Despite a rare Monday practice for No. 18 USC, the most pertinent story that emerged wasn’t even something that happened on the practice field. For the first time this season, an opponent has provided some highly-publicized bulletin-board material.
Following his team’s 34-17 loss to No. 7 Oregon on Saturday, Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt was asked by reporters about the Huskies’ matchup with the Trojans this Saturday at the Coliseum.
“We’ll be OK against these guys,” Holt said. “I’d rather play against USC than Oregon quite honestly.”
Statistically, that makes enough sense. Oregon ranks seventh nationally in total offense; USC is 26th. The Ducks rack up 46 points-per-game — good for sixth nationally. USC is 32nd in the country, scoring at a 33.4 points per game clip.
“You could ask every defensive coordinator in our conference the same question and they’d tell you the same thing: Oregon is hard to prepare for because of how unique they are,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “That doesn’t mean ’SC is not very good. They’re a tremendous offensive football team and I think [Holt] would agree with that.”
Holt is a former USC linebackers coach and defensive coordinator who headed to Washington along with Sarkisian in 2009.
Holt’s quote was posted all around Heritage Hall on Monday, along with an added message that is slightly paraphrased: “I know how to stop them.”
At the bottom there’s an asterisk, making it known that “[By the way] — Washington gave up 484 (yards) including 298 rushing last (year) to USC.”
It is unknown who posted the sign, and USC, for now, isn’t speaking out on the issue.
“I don’t make much of it,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “We have great respect for those guys and their staff and their players. They can say whatever they want. They beat us, two years in a row. So they can say whatever they want.”
For Kiffin, playing the Huskies could be construed as personal. He and Sarkisian were the top offensive assistants during former USC coach Pete Carroll’s tenure, and the two have maintained a close friendship since Kiffin’s departure to the NFL in 2007.
Kiffin, however, did not explicitly admit to a personal rivalry.
“This isn’t about Sarkisian or Kiffin. We want to beat Washington because they beat us,” Kiffin said. “We want to win every game that we play, especially when you feel like you had a game that we could have won. Like the Notre Dame game, you do have a sense from your players that you’d like to get those back because you felt you could have won them with so many opportunities and you have to wait a whole year to have a chance again.”
Sarkisian, by and large, echoed similar sentiments.
“It’s a healthy friendship and a healthy rivalry,” he said. “We’re both competitive guys who like to win not for us individually but for our teams, our kids and our coaches.”
Senior middle linebacker Chris Galippo will again not start against the Huskies on Saturday, his spot having been usurped by true freshman Lamar Dawson.
“[This is] just another something else that I kind of have to deal with in my career now,” Galippo said. “I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. I’m going to come out here every day and prove what type of linebacker I am.”
According to Kiffin and linebackers coach Joe Barry, Galippo was understandably upset when he was informed of his demotion to second-string.
“He wasn’t happy with it,” Barry said. “[But] I was happy [about that]. We’d have a big problem if he was OK with it. He struggled early on last week after we told him about it. But he came out and had a great practice on Wednesday and a great practice on Thursday and played well on Friday.”
Barry said the depth chart isn’t “set in stone,” but “written in dry-erase marker,” meaning it is subject to change at any time.
“Lamar is still the starter, Chris is still the backup,” Barry said. “They’re both going to play, they’re both going to rotate. We’re going to go week to week.”
Senior defensive tackle DaJohn Harris did not practice Monday, junior safety Jawanza Starling and freshmen linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard “did not do much,” according to Kiffin.
Freshman receiver Marqise Lee and sophomore receiver Robert Woods were also limited, as was senior tailback Marc Tyler.
“The only good thing is we are a day ahead,” Kiffin said. “As we go throughout the week, hopefully they all will be back.”
Trevor Wong contributed to this report.