shown that he can rally the troops when they are down. And I wouldn’t call the Bruins down right now. I’d just say they have a tough November ahead of them.

Ed Orgeron conference call highlights

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
11:30
PM PT
Some selected quotes from USC head coach Ed Orgeron’s Sunday night conference call following the Trojans’ 31-14 victory over Oregon State.

Orgeron on the improved play of the USC secondary:

[+] Enlarge Josh Shaw
Jaime Valdez/USA TODAY SportsJosh Shaw's play at cornerback against Oregon State drew the praise of USC interim coach Ed Orgeron.
“I think we learned a big lesson at Arizona State in giving up the deep ball, and Clancy [Pendergast] made some great adjustments in the secondary. And we went back to some fundamentals about staying in lead position, staying in the post, making them throw the ball in front of us, and I think some of those things have been very well taught. The play of Demetrius Wright at safety has been excellent. Moving Josh Shaw to corner ... as you know he’s a very, very good football player.”

On the strong performance of the USC offensive line against Oregon State:

“I just think that we went back to the fundamentals. When we went and played against Notre Dame, I think playing on the road ... the crowd had an effect on us, on the silent count [and] we made some mistakes. We piped in the noise. ... I think it’s the second week in a row in which they’ve played together with Max [Tuerk] at right tackle. Talking to the offense, they felt that the communication with Max and Aundrey [Walker] was where it needed to be. I thought that John [Martinez] had one of his better games. And so, I just thought that the cohesiveness of the unit for the second week in a row helped, the communication helped, we simplified the game plan, the protection was all built on us being able to not get beat one on one, and I thought Clay [Helton] did a great job with his protections.”

On USC’s nine penalties for 68 yards:

“Obviously, some of the penalties are inexcusable ... some of them we really just have to fix. Some of them are right on the cusp where our guys are playing hard, and that’s going to happen. Penalties are going to happen ... they’re not excusable, but we’re not going to take the aggressiveness away from our players. We’re going to teach them the right technique, and do the best we can with it.”

On the development of Cody Kessler since Orgeron took over as interim coach:

“Just the style in which he plays, his tenacity, his moxie, his leadership. ... He’s got some stuff to him that I really like in a quarterback -- all the intangibles. I think he was 17-of-21 with the interception that was not a good decision. But the way he runs the offense, the way he wants to win ... he’s very competitive. Our guys believe in him.”

On the Trojans’ 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive after Oregon State’s game-tying pick-six in the second quarter:

“We talked at the beginning of the week, we said, ‘Listen, they’re a good football team. They’re going to make plays. At one point in the game we’re going to face adversity. It’s going to be OK. We’ll just stick together. No matter what happens, we stick together. Know that you’re going to be prepared well, you’re going to be ready, and we can overcome any obstacle they throw at us.’ And our guys did. When Cody came to the sideline, the defense was telling them, ‘Hey, it’s OK.’ And then they responded with that 10-play drive. I think that was a turning point in our new five-game season so far.”

On the 1-2 punch that developed in the rotation at tailback with Silas Redd and Javorius Allen:

“Give the credit to Tommie Robinson. I let the guys handle their rotations ... and Tommie does a great job. Tommie is one of the best running back coaches I’ve been around. What a tremendous job he’s done.”

On what impressed Orgeron about Allen’s performance:

“The way he’s running, and slashing, and leaning, and breaking tackles, and staying upright and moving forward. ... I think he’s gaining confidence every time he touches the ball. We’re seeing things that we haven’t seen from him, really. We’ve seen some things from him in practice that we really like. As you know, Buck [Allen] was on the scout team with me for two years, so I knew [him] probably the best on the staff. But when we had a change of coaches at that running back position, Tommie came in and kept saying, ‘Hey, I really like Buck Allen.’ And you know, when a coach likes you, and a coach wants you to play, wants to give you a chance, it means a lot to a young man. Buck has a heart of gold, and he’s like a lot of players on our team, he’s a great team guy, and I’m just happy to see him have success.”

On the confidence level of the team:

“I’ll say this, I know the confidence level on the football team and the coaching staff after the game was very high ... that we could go there and beat Oregon State in a hostile environment. Now the key is for us to still take it one game at a time and make improvement. One of the best things with Coach [Pete] Carroll’s teams was they got better in the month of November, and that’s my goal with the football team, is this week for us to take the next step and get better.”

On where Orgeron’s passion for USC comes from:

“I came here in 1998. I wanted to coach here since I was 6 years old, and the opportunity to come here and coach here has been everything I ever imagined and more. I’ve been to a lot of universities and a lot of great places, and I feel that it’s the best place in the world of coaching.”

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